As I watched the ladies of Lady Moon & The Eclipse – Nkoula Badila, Ntangou Badila, Aatifa Drayton and Lady Moon herself, Ngonda Badila – make their way to the stage at Rockwood Music Hall to join Arlen Hart (keys), Jonathan Camuzeaux (bass) and Ken Reichl (drums) and begin their set on a recent Friday night, I knew that I liked them. The guys looked chill, and the gals looked like superheroes dressed in black and gold, donning face paint and jewelry that looked like armor. I thought how cool, they are giving some serious Les Nubians, Soul II Soul, Erykah Badu with a touch of Sade up in here! Once they started to perform, I knew that I could love this band. Their half-hour set, which began with a cover of the Negro spiritual “Motherless Child’ and ended with an original tune, “Travel the World Refrain” left me wanting to know more about these seven souls on a musical mission to address social issues and promote inclusivity and spiritual unity.
I caught up with Lady Moon (lead singer, song writer and group founder) and posed some burning questions about her and the band, who are busy putting the final touches on their debut EP and finalizing the video for their single “Rollercoaster,” due out sometime in February.
When did you know that you had a calling for music?
Well, growing up I used to make up songs about everything. I would make up songs to do laundry with, to let my mom know it was time to bring up the warm towel after a bath, to prepare for a game that we wanted to play together as children, about people I liked, and didn’t like etc. It made me feel really cool when my sisters and brothers and friends would sing them with me. Truth is I never really thought of myself to be a singer but more of a writer because I didn’t feel like I had a singing voice when I was younger. I got my first journal when I was 12 years old, and that’s when my writing really took off, I was writing poetry about everything. When I was in school I sang in choir and I loved music class but I still didn’t think of myself to be a singer, it was only in my late teens, when I became friends with girls who wanted to start a girl group. We were all fans super fans of Destiny’s Child and so that is when I considered trying to sing. I started co-writing songs for this group and I even started writing my own songs. This was a very underground operation that never really went public. By 22 years old I was performing with musicians in NYC and my hometown Hudson, NY. It was then that I realized my calling was to write and sing songs because when I performed, people listened and it made me feel good.
Is music a spiritual practice for you, and in what way?
Yes! Music is a way to release tension, a way to escape from reality. It sets me free, I feel like I can fly, I feel like I am in space and nothing can keep me down, not even gravity.
How would you describe your band’s styling and why do you wear face paint?
I like a band that is uniform because music is sacred and traditionally when you practice a sacred act you dress up for it as a way of respect. We wear the face paint to pay homage to our African ancestors because the three of us sisters represent the Congo which is where my father is from. My father passed away 3 1/2 years ago and my brother Young Paris insisted that we wear the faceprint even in our non-traditional performances to keep our father’s traditions in all of our sacred and celebratory acts. In most African cultures and countries when you are practicing a sacred act of performing you wear body or face paint as makeup, and to elaborate your beauty.
I see three of the band members have the same last name, what is the family connection?
The current backup singers are my sisters, one is my twin sister. We are a very tight family. My parents raised us in a traditional African dance ensemble at a very young age. We basically grew up like the Jacksons; performing together was my parents’ way of teaching us how staying together as a family can be a more convenient and beneficial way to keep a business and a strong community/tribe from separating.
Who are your musical influences?
Honestly I can go on and on with a whole list of successful artists from Erykah Badu to Ray Charles because many artists have inspired and influenced me to do music, but my greatest musical influence toward the creative process goes to nature, the sun, the moon, space, the stars, watching people work very hard, watching people who are very lazy, people who are struggling, heartbroken, full of joy, the living world of human beings on Earth. These are the people who influence me. Most of them I may never know their name but they influence me to want to write.
What’s your motivation for the music you make?
I am motivated by will and purpose. I have a message that I want to share. I want people to know that I care about them and that I have a song for what they are going through. I believe music can soothe the soul, and fires it up. Music affects the water in your body, that influences your emotions and that’s why I think music is power and so I am motivated to use music as my way of change your mood, shift our emotions.
What do you want your listeners to know about you?
I am the spirit of the moon.
For more info on Lady Moon & The Eclipse go to http://www.ladymoonandtheeclipse.com.
Photo credits: Maciek Jasik; Antoine Lutens