Official Listening Party for Soulflower's Electric Mothership
Saturday, May 30, 2009
The Tikki Beach Boat, Miami Beach
Better Than: Whatever was going on across the street at the Eden Roc.
It's officially summer, as Miami's schizophrenic weather patterns will make the average person want to stay inside and watch re-runs of Survivor. However, rain or shine, local hip-hop artist Soulflower was about to launch her Electric Mothership on a real ship -- a tiki boat ship, if you will.
Yes, you've seen it parked alongside Collins Avenue or seen it cruising through Biscayne Bay as tiki torches light up the top outdoor deck and the music of roots reggae is blown through the speakers. It's the Tikki Beach boat, and Saturday it was the venue for Soulflower's official listening party for her long over-due debut album The Electric Mothership. For a woman who has been doing music both locally and nationally for over 10 years, it truly was a historic event as she was able to show off this much-anticipated record.
The event was split in two, with a more laid-back roots vibe up top while a more hip-hop b-boy jam took place at the interior bottom of the ship. Miami's own hip-hop aficionado Brimstone was on the wheels of steal as he set off the mood, playing old-school joints by A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Grandmaster Flash. On occasion, Brim would drop a teaser of a track on Soulflower's album while seamlessly mixing in with a Talib Kweli track the next, showing that this new album of hers was meant to be commercial, yet conscious at the same time.
The space, with its unique tiki hut feel made it feel more like a beach-house party than a nightclub. It was perfect for Soulflower's laid-back vibe and personality. The audience, either fans or friends of this "Empress of Hip-Hop," felt right at home as they munched on complimentary veggie platters and freshly made hummus dip.
By about 11:30 p.m., Soulflower took the mike as she graciously welcomed the audience to this special gathering. Aside from celebrating her achievements now officially on a solid LP, the night was meant to showcase her curated roster of local musicians, poets, and overall talented beings. The line-up was indeed a grab-bag of multi-talented artists that all expressed the common themes of consciousness, uplifting energy, and love.
"This is a movement right here," Soulflower said, describing the performances. "This movement is not a 1960s thing, it's a now thing! We have what we call 'the pot' -- the pot is the central place where we put all our gifts into, and your true blessing is to use each other to bless each other."
The movement then started with guitarist and singer RaRa who performed an original tune called "Agua," a song about life -- water. With just his guitar and a soothing beating of African drums in the background, RaRa won over the crowd with just his beautiful voice. After his solo song, poet Yarminiah came to take the stage, and also performed an original composition. Her delivery was unique -- she was, at times, almost whispering, forcing listeners to really concentrate on what she was saying.
After Yarminiah came another local poet who simply went by the name James, who engaged the crowd as we cheered him on after each verse. Sample lyric: "God is in you, and you, and you -- then that means we're in heaven."
After an intense round of spoken word, it was time to sit back and be entertained once more but this time, by a true up-and-comer who goes by the name Saraphym Arym. The proud daughter of Soulflower, this beautiful six-year-old commanded the microphone as she sang the chart-topper song "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. The crowd helped by singing along, swaying back and forth, lighters up in the air.
Continuing with the sing-along, local musician Kehv came on deck as he led the audience in a Bob Marley tribute. Playing such classics as "Redemption Song" and of course, the karaoke favorite, "No Woman No Cry," Kehv had every single person screaming his or heart out by the end.
Up next was the untouchable Yah-Yah, son of Soulflower, who with his stunning looks alone can woo any female in the crowd. He and mom did a fly duet of a previous single, and it was apparent that Yah-Yah will indeed have a career in music, onstage with his talented mother.
As if that wasn't the highlight of the night, the real stunner was when poet and spoken word artist Diego appeared. I have heard rumbles about this young man in the open mike scene, where he's known as the next big thing. His performance showed this was true. Diego's poem "Homeless Love" was executed in such a painstakingly perfect way, with his intense emotions flaring with each noun while was he seemingly tried to keep from spontaneously combusting. This guy was on fire, to say the least!
By now, it was about 1:30 a.m. and folks were ready to cut to the dance floor and set sail. As the relaxing roots reggae music flooded to the top of the deck, folks enjoyed an open-air cruise to nowhere. Well, that's not entirely correct -- the destination was obviously here, on this Electric Mothership. As Soulflower beautifully put it: "The Electric Mothership is you -- you are the divinity that makes this ship we call home blessed."
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Personal Bias: I got annoyed by the technical difficulties, which added up to a few too many. Whoever was their sound guy should really figure out a better sound system.
Random Detail: The Tikki Beach Boat had sand, actual (wet) sand! This concept is straight out of a Gilligan's Island episode!
By the Way: Parking was a nightmare. Take public transportation or walk to events on this floating venue. Better yet -- get a boat and hop over that way. It'll probably be a lot cheaper!
-- Esther Park