By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
syoes@afro.com

“I see the Blackness of my people. You know they’re
Calling for freedom everywhere
I’ve seen the Blackness of my people, and all you’ve got to do
Brothers and Sisters, reach out your hands. We’re gonna
Take you there
Black stands for liberation…”
-Gil Scott-Heron, “The Liberation Song” (Red, Black and Green)

The legendary Gil Scott-Heron, one of the most profound and prophetic singer-songwriters of his generation, released “The Liberation Song,” in 1975. It’s message invoked the resilience of the Black Diaspora smack dab in the middle of the revolutionary 1970s. Yet, that message has never been more prescient for Black Americans than right now.

With her 2021, incarnation of the Liberation Song, internationally renowned, Baltimore-based songstress Navasha Daya delivers a masterful fiat of defiance in the midst of perhaps America’s most dangerous racial reckoning since the Civil War. And she delivers it with an urgency and kinetic Soul power commensurate for the unprecedented times we find ourselves in.

“I chose The Liberation Song (Red, Black and Green) as the lead single for this project because it is a timeless reminder of where we have been and where we must be. It is a reminder to remember and honor those names, known and unknown, who sacrificed and fought for our freedom. It is also a reminder of the work that still must be done today,” said Daya, cousin to Scott-Heron, a member of American Soul music royalty. She said she chose songs that were personal to her for her upcoming homage to her cousin called “Legacy (A Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron).” If her first offering, released last week, is any indication she may be the heir apparent to his throne. 

“My forthcoming album is my personal tribute to my cousin, the late great Gil Scott-Heron, and the specific family lineage that we share. This project is a fulfillment of a promise kept and an ancestral dedication,” Daya revealed.

Further, she said that during her last conversation with her cousin they pledged to work together. “He suggested ‘We should do some music together,’ sadly he transitioned (Scott-Heron died in 2011) before we could fulfill the original plan.” However, it seems clear “Legacy,” which will also feature Daya’s interpretation of Scott-Heron classics, “The Bottle,” and “Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul?” is a divine manifestation of that original plan.

For the lead single on Legacy, Daya features the world-class saxophonist Gary Bartz. The Baltimore-born musician has crafted a Grammy-award winning career that has spanned six decades and has played with jazz gods like Miles Davis, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and McCoy Tyner, among a myriad others. According to Daya, Bartz formed a revolutionary musical group in 1970 called NTU Troop, which actually toured with Scott-Heron in the 1970s.

The legendary Bartz sparkles as usual delivering hall-of-fame caliber alto-sax on Liberation Song, a perfect foundation for Daya’s undulating, undaunted vocal performance.

Scott-Heron is a transformative musician, consequential poet and author who has influenced many other important artist-activists, including members of the Hip-Hop pantheon like Talib Kweli, Common and Chuck D. And like Scott-Heron, Daya is also committed to being a servant and a healer in her community.

She serves as co-founder and director of Healing and Performing Arts of the Youth Resiliency Institute, which provides programming and services for children, youth and families in East Cleveland, Ohio as well as public housing in the Cherry Hill community of South Baltimore.

 “. . .I believe Gil would have been proud of Navasha’s commitment to cultural arts and her desire to carry on the family’s legacy of activism for justice and peace . . .” said Rumal Rackley, administrator of the Gil Scott-Heron Estate. The full album- Legacy (A Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron) is scheduled for release in late 2021.

With her otherworldly revival of The Liberation Song, Daya conjures the spirit of her iconic cousin forward into the 21st century Black American consciousness clothed resplendently in respect and in the process she ascends definitively in her journey as an artist and healer.

 

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor