Sound Check: Saidah

Given the way society has painted women today, especially soul singers, the attitude is usually submissive. There are those who rebel by toying with the ladylike borders, then there are some who could care less about a border – like Saidah Baba Talibah. Read on as thisTorontosinger/songwriter explores the history of raunchy music, from blues women to her own “raunchy soul.”

Soul Train: If you had to explain, how would you describe your direction in your music, including your sound and lyrical content?

Saidah Baba Talibah: I like saying it is “raunchy soul.” I think that sums it up because I like being a little raunchy and dirty at times, but raunchy is also connotative of grit. A little edgy.

ST: I can definitely see that with your raw and edgy music. Where does that come from as far what drives you to want to go in that direction?

SBT: Feelings and emotion. As far as a genre or anyone who has inspired me? I was fortunate to grow up with an incredible singer/songwriter/actress/playwright/director/activist mother (Salome Bey), and much of what I saw her do was really emotional and captivating. She did a lot of blues stuff, and I understood the blues to be very emotional, raunchy, real and raw. No holds barred. Not “oh, if I fall off my heels I won’t look pretty.” It was “whatever, f***, I’ll take these off and go barefoot.”

ST: Right! Do you. Be comfortable.

SBT: Yeah, or be in the heels, and get down and dirty.

ST: Ok, well let me play devil’s advocate here. Where’s the border between raunchy and just doing too much? I hear raunchy music on the radio, and some folks will turn it down, but then there’s other raunchy music and the same people want to give it a pass. What’s up with that, in your opinion? Or is there even a border?

SBT: That’s a hard question because art is borderless. Expression is borderless – I express myself one way, and another artist could express themselves another way. At the same time, when it comes to being a woman expressing these types of feelings and being – not aggressive – assertive, knowing what you want, strong and unafraid of vulnerability is not really out there. So I guess that could be raunchy, like just in explaining how I want to please a man or how I want him to please me. We feel like we have to hide that idea behind what it means to be a lady. There are ways to do all of that and still be classy.

ST: I get it, and there’s even each one’s own interpretation of “classy” and what is a lady.

SBT: This is why I love old blues artists like Betty Davis. She was raunchy, but she was real in stating her facts of life. Also, there was Lucille Bogan, a blues singer from 1935.  She was even raunchier than Betty Davis, raunchier than anyone I ever heard to this day and age!

ST: So let me ask: how important is it for you to implement sensuality into your music, and music in general?

SBT: I think sensuality – not necessarily sex – is very important in everything that I do. In the true form of sensuality – calling on touch, sight, sounds and all those things and bring all the senses together – that’s where I’m coming from.

ST: How did you develop your music within calling on those senses from The Phone Demos to (S)Cream and so on?

SBT: Continuing to remind myself to stay as free as possible and to be as real as possible. That’s always the emphasis of where I’m coming from. At least I try to because that can be a little scary. I’m still human. It’s not easy being an artist because everyone has their opinion and capability to judge.

ST:Toronto music –Canada in general – is nothing to sneeze at. How much of the T-Dot inspires your music?

SBT: There’s a lot of ridiculous talent, great musicians, great singers on the scene. There’s By Divine Right, Jully Black, Ayah, and a lot of them have branched out and moved but this city is a beast.Toronto can take over the world.

ST: Yeah, it’s very possible, just in thinking about the different cities that have their own big scenes that everybody digs. But moving on to your work, I just want to know why did you put the S in “(S)Cream” in parentheses?

SBT: Well, I put the S in brackets because when I wrote the song I would say “cream or scream,” so I leave it up to the listener to do either/or, or both because you could very well scream as you cream.

ST: Oh! Got it. Or, sometimes you may have to scream and not even get the chance to cream!

SBT: Exactly! And might have to say, “Are we done yet?”

ST: I mean, I don’t know if I wanna scream all of that. At least make that person feel like they put forth some effort.

SBT: Right, that’s true. But in this case of the song it’s both. Talking about the lust you continue to feel for the person that you’ve been with for five or ten years.

ST: We bring up (S)Cream, your debut LP, so what’s next?

SBT: I’m starting to write a new album. It’s going to be a concept album that is kind of a journey of an animal spirit guide. It’s on how they guide me through my spiritual journey. I’ve seen it and I feel it, but I’ve just started writing it. But I don’t wanna give too much away.

Visit Saidah online at

— Starletta Watson

Starletta Watson is a multimedia journalist fishing her way through the entertainment world. She contributes as a writer, blogger, photographer and videographer regularly to Frank 151, Examiner, SlapStik Magazine and a host of others. You can follow her on Twitter at @_starburst88.


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