Almost one year to date, Afro-punk sat down to speak with someone no stranger to the AP movement: Brooklyn powerhouse and songstress, Tamar-kali. Tamar is most noted for her highlighted appearance in the 2003 Afro-punk documentary, which undeniably spearheaded the Afro-punk genre into a household term where black kids who identified with alternative music and culture finally found there home. Eagerly anticipating her set for the 2011 Afro-punk festival in a few days (see schedule here), we caught back up with Tamar to see how her last year went while touring her album, Black Bottom, and to see what special surprises she has in store for her audience this Sunday.
I just realized we spoke exactly one year ago when you were about to release your latest album, “Black Bottom”. At the end of the interview, you said you hoped this album would give you the outlet to give women of color a voice and to crack a genre of music most noted for white boys. How was the last year for you in achieving this goal? Still a work in progresss. A tour is on the horizon, Born in Flames, and I've done Sundance and SXSW this year. I wasn't expecting an overnight change. I'm fine with a slow build as long as my focus stays clear.
You said you produced “Black Bottom” out of a period of frustration you were facing due to managing yourself as independent artist; battling between the joy of making music and the business of getting people to hear and appreciate your work. After releasing the album and seeing people’s reactions, has your perception changed on balancing the creative and structural process of being an indie artist?
The balancing act is still a challenge. I am slowly but surely developing a team and network of support through other artists. My shoulders are definitely not feeling the same amount of weight.
I know you don’t like being called the Afro-punk poster kid, but, c’mon, you were on the ground when the concept of a music festival was in its infancy. In your opinion, how has the Afro-punk movement developed and/or transitioned since your confessional in the 2003 AP documentary?
I've never been clear on the 'movement' thing. The film was certainly the impetus for the 'outing' of the conversation and a platform has definitely emerged for folk who aren't buying in to the stereotypes. It's a much wider perspective than the topic of the film. I guess that's really the biggest transition.
Where 'Beyond the Screams' and 'Another State of Mind' served a very specific community, Afro-punk transcended to anyone and everyone who identified outside of the very narrow stereotypical identity of blackness. African Americans are marginalized as a whole so the conversation takes on a whole other aspect and appeals to a wider range of people.
Speaking of festival, congrats on making another appearance on the Afro-punk festival bill. Considering that the line-up is jam-packed with so many talented artists, who are you most excited to see perform? Do you have a game plan to meet any artist in particular?
Happy to see out of town friends who are playing and mingling at the after party I guess. Really, I just want it to be a frickin' summer day. I'll be snooping around at Saturday's show to see Kenna, Gym Class Heroes and Santigold. I'll be keeping a low profile Sunday so I can wild out proper for my set.
What should festival goers expect to see and hear when they come out to see your set on Sunday?
A woman taking no shorts and leaving it all on the stage. That's the plan.
A consistent subject for you seems to be your continuous support of women in the punk movement. If you could put together your own female cast of an AP festival, who would make the line-up? Where would you have the festival take place?
I wouldn't. The point is to make sure that women are equally represented in what already exists. We are present in all genres and putting in work.