This Black History Month we’re celebrating emerging black artists who are redefining boundaries and challenging underrepresentation in their scenes. Join us as we spotlight this crop of new and influential creators.
Meet Tamar-Kali, the punk performer who gave ‘Mudbound’ its sound.
How did you first get your start as a Punk Rock artist?
I identify as an alternative rock artist and as with many in the genre I got my start in my local NY punk rock/hardcore scene. The no boundaries, no holds barred spirit of the music and scene were an outlet for frustrations and a space to discuss and explore questions around history, identity and authority.
Were there artists in particular who you looked to for inspiration, who you felt were breaking down barriers in the genre?
Legendary bands like Bad Brains and Fishbone and local legends like Quicksand and Orange 9mm inspired my expression. NY as one of the most diverse cities in America provided the unique experience of seeing POC as leaders in the scene. Bad Brains spent a good amount of time on the Lower East Side and were known at one point as the Kings of Ave. A. Chaka Malik of Burn, Gingi Brown of Absolution and Ryan Bland of Bushmon and Home 33 were predecessors who broke down barriers and were looked up to by myself and colleagues in the scene.
Given the influence black musicians have had on Punk Rock music, are you surprised by the lack of representation of people of color?
I am not surprised. It is the nature of systemic oppression. Representation of Black, POC, Women and Queer artists in the genre is not yet reflective of their contributions but music isn’t the only place we see this inequity. Sexism, Racism and Homophobia are ills of society that I hope we can come to terms with within this next generation.
Have you had to navigate any particular obstacles in order to gain respect within the Punk Rock music scene??
There is definitely a sense that you need to go harder when you don’t visually fit the stereotype. Personally, my past issues were gender based. As a young kid in the scene I was uber aggressive and took on the toxically masculine and aggressive behavior that was common in the NY hardcore scene as a way of desexualizing myself for protection and gaining respect.It is interesting how a space you associate with freedom and being yourself can quickly become another type of prison if you attempt to live up to standards that are not wholly your own. Developing my authentic self was a matter of letting go of the expectations of others and allowing myself to just be me – multifaceted, eclectic and unique.
What advice would you give to other musicians of color looking to break in?
My thoughts are the same for ANY musician.
Play music. Find like minded souls. Go to shows. Hone your craft.
Listen to Tamar-Kali right now on SoundCloud.