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Sabrynaah Pope New York, Usa, 2003 - The Official Interview

Sabrynaah Pope - The fantastic Gospel and Soulful House vocalist!

Sabrynaah Pope
Brooklyn) New York City, New York, USA
Munich, Germany

1.For the not so clued up person in regards to the world of Soulful House and Garage, music could you tell us how you got started in this game?

I began singing house formally with Blaze with the track entitled, ďIt Works For MeĒ, but Iíd been singing all my life.

1a. Who or what had the greatest influence on what you listen to today?

1(a) Was through listen to your parents (Did they have an artists or performer that they constantly kept going on about that influenced you) 1(b) Was through listening at a early age to the Radio to a particular sound or artist 1(c) Was through going to the church (being part of a choir?) 1(d) Or was it by being forced to take musical lessons that influenced your choice?

Well, I guess you can say music was and is in my blood. My mom has two sisters, one was an original ďRayletteĒ (Ray Charles background singers) and the other was in the popular 1960ís group ďThe CookiesĒ, that are now featured on a series of American Postal Stamps commemorating that era.

The three of them also were a gospel singing group called ďThe Sisters of FaithĒ while I was growing up, and we (me and my siblings, five out of six) also sang as a group in church and at volunteer functions.

Singing has been my outlet of choice since I can remember. As far back as I can remember Iíve been singing myself to sleep, which hasnít always made my roommates happy (smile).

I was raised in what is known in the African American Community as a ďholy homeĒ(like Toni Braxton and others), where we werenít allowed to listen to secular (non Christian) music. I went to church six days a week, and since I was very much into the church and the spirituality of its music.

I didnít feel that I was missing anything. I took music lessons, in piano and drum and loved it, but when I got tired, I simply told my mom I didnít want to go anymore and she didnít force the issue.

Remember, there were 6 of us, so everybody did something musically anyway. It was really a part of our household, always vocalizing (a nice way of saying yelling through the houseJ)

2. Who was your first musical hero? Was it Artists from the.. Soul area Hiphop scene Rock/Heavy Metal scene Motown, The Sound of Philadelphia or Stax Records artists Jazz artists Or just any particular artist?

I donít know if you could call them my heroes, because for me the word hero implies a rescuer, and I was never in a musical dilemma. Because of my uncommon musical background, some of the singers I admired were not known to the international music community, singers like Krystal Murdock, several choral lead singers, and the now famous Clark Sisters.

3. You are a vocalist and a songwriter? (*Or do you play an instrument as well!!). What was the first club or musical that you played at that allowed you to gain vital "experience" to that is invaluable for you today? Is it still there now; and have you gone back to sing there from time to time?

Yes, I do play percussion instruments professionally, although not on the level of a Sheila E. I am both a vocalist and songwriter, yes, thatís correct. One of the first musicals I did that allowed me to gain professional experience is called ďGodís Trombones!Ē directed by Woodie King Jr. for the National Black Touring Circuit.

This cast was filled with Television and Broadway professionals, and I was the baby of the ensemble. They taught me invaluable lessons of respect for cast members, chain of authority, and how to find genuine friendship in the world of theatre. I still do this show whenever called, as a matter of fact; I went home to do a performance just this past February, 2003.

4.Being a vocalist, what attracted to you to the House and Garage world (*Or Club Music as it is known in the USA!!). Many vocalist veer towards the Jazz or Soul/R&B music within the USA. What attracted you to the Soulful House and Garage music scene?

Well, as Palmer Brown says I remember house. When I was first introduced to house, the spiritual nature of the music connected for me. It was born in an era when people from different walks of life werenít allowed to express themselves openly, and this music said what they wanted to say.

Itís the same spiritual basis for gospel music, that speaking things into existence as though they already are. It was also a place where people came to let the music lead and guide, which again was familiar to me. You could sing, holler, roll on the floor, let the music use you, take you there, and you werenít alone.

5.Was King Street Records, the first truly Soulful House and Garage Record label to give you a chance working within the world of House and Garage music scene? Or were there other labels before King Street?...What happened here?

I didnít know anything about House music or its labels. I was one of those singers who would just sing while being caught up in the music on the dance floor I just loved the music and its communal feeling.

