The video serves to both recreate that recording experience and, it would seem, to evoke the painful-but-joyous history of Batuque, specifically its origins in Cape Verde and ties to slavery and suppression. How did you, your director Emmanuel Adjei, and the Orquestra work together to conceive of the visual narrative for the video?
“We wanted to honor how I met these women and our journey, with an organic and beautiful cinematic experience. We found a house that looked like a typical house that one would live in on the islands of Cape Verde next to the sea. Instead of me going to a small nightclub environment to meet them and hear them play, to then be invited into their circle, we choose a more natural and beautiful environment as the meeting place, ending up in the recording studio. It wasn’t easy to replicate the significance of our first meeting and how it all happened. How they invited me in and gave me a leather drum, sat me down and said ‘Join Us’. They took turns dancing and embracing me. They invited me into their world and made me feel extremely welcome. When I asked them to record with me it was the exact same experience. They were just as joyful, just as down to earth, just as open, just as loving. I tried to capture the simplicity of that exchange. I hope it captures the range of emotions that I felt coming from them, and their music. I wanted to show the strength and the history, and I felt like all of their faces were just so expressive. I wanted to capture that in all of their close-ups.”
Your dancing here seems improvised. How did you approach it?
“I was completely and utterly inspired by them. And there was no need or call for choreography. The dancing was organic and fluid; I just watched them move and joined them.”
Even your biggest fans might forget that in the beginning of your career, you were a drummer for the NYC band Breakfast Club. How did you draw upon this past work to approach “Batuka”?
“Drumming for me is connected to dancing, since they’re both centered in rhythm. Moving at different times and different rhythms and different time signatures. That segue from playing the drums came easily for me, since that was my first job in a band. It was authentic for me, and I love it. I love playing percussion.”
As you’ve described, “Madame X” takes on many disguises and persona. Who is she in “Batuka”?
“It’s all part of the journey of Madame X. Traveling to different places, different worlds, different cultures, experiencing different folk music. Madame X discovers and respects the history of it, of being inspired by it, and ultimately shares it with the world.”
Will the women join you onstage when you perform in a live setting?
“Yes, not only are they in my show, they are my choir in general. They’re my choir in ‘God Control’, ‘Like a Prayer’, ‘Come Alive,’ and ‘I Rise’. They’re even dancing in my show; they’ve become fully integrated in so many ways. It’s amazing. It’s crazy how multi-talented they all are and how ready they are to share this experience. It’s been so great having them become a part of everything. They’re going to blow people away; the world isn’t ready.”