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Maimouna blends hip hop, afro jazz and Native American sounds to make beautiful melodies


photos by Edith Williams, of Diamond Digital Portraits

Ear Candy is a monthly listening party that features some of the best indie soul artists in the nation. Last month’s Ear Candy featured Marcell & The Truth and Maimouna Youssef. Your Baltimore Performing Arts Examiner got a chance to chit chat with both acts. Eavesdrop on her conversation with Maimouna Youssef, below; and Marcell & The Truth, here.

You’ve toured the world with Roots, appeared in Dave Chapelle’s Block Party film, and shared the stage with some incredible artists. What do you attribute the connections you’ve made in the music industry to? Is it being in the right place at the right time?

I think there is a lot of being at the right time at the right place and having a lot of ambition at such a young age.

My name, Maimouna, means lucky [in an unknown language]. I think it is a lot of that. I would meet a lot of people on the humble.

The first record deal that my cousin and I obtained . I met a publicist through Duke Ellington School for The Arts. I played her some of the music that we started recording. I felt like we needed to document what we were doing at the time. It was very raw when I look back on it now . . . how far we were beyond our time. It was a mixture of jazz and hip hop.

My mother’s a jazz singer [ Navasha Daya of Fertile Ground], and my dad is a visual artist. I played with a jazz band in middle school. I had that upbringing. Even now my music features various styles [such as] afro jazz. My mother is Native American, so I listen to a lot of Native American music.

How does your ethnic background influence your music?

It takes me outside of the box in reference to sound. I’m always searching for another sound that evokes a certain emotion. In Native American music, they may imitate the bird, the wind-- they incorporate all sounds of music that the urban environment won’t do. There are no limitations.

I’m always searching for a way to communicate an emotion. The openness of imitating sounds
to me its seamless; it is very natural.

How did winning Baltimore Idol impact you?

When I first heard about the competition I was like ‘Baltimore Idol? That’s going to ruin my street cred.’[laughs] But I think the song that I won on was “When I Fall in Love,” which is a jazz song.

[Winning the competition] brought exposure to the band[ Editor’s note: Maimouna was one half of the group Cirius B, which she formed with her cousin Aziz]. We stared getting more notoriety, shows booked, donations for the album, a record deal, met The Roots.

Before we close, talk to me a little bit about the new album?

I’m working on it right now. It’s changed shape with my growth and development. I started writing the album, and then I didn’t like any of the songs anymore. This summer, I will finish my project. Some of it will be live music. It’s going to be an independent project. It’s independent, but I ‘m not doing it by myself. I have a lot of supportive family and community activists that support the work that I do.


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