Aruba Red is an alt-soul songstress who is set to release a new EP in March. She has worked with such artists as Nitin Sawhney, Riz MC (Riz Ahmed) and Plan B. She also helped curate the Concert For Jack in tribute to her father, Jack Bruce.
In the latest in our Why I Love series, Aruba Red shares why Erykah Badu has been such a big influence on her.
My generation was on the border of the internet revolution. As a child I living in rural East Anglia without satellite TV, there were 4 channels and dial-up internet was a matter of battling for the phone line. But when we travelled with my dad on tour or to visit him when he was working in London, the hotels would have MTV. I lived for this! That and sneaking out of bed on a Thursday night to catch Yo! MTV Raps.
I remember seeing the music video for Erykah Badu’s On & On and being transfixed. The drum fill ushering in the deep bass line, the vision of a goddess singing laidback jazz and hip-hop infused vocals had me spellbound. My love for neo-soul and Baduizm was born.
I would sing the song constantly, when I was taking the dog for a walk down the muddy lanes, when I was doing the dishes trying to perfect every ad lib. The lyrical content gave me so much food for thought, the wisdom held within her words continued to unravel as the years passed and my love grew stronger.
I recall sitting in philosophy class at college and Erykah’s words re-entered my head “the man that knows something knows that he knows nothing at all, does it seem colder in your summertime or hotter in your fall?” This sense of questioning resonated deeply with my teenage self. I also remember finding comfort in her line “most intellects do not believe in God but they fear us just the same.”
As a child I prayed from as early as I can remember, it helped me cope with my internal loneliness, giving me solace when I had nobody to speak to. I was brought up in an atheist household but always possessed a deep sense of spirituality. Erykah’s words helped me feel unashamed about this part of myself.
I have seen Ms Badu twice at her own headline shows, they were both incredible experiences. I was also given guestlist to see Nas and Damian Marley perform at Wembley Arena in 2011 and I was hyped about the concert. Even more so when I found out that the special guest appearing was none other than Erykah! Her set was incredible. The way she effortlessly fuses all aspects of herself in terms of the genres and styles she embraces is so inspiring to me.
Afterwards I was walking down the long white corridor backstage, the scent of weed heavy in the air, and suddenly the vision of my greatest inspiration walking towards me. For a few moments, it was just me and my idol, we walked passed each other and smiled, I said ‘hi’ and she said ‘hey’ back. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything more, there was just too much and it all felt like a cliché. I didn’t want to disturb her peace so soon after her set so I just carried on walking, feeling her energy vibrate passed me.
A couple of years later I was asked to perform songs from my Holy Waters EP on radio as well as a cover of an artist who had inspired me. My good friend and mentor Nitin Sawhney came with me to play guitar and we performed On & On live on air with Nitin beat-boxing. It was so much fun. I need to get hold of a copy of that show!
In more recent years, I have found further inspiration from Erykah Badu, in her work as a doula. As well as creating music I am also a woman’s healing circle facilitator and unofficially I support women preparing for homebirths. I gave birth to my own son at home in the water under a full moon on Christmas Day and remember thinking about the women in the world who had Erykah attend their births.
Her lyrics and message continue to inspire me and I understand more as the years pass. I became a single mama when my baby was 8 months old and was struggling. I had a lot of self-judgement I had to work through, partly knowing that my children wouldn’t all have the same father. I found great inspiration in the unashamed way that Erykah lives her life and how she celebrates her freedom and this helped me let go of a lot of negative thought patterns.
Thank you Fat Belly Bella for giving me so much comfort and inspiration over the years. I have come to realise that there’s no need to rush, some things may happen in this lifetime and some in the next and it’s all ok.“The sun’s in the east and the moon reflects, the knowledge and wisdom I manifest, If you wana go to heaven lay up on my breast, I’m yeye, your yeye”.
Many thanks to Aruba Red for taking the time to write about why she loves Erykah Badu.
You can find all the information about Aruba Red’s forthcoming headline show, here.