Amythyst Kiah’s Solo ‘Black Myself’ Adds Musical Power to the Grammy-Nominated Song [LISTEN]
Singer-songwriter Amythyst Kiah earned a 2020 Grammy Awards Best American Roots Song nomination for her song "Black Myself," as originally recorded by Our Native Daughters, a quartet also featuring Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell. A newly released solo version, however, offers a different look at the track.
""Black Myself" is the first song I’ve written that was confrontational. I’d always made it a point to sing songs that anybody could relate to, but this was something that had been welling up inside me for a long time," Kiah shares in a press release. "The reception of the song so far has given me hope that there are people out there who are ready to confront the shared trauma of racism, to look within ourselves and see how we might be perpetuating racist beliefs, and to do what is needed to create equality for all people."
Kiah recorded her solo version of "Black Myself" with producer Tony Berg at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles, Calif. Whereas Our Native Daughters' rendition is a powerful, but mid-tempo, mainly acoustic performance, Kiah's solo offering amps up the melody with electric guitar and rock 'n' roll drums, and her from-the-heart delivery lays seamlessly over the swampy production.
“This song marks the first time that I really confronted my raw feelings about the history of my ancestors who were enslaved in the transatlantic trade," Kiah shares in the description of the video, "specifically my contempt for the hypocrites who used Christianity to justify these actions, the unfortunate stereotypes that encouraged social hostility toward Black people ... and my recognition of the shoulders I stand on and how my present and future is possible because of the courage of the people before me.
"For many, being Black was and still is a curse, but strength against adversity and love and support for each other is what makes us who we are," she adds. "Inheriting 'blackness' in a post-colonial society is a precarious thing. The last verse is a kind of transcendence into a new plane where 'blackness' is no longer a curse but rather a source of strength."
"Black Myself" is Kiah's first release with Rounder Records. The Chattanooga-raised musician -- who is both Black and queer and, as such, struggled while growing up in the Bible Belt -- studied in East Tennessee State University's bluegrass program and has toured with both Giddens and Yola as a solo artist.
More new music from Kiah is coming this year, per the aforementioned press release. Country Queer reports that Kiah has been working on a new album, Wary and Strange, since early 2018, around the same time the Our Native Daughters project began.
Kiah's "Black Myself" arrived just ahead of Monday's (Feb. 22) Smithsonian Channel premiere of Reclaiming History: Our Native Daughters, a documentary tracing the titular quartet's quest to tell the stories of Black American women through music. The film will air at 9PM CT; Smithsonian's Folkways Recordings label released the group's album in 2019.
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