Since my daughter was born, I’ve had two very clear objectives: 1) Raise a good human being who goes to Spelman College, and 2) Turn my daughter (and the rest of my kids) into music heads. I want my kids to be the ones who go to school talking about that new Marvin Gaye Here, My Dear album. I want them thinking that Aretha Franklin and the Temptations and Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson are contemporary artists that they’re trying to put their friends up on.
It’s much easier said than done. Sometimes I forget that kids have ears and they just don’t like some things. Of course, everybody likes Michael Jackson. My daughter knows Mike’s voice now, but Janet, she doesn’t quite get yet. When I take her to school in the mornings, outside of our standard gospel-music playlist, I try to introduce her to new music—Luther Vandross, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Fela Kuti, Phyllis Hyman, Boston, Simple Minds, Hall & Oates, etc.—hoping that she’s going to hit me with those four magical words: “Daddy, who was that?”
Which brings me to the week before last. I was taking my daughter to pick up things for her mom for Mother’s Day and trying to think of what to play in the car. I have a few default albums that always get play when I can’t think of anything else: A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, Frank Ocean’s Blond, SZA’s Ctrl, SWV’s Release Some Tension, Teedra Moses’ Complex Simplicity and Laura Mvula’s Sing to the Moon. On this day, because none of those other selections were appropriate for my daughter, I threw in Laura Mvula.
Mvula is a British singer-songwriter and composer I discovered through BET’s Being Mary Jane some years ago. There was a scene on the show where Mary Jane is at some restaurant, and I heard this song in the background and spent (this is some OCD shit, so forgive me) the better part of an hour rewinding that one scene over and over until I could get a hit on Shazam. That song was Mvula’s “Is There Anybody Out There?” Once I started listening to the rest of the songs on the album, I was a goner.
My goodness! Between the production value, the instrumentation and her vocals, I was blown away. She’s got this very sophisticated, polished singing voice that’s powerful, and the way she layers her vocals and uses them as an additional instrument? Good googly moogly. The musical sound bed is so lush, in a very Barry White-ian way, but more classically oriented. I don’t even think I listened to the lyrics for, like, a year after discovering her because I was so enthralled with how it all SOUNDED together. Since then, she and that album in particular have been a constant companion in my car.
Which brings us back to my daughter. So I throw the album on because it’s something she can listen to, and we make a stop somewhere for food. As soon as I turn the car off, she says, “Daddy, who was that?”
I’m trill enough to admit that my heart fluttered, and I may (or may not, depending on if you can prove it) have cried a few thug tears. I told her who it was and asked why she wanted to know. She told me that she loved Mvula’s songs and her voice and how she sang them. And that she wanted to know so her mother could put them on her iPod when she got home.
As you can imagine, since then, it’s been a Laura Mvula musicfest during our car rides. My daughter has a favorite song of hers now—the title track, “Sing to the Moon”—and she sings along with the songs already. My daughter, who wants to be a songwriter as well as an astronaut, philanthropist, veterinarian, surgeon and cool, likes to compose her own songs that we will actually set to music (produced by me; we already have a few songs done), and she’s found a sound that she likes as a muse.
This whole experience has given me all of the warm and fuzzies. I can’t wait until my boys have those same moments and when I can introduce them to hip-hop. But for now, Laura Mvula achieved a goal for me that I’ve been trying to make happen for years.
So, thank you, Laura Mvula, for singing my daughter to the moon and kick-starting this active musical education that I’ve been waiting for.
You are appreciated.