Love and Liberation is the name of the latest album by American artist Jazzmeia Horn, and the words that best describe it. Because she not only sings about them, but embodies them. From the moment she takes the stage, you can feel her strength, confidence and the ease with which she conveys her message of love and social responsibility towards ourselves and the world around us to her audience. Music is light and positivity for the two-time Grammy nominated artist and her audience feels those very emotions.
The fatigue after the concert at the last edition of Belgrade Jazz Fest didn’t stop Jazmeja from taking time to talk to us about her new album and the power of loving yourself.
I had the pleasure of listening to you last summer at the A to JazZ festival in Sofia. Both then and after your concert at Belgrade Jazz Fest I felt that people when they leave your concerts are happier, as if lighter and full of strength. How do you feel after your concerts?
Jazzmeia: I feel both. I feel filled with power, that the source, the creator has given me this power to channel, and thus bring positivity into other people’s lives. Because that is very rare. A lot of grief and pain happens all over the world. And the fact that my voice can bring someone the opposite – I’m very grateful for that.
It’s a gift.
Jazzmeia: Exactly. So for me, that’s the reason I keep doing it. Despite my fatigue and being away from my kids.
You must miss them a lot…
Jazzmeia: I miss them so much, yes, but people need light and they need love. And there is not much love in the world today. So, I’m happy doing it.
In a recent interview you mentioned that your first album Social Call was a call for social awareness. Whereas your second album Love and Liberation is more of a call to action. Do you think an artist should have a social responsibility, a kind of awareness in their art? And why?
Jazzmeia: If they don’t want to, that’s entirely up to them. Some people are Republicans, some people are Democrats. Some people are pro-choice, some people are anti-choice. Everybody has their own choice. They can do whatever they want. It’s impossible for me to be a woman, to be black, to be a mother, to be a musician and say nothing about what’s going on in society. I’m not condemning anyone, but I can’t be silent. I can’t live any other way. Because I see what’s going on, I travel all over the world. I was in Brazil a few weeks ago. And the poverty there is appalling. But in America it’s the same. The same! People say America is one of the most developed countries. But it really isn’t. I live there. I know it! So that’s something we need to talk about. All over the world, not just in Brazil, not just in Europe or in America – there’s tremendous pain in the world. And many people don’t talk about it.
They live like in a bubble…
Jazzmeia: If other people don’t, that’s okay. I’m not going to be upset by that fact because everyone has their responsibility in this world and in society. Some sing classical music, some sing jazz. Some people sing rock. Others sing pop. There are so many different ways and spaces in which to exist together. It is the same with the earth. There is enough land for all of us to live peacefully if we wish. But there are people who take control over the land because they fear other people. This is the truth. And when we delve into that, eventually we come to love and liberation.
What comes first – love or liberation?
Jazzmeia: They have to be together. If I didn’t love myself, I wouldn’t be able to be so free with my words, with my sound and my expression. And if I didn’t want to be free, I wouldn’t love myself.
They are connected.
Jazzmeia: That’s why I put love and liberation together, not just love. And not only liberation. Heart and spirit together. The heart must be healed and free. And the spirit must be able to be free. But if the heart is too heavy, the spirit will not be able to fly either. So you need both.
How can we achieve this healing of the heart – especially nowadays?
Jazzmeia: Don’t let society and other people dictate your thoughts. There are many advertisements that say – buy those clothes, buy those shoes, buy that music. What food to eat, where to live. If you decide for yourself what you want, no one else can tell you what is good for you. People tell me all the time – “You wear too much jewelry, you dance too much on stage. Why do you have to wear African clothes all the time or why do you have to wear that scarf on your head? Why don’t you just wear black?” That’s their standard for jazz. But it’s not my standard for jazz. I’m Jazzmeia and nobody’s going to tell me how to do my jazz. Nobody! (laughs). If everybody takes that approach, then we’ll be a better world for each other. I think so.
Fantastic philosophy! And one last question. What do you prefer – watermelon or melon?
Jazzmeia: I wouldn’t give up either one. I’m from Texas and my grandfather still grows both watermelon and different kinds of cantaloupe. We also have a special kind of melon called “honeydew” that you can’t find anywhere. Only in Texas. I like them all!
interview and photos: Sofia Hussein for Dinya