Interview: Saidah Baba Talibah (Toronto)

As taxing as being the only one inside your wild and creative mind may be, Saidah Baba Talibah savours a good challenge. The fruit of a family of musicians, she’s long relied on the support of her talented loved ones to guide her musical upbringing. Today, they’ve inspired her rambunctious appetite for a life on the road. And while she’s fortunate to have grown in one of the most diverse cities in the world, she feels “even more blessed to be able to go and see it all.” The Torontoite singer-songwriter wears her name quite literally: Baba means born on Thursday; Talibah, seeker after knowledge; while Saidah means happy, and fortunate. It’s no surprise that her voice comes out bubbly, and energetic as we begin our conversation over the phone.

She blames this energy on her desire to live a healthy life, and to keep a semi-raw diet. Acknowledging the virtues of her fellow Libras, Saidah is that rare combination of the disciplines person who cannot  keep still. Although, she wasn’t always the image of self-mastery: Saidah admits once being a “super human” performer, being able to roll out of bed and sing. But when her lack of vocal discipline started to get the best of her voice she took the decision to heal and train her tool in order to reach the highest of notes.

When she’s not dancing across the stage acrobatically belting out songs accompanied by an 11-piece band, she’s keeping fit or she’s writing with guitarist Donna Grant. Here the “fortunate” part of Saidah is rather fitting as these two met belting out their favorite songs at karaoke. It wasn’t long before their collaboration bore its first crop on Saidah’s two year-old Phone Demos EP. The latter held a soulful lo-fi skeleton to her current release, (S)cream.

Though the latest record was co-produced with Michael Johnston, everything you hear was already in her head back in the days of the Phone Demos. Carefully nitpicking every arrangement, every note, every scream, it was important for the record to be proof of what Saidah lived and felt. There was no doubt she would be its co-producer. (S)cream attests to Saidah’s nature –  a well-governed, wild abandon. When asked about the potential of being reckless with ones’s sexuality in their performance, Saidah assures me that she’s the proud owner of a healthy flirtatious nature: “I love my sexuality – this is my body, this is myself!” She enjoys the heritage passed on by performers such as Tina Turner or Betty Davis who’ve taken great lengths toward being the owners of the sexual stage persona, rather than the objects. “It’s always been a balance between bullshit and non-bullshit. We can talk and not have to be demure or take bullshit from anyone.”

So what’s next? Performing, then locking herself up to write, “Red, Black and Blue”, a new record to be released next year. A new record of  “no-talking-shit-edness”. A new record swelling with sensuality and brute vocal strength. Another chance to make the world her tiny, tiny oyster, one road at a time.

Her current list of artists she enjoys includes: Skunk Anansie, The Dead Weathers, Them Crooked Vultures, and Jamie Lidell.

Thoughts?