– As told to Un’ruly
Editor’s Note: This story is part of our Many Shades of Black series. This month we’ve been looking at race through music in an attempt to determine how music contributes to our cultural and ethnic identities. Here we speak with singer and all around renaissance girl, Christy Lynch, whose music is truly globally influenced. Originally from Nigeria and now living in America, Christy is a combination of those two cultures as well as the cultures of several other countries she’s lived in along the way (Indonesia, Angola, Canada, Kazakhstan, Manila, Philippines, just to name a few). She gives us her take on how geography can impact music.
You’ve been singing since age 5. What made you decide to do it professionally?
Singing has always been my passion from a very tender age. Hence, it’s only natural for me to have followed my dream of becoming a performer.
Tina Turner is one of your inspirations; in what way does she inspire you?
Ms. Turner is an inspiration to me because of her stage presence, her essence and her powerhouse style.
How does Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer and activist Fela Kuti inspire you?
I grew up listening to FELA Kuti. He was an eccentric who created his own music culture. His legendary-musical messages inspired me at two levels: he was a political warrior who led by example; he took on, spoke and sang openly against corruption in the Nigerian government. I admire his bravery in doing that. Secondly, Fela was a true son of the soil. He not only embraced our ancestral worship, he greatly encouraged us to take pride in and maintain our own native, individual identity. His uniqueness in injecting these passionate messages into music, generated a strong appeal for me. I’m forever his fan!
You were born in Lagos, Nigeria and now live in the US. How would you describe music in Nigeria? In America? How are they same and how are they different?
America has a rich musical culture of its own. Rock n’ Roll, Country, Jazz, Blues, R&B are uniquely American in form and spirit. Musical sounds such as R&B that are rooted in Africa and were brought via slavery into the US [years] ago, evolved into American music that has now been reintegrated into Nigerian music.
Music in Nigeria has evolved a lot. I especially love the fact that Nigerian artists have created their own unique Nigerian R&B that has international appeal. Having travelled extensively around the world, I burst with pride when any popular Nigerian music is played, generating positive responses. How refreshing to watch our Nigerian musicians on TV, showcasing their talents in our own way and thus giving the westerners a run for their money.
Do you think there’s such thing as “Black music”? If so, how would you describe Black music? No matter where you go in the African diaspora is there an element or elements that make up a “Black” sound or spirit or rhythm?
Is there a thing as Black music? Originally, yes, black people worldwide created music based on their regional culture. However, globalization has spread and integrated the many sounds that at one time were local to an area. For example, slavery played a vital role in African musical transition. In the United States, the Gospel, R&B and Blues genres, to name a few, were all formed from soulful rhythms that followed the original slaves from the mother land. Moreover, Samba was formulated by black slaves in Brazil. The same goes for Reggae music in the Caribbean.
You’ve also travelled quite a bit of the world; do you think geography has an impact on sound? If so, in what way?
Yes, each area of the world has it’s own unique sounds and instruments–China, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Africa, South America, etc., music opens people’s emotions no matter what part of the world you live in and it opens doors to communication.
You lived in Khazakhstan for four years and were quite popular there from the sounds of it. Why do you think the people of that country embraced you and your music?
I lived in Kazakhstan at a time when the people in that region were experiencing a paradigm shift: a break-away from the Soviet domination and restrictions. Many in the city of Atyrau, where I lived, had never watched a live performance by a vibrant black artist. Hence, I enjoyed a warm and hospitable people who welcomed a soulful, Nigeria-American singer whom they found to be unique and exotic.
What advice might you give to someone looking to step outside their “music box”?
I would say simply embrace what suits you the best!