For the next few weeks follow five featured music bloggers (including yours truly) as we talk all things music and discover incredible new bands! If you’re in a band, make yourself heard and join the competition. You might just win! Chaka V.
When asked which band in music history I’d open for if given the chance, several decades flew through my imagination—from the Miles Davis Quintet in the ‘60’s to Alabama Shakes today. You could say that I’m a frustrated singer, never given a chance to live the proverbial dream.
Fun fact: I was named after Chaka Khan. As a teenager, my mother dreamed of having a daughter with a voice as powerful as Khan’s. But that dream was never realized, so here we are. I’ve managed to convince myself that if I’d just gotten those singing lessons my 5th grade teacher suggested—the lessons my mother put the kibosh on because I shrugged off piano lessons the year before—then maybe, just maybe, I would be rocking the stage like Beyoncé (instead of writing this article!). But we’ll never know (will we, mother?).
Despite being untrained and never singing in public—with the exception of a debauched 3am karaoke session in college—I’ve always been a rockstar… in my head. And as my music knowledge has grown, so has the elaborate fantasies I’m able to create. But to fully indulge in a sexy rockstar fantasy, I first needed the opening-act “break-out moment” fantasy, right?
So: It’s the mid-‘70’s. I’m opening up for Fleetwood Mac during their Rumours tour. Graced with a glorious nut-brown afro, turquoise feathers, beads and thigh-high chestnut coloured leather boots, I’m gorgeously disheveled. My soul-psychedelic electrifying opening set has Stevie Nicks—who I just call “Stevie”—shaking me in awe, screaming, “You simultaneously channelled Odetta and Janis! Crazy!”
Now it’s the ‘80’s. I’m opening for the Eurythmics. My debut album is Fire Engine Red – Get On and Enjoy the Ride (Rihanna, if you like the title, it’s yours). I’m a little Vanity 6 infused with Sheila E.’s dazzling musicianship and Grace Jones’ fierceness. After one show, I’m upgraded to headliner/single-name status and Annie Lennox and I sing a duet that climbs the charts at record speed.
Really, when I think about an artist who wouldn’t have lorded their headlining status over my lowly opening-act head, and maybe even taken me under their wing, I think of multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter and producer Teena Marie. I imagine her being the kind of “big sister” artist who’d come to my shoe-closet dressing room and sit casually on the foldout chair to give me a pep talk and ease my nerves. “Just sing, girl,” she’d say. “And don’t give a damn about anything else.” Clearly she recognizes her passion in me and that’s why she choose me as her opening act.
I’d take the stage with my guitar, “butter” (butter, the neglected guitar, really does exist!). The audience would stare, astounded. “That girl can sing. Damn!”
Later Teena would take the stage and before setting it ablaze, she graciously takes a moment to say, “That Chaka, she’s going places!”