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Interview:
Teena Marie Digs Into "Congo Square" Roots
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Teena Marie’s latest release, “Congo Square,” allowed her to dig into her musical roots — and beyond.

The former Motown songstress and protégé of the late Rick James titled her 13th album after a section of New Orleans where slaves were allowed to dance and sing on Sundays. “Most of the slaves in New Orleans were from the West Indies,” the California-born Marie, 53, says. “So I thought about that and the West Indian drums and the calland-response and chanting and thought about what an amazingly passionate and beautiful and sad and joyful sound that must have been.

“And then I thought about New Orleans being the home of jazz ... and thought it would be really nice to have Congo Square be the address of all the musicians that ever came through and wanted to inspire and make beautiful music and lift people up. I didn’t set out to do this; it just kind of grew. I wanted a piece of music that inspired.”

Marie wound up dedicating each of the 16 songs on “Congo Square” to an artist she most identified with the sound of that track, and she brought in guests such as Faith Evans, MC Lyte, George Duke, Howard Hewett and her daughter Alia Rose (aka Rose Le Beau) to be part of the project. And as she was finishing, Marie learned of another set of roots that pertained to the album.

“I found out my people were from that area,” she says. “I always thought my father’s people were from Texas, but I found out before they were in Texas they were in Louisiana, and my great-grandmother was married ... right in Congo Square. It’s pretty amazing that I found that out as I was doing this record.”



Teena Marie, Charlie Wilson and K’Jon perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 28) at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $58-88. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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