Kevin Hedge (of Blaze) approached me while I was in my groove, and we made a date to go into the studio. I had been singing gospel background professionally for a few years, and what we would do in gospel is lay a rough track, shop it, then go back and clean it up, make it perfect, so to speak. Well, after our first date in the studio. Iíd gone on tour with a theatre show, and when Iíd returned the record was signed. I didnít even meet with the label until later.

Sabrynaah Pope - The fantastic Gospel and Soulful House vocalist!

6. What was the scene like around in those early days during the 1990's in New York and New Jersey? Was it an exciting time to be in? It seems as if new artists were flocking to New York and New Jersey all the time? Was this a happy period of time in your life? For instance you met up with Blaze and Victor Simmonelli, during this period of your life. Was this by sheer luck that your paths crossed? Do you keep in touch?

Well, just as my musical background is distinct, so is my take on clubbing during that era. I used to club 6 days a week during certain seasons of that time, and I had big fun!!!

I mostly clubbed alone which gave me the opportunity to meet different types of people (say at the Palladium on Wednesday the crowd was very different than Zanzibar on Saturdays) and begin friendships that transcended the club scene into everyday reality.Iíve always looked for that certain quality in clubbing that starts from the heart. A quality that is missing in a lot of clubs today.

Many donít know this, but the Paradise Garage was the first club Iíd ever gone to in my life. Imagine the disappointment I would feel when being introduced to other clubs that didnít have that ďspiritualĒ quality. I had to learn to acclimate myself to other club environments, thereby finding different types of qualities to enjoy. But each club I frequented during that era had something special to offer. I remember when Tracks on 19th street in NYC would open on Friday night and stay open non stop until Monday morning, but their best party of the week was on Tuesday evening.

Victor and I were both born at the same hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and heís always been a wonderful person to me from day one. Since he moved to Italy, got married and started a family, I only get to see him at the Italian Music Conference or whenever Iím in Italy working with/for Maurizio Clemente. Kevin and Josh (Milan) are the only members of Blaze that I still see whenever I get to go home. And thank God for email and IM!

7. My first recollection of you was by a track that you released called "It Works for Me", on Kings Street records, USA. A truly lovely single. Did you write this? Or was this a joint effort between you and Blaze? It still may favorite record of yours that I have? How old when you made this? Is this a favorite of yours?

Yes, I wrote the lyrics and Blaze wrote the music. Josh also vocal coached and sang background with me. It is one of my favorites because it speaks of my need to be allowed to be me, and my request to others to learn to find happiness in whatever form works for you.

Sabrynaah Pope - The fantastic Gospel and Soulful House vocalist!

8. In that same period of time you managed to work with another New Jersey Garage legends within the music who are known to the world of Smack Productions. How did you get on with them. Where they cool to work with? Was anything ever released whilst working with them?

My relationship with Smack Productions wasnít the best, so I wonít elaborate. I will say the Major Healy was one of the best producers Iíve ever worked with. Having the ability to see what artists are capable of and steering them towards their zenith. If anything was released on that label under my name it was not with my permission (other than background vocals for other artists).

9.You managed to get out of the New York, and New Jersey area when it comes to making Soulful House music, which led to you working with 95 North Productions (Richard Peyton, Doug Smith - Washington D.C, USA) How did this collaboration come about. Did you just provide your fabulous singing abilities to their projects. Or did you help in writing down some tracks for them? Do you still keep in contact?

Once again, thanks to email, I can and do still keep in contact with the 95 North guys. However, I met them in the NY/NJ area. I was called in to do background on the track ďHold Oní, which was co written by the guys and the then lead singer. They made the business decision (all three of them) to go with a stronger vocal for the song. The guys also wrote our follow up song, and we still talk of doing another track, so itís all good.

10. You still seem to like performing Gospel Music. Does performing Gospel music help to keep your feet on the ground? Many of America's best ever vocalistsí come from this field. Are you glad that you are still involved in performing the music? I heard that you have just done a tour with a group called the Jackson Sister. Please tell us more?

Iíve been singing gospel for as long as I can remember. I will sing inspirational music with or without an audience, because it will always be in my spirit. There are days when I listen only to inspirational music, which Iíve grown to find in different genres of music as well.

Iíve been a part of several gospel traveling groups throughout both Europe and North America. The Jackson Singers is a group based here in Germany whose original leader (Robert Jackson) passed away last year. Fitzroy Burroughs now heads the group, which travels throughout Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, and the Netherlands.

11. Changing the subject again. You have worked with one half, of another Soulful House super group. They are known to the world as the Masters at Work. From my research it seems that you have worked with Lilí Louie Vega. What was he like to work with? Is he a perfectionist???

Iíve never been in the studio with Louie directly. He did a remix of Hold On that is my favorite mix to this day. He is a good friend of mine, and Iíll never forget my first public performance at the party called Underground Network, which was run by Barbara Tucker and Don Welch in the old Sound Factory Bar on 21st Street in NYC.

Most of the audience knew me as a fellow dancer/clubhead, so the response I got was out of this world. But it was Louieís pride that made me smile. You wouldíve thought I was his daughter! He was so excited for me; Iíll never forget it as long as I live. He still exhibits that kind of love and support for fellow artists, which is one of the reasons I believe heís so successful.

12. We all know that you have a great, great voice. However, do you like to "Dance" whilst singing during a live perform( No. We are not saying that you should do the "Moonwalk"). But does dancing on stage during a live perform make you lose concentration? Or doesn't it bother you if you do?

Like I said, Iíve been singing while dancing from the beginning. Dancing onstage during a performance is natural for me, because this music makes you move!!!

Sabrynaah Pope - The fantastic Gospel and Soulful House vocalist!

13. Working with these American Soulful House and Garage music DJ/Producers has made you curious to work aboard. You have worked with a producer out of England called Joey Musaphia. How did you meet up with him in the first place. Was it through an Agency? What was released whilst working with him. And out of the singles that you released which one were you the happiest with? Are you going to be working with him the future.

I actually was introduced to Joey through an email, but it was DJ Dove and Lisa Milet, friends of mine who knew of him and his work, that suggested I do the project. I did a track entitled ďA Better WayĒ which was the first release on his new label Refunkt Records.

I also recorded a gospel house track with him entitled ďStanding in the Need of PrayerĒ, which is the one Iím most happy with because of its memories. The arrangement was by a dear friend of mine who is no longer with us, Mr. Lee Coward Sr. To my knowledge it hasnít been released as yet.

I imagine Joey and I will be working together in the future, although we have no immediate plans to do so.

14. Other producers for other parts of the world have also played a part in your musical C.V - such as Richard Grey (France), Iginio Bianchi(Italy), Ivan Iacobucci (Italy), Filippo Moscatello (Germany), Jaime Lewis (Switzerland), Greg Gauthier and Tony L(France) and M. DiCrescenzio (Italy). There is even talk of you working with Japanese DJ/Producers.

Was there any difficultly in working with any of these producers. The language problem could have been one aspect of this. But where they any other problems. Or was it all plan sailing, and the work got done regardless..? Please tell!

While the language barrier can be a problem, mutual respect for each other and the music usually transcends everything. Most of the projects are fun because we go in expecting to make good music and not just a hit record. I donít remember one problem with any of the producers youíve mentioned here, and most of us still enjoy acquaintances when weíre together.

15.Changing the subject slightly. I wondered, the music Soulful House and Garage in New York City, is it still hard to find, if you are looking for a club to visit to at the weekend? Would I be able to find one?

We all know of that the "Body and Soul nights" on Sundays has closed, but there still is the Shelter. Is there any other nights available for us to know in little old England?

Iím so glad you asked this question, because I recently went home to do a show, and let me tell you what I found! Firstly, there has been an on going soulful house party for the past two years that I always try to attend when my schedule allows.

Itís a Sunday party on 28th street in NYC called Together In Spirit, run by Conrad and staff. From the very beginning the club had the vibe of love and light, which has been replaced in many clubs by sex and the dollar. While I was there Dawn Tallman performed and she was fabulous.

Iíve heard (though not experienced yet) of a sister party in the city on Sundays called Ashe ďThe BlessingĒ which has the same vibe (see www.ashenyc.com). I believe the main DJ for this party is Louie ďLouĒ Gorbea.

A newer party called Think Soul, located downtown Newark, NJ allowed me to reminisce with heads I hadnít seen since old Garage/Zanz days. This party is held on Monday, and is also an early one, ending about one a.m. At ThinkSoul the DJís change weekly, giving exposure to newer DJs and respect to legendary ones. While I was home I performed there and Ralph McDaniels of Video Music Box was spinning.

He had everyone on the dancefloor, including me, and my feet were killing me!!! It was sooo good, hearing old tunes masterfully blended with new, and with common vocal and musical themes.

There is also a smaller gathering in Brooklyn on Tuesdays called Halcyon that has a laid back family feel. Its this back to the beginning feeling of oneness that so many longed for in New York because over the years, we allowed that feeling to take a backseat to popularity and self centeredness. Run by Adam Cruz of www.thealphabetcity.com (*The Party is called "Halcyon (Mixtape Sessions)". There's a genuine feeling of welcome that you feel there puts a smile of your face and in your heart.

These parties cater to you body and spirit, allow you to release through dance, and find camaraderie on the dance floor. They, like the original house parties, have a communal quality for EVERYONE no matter how many people are in the building, which is what I find lacking in the super clubs (unless youíre part of the ďcliqueĒ, which as an artist I can be privy to, but can still see others who are not.). The love of the music brings about a basis for mutual respect, which can grow (if nurtured) into friendships.

Sabrynaah Pope - The fantastic Gospel and Soulful House vocalist!

16. There's no stopping you is there? For instance it seems you provided your vocals talents for a group to be formed, which featured yourself, Barbara Tucker, Dawn Tallman, Michelle Weeks via the song called the "Diva Project". What made you all come together into thinking of such a project. Why these particular peoples, and finally are we to see more of this crew?

SuSu Bobien was also a part of this project. Producers approached us during the Italian Music Conference. I was more than willing to be a tool to help pull it together because of the love I have for each of my sistas.

Because I reside in Europe, I donít have the opportunity to go ďshopping with the DivaísĒ or just hang out, like we do at home, so for me, I couldnít have been happier. Besides my Yellorange family (especially MC/DJ/entrepreneur/friend Carolyn Byrd and label manager Kris) always hooking me up when they come to Europe, Michelle, Dawn and SuSu had all brought me some of the latest fashion accessories from home (DIVA gear, so to speak) and this job allowed us to be able to spend more time together. I had such a great time and met many producers while there.

Iím not sure whatís on the agenda for this particular group because it is so hard to coordinate our schedules, but I believe we are all willing to work together if given the opportunity. I recently teamed up with Dawn and Barbara again with Charlotte (great singer) to do a project of Barbaraís with DJ Pierre. I believe its going to my family, but more on that later.

17. New York, New Jersey and Chicago are traditional seen as the Worldwide "Home" of Traditional Soulful House and Garage music. However, of late San Francisco, and before that Washington D.C, Baltimore and Maryland are areas of the USA (*As we have mentioned already above!!), that claim that they have got some "Juice" when it comes to producing the goods. Are you pleased that this is happening within the music?

Iím very pleased. Iím a true househead and enjoy the fact that this music is wonderfully contagious, and since there are gifted people all over the world ready to spread this message, I agree with them. Iíve heard some wonderful stuff from Cali, as well as great DJís. Karizma, Spin, Teddy, Oji and others are just a few of the great DJís and producers in the Baltimore/DC area. Remember, Ultra is also in Baltimore!

18.What is the Radio scene in New York City for the Year 2003? Are they now playing any Club music? (Garage and Soulful House music as we call it in England).Have you featured on any there? Have you been interviewed on any of them?

Iím sorry, but youíd have to ask someone living in the area. I do know that Barbara Tucker recently did a popular NYC talk show, which was labeled ďhistoricĒ by many.

Sabrynaah Pope - The fantastic Gospel and Soulful House vocalist!

19. What about and T.V pop shows? Have you ever been featured on any within the USA? Have you featured on any "T.V Talk shows for instance?"

While I was living at home I did lots of extra work for film and television, but besides Gospel shows and a few independent cable stations, Iíd never been featured on American TV.Since coming to Europe, Iíve been on many shows, including MTV with Kelli Osborne and Sara Connors, The Dome with Milk & Sugar, and several international stations with the Jackson Singers.

20 You have been lucky to work with so many artists from all over the world from Blaze to the Masters at Work. Even different styles of music come into play with you. However, who out of all the people that you have worked with in your career, who has made you want to try even harder at making you work "sound" or voice "sound" even better? Is there any person/s that you have worked for or any group with that has done this for you. Please tell us?

Well, for me itís always been a fact that association brings about assimilation, therefore, if I work with good singers, I myself seem to sound better to me. But as far as an individual pushing me towards excellence, thatís always been an inner thing for me, not something anyone else could do for me.

Sabrynaah Pope - The fantastic Gospel and Soulful House vocalist!

21.Changing the subject once again. There seems to be a love for GARAGE music at the moment that resembles the early days of Hiphop within the USA, especially in England. Labels are still being sought after, and the pirates are once again starting to move to move melodic, soulful approach to Soulful House and Garage music. Underground clubs via word of mouth are becoming " Sought after places to visit and be". Is Soulful House music, a music that you will still like to be involved with? Or are you planning to mover more into the Gospel music side of things in years to come?

Iím not quite sure what you mean when you put hip hop and garage in the same sentence as if the two are synonymous. I sing inspirational house, which includes facets of gospel and R&B. One of my songs that come to mind is ďEverybody BabyĒ which no one would call gospel, but it inspires you to get happy through the dance.

22. Over the years many Soul and Modern day R&B fans consider the art of Soulful House and Garage music are being a "Poor mans Soul" or "Soulful Disco". I Disagree. Many of todayís Top Soulful vocalists have been found to be doing Club Music.(House and Garage to us here in England).

However, there seems to be a certain amount snobbery attached to Soul music movement over Soulful House and Garage music. What are you views on this? Have you ever come across these vibes within your career? Some of the vocalist like Mone, Barbara Tucker and Ultra Nate can easily match their Soul/Rnb music Cousins. Is that a fair comment. What are you views on this?

I donít know about the attitude of other artists towards our music to make a comment. Personally, Iíve never compared myself or other house music singers to singers in any other genre of music for the following reasons: if you can sing Gospel house, you can sing, Period.

I donít think, well I know for myself that choosing to do house isnít a stepping stone to another arena. House artists sing house because its what we love. Yes, in America there is the fact that itís harder to make a living as a house music artist, and I would imagine the snobbery if it exists comes from there rather than the songs themselves.

23.A little bird told me that we could be seeing you first long player. Yes, an album to come from you. Will it be an album that features Soulful House and Garage music. Or will be a mix match of Soul, Gospel and Soulful House and R&B music's. Is there any truth here. Or is it just a rumor?

Now, where you got that from, I donít know, as Iíve just been in first round talks about this 2 weeks ago. Iím scared of you! Besides updating some of my older tunes (that are well known in some areas but not in others), it will be a mixture of gospel and inspirational house. But believe me, its still in its planning stages!!!

24. Yes, I'm going to change the subject again. Who do you rate as one to look out for in the future (1.DJ Wise? - 2. Vocalist wise?) Who should we keep an eye out for! From your own country? DJ/ music artist/s producer and from what you have heard or seen from abroad? DJ/ music artist/s producer.

Well, Iím going to answer this as honestly as I can. Since Iím living abroad, Iíve worked with so many talented DJís and Producers that the list would go on and on. But the truth is this, many of them you will never ever hear, and its not because theyíre not good. Many are already known in their country or region, but not to the international community. And they never will be, because destiny, not talent, decides who will become famous.

Sabrynaah Pope - The fantastic Gospel and Soulful House vocalist!

25. Will you go to this years Miami Winter Music Conference (2003)? Have you been before? Do you enjoy them if you have been before?

I havenít been to WMC since 2000. I had a wonderful time while there, but the truth is I spent most of my time catching up with my friends and house music family, and just enjoying being back on American soil. I have a new song coming out with Big Moses and DJ Camacho of New Jersey, the DIVA project as well as several German producers. I thought it important for me to go this year. But I have to find a new apartment here in Munich Germany, so I wonít be going.

26. Lastly. Have you got any advice for any aspiring Vocalist, Record label producer, DJ or Club owner within the world of House and Garage. Any rules that he should adhere to!

Well, as in all walks of life, let your conscience be your guide. If you have a song that you know in your soul needs to get out there, do whatever you can on the right/light side to make it happen. Make sure you honor everyone and their craft as you would want them to honor yours. We all have different contributions to make towards each othersí happiness, and this music is a perfect vehicle for doing so.

All rights of the text and the images belong to Carl Brown,(Ipswich, England) and Sabrynaah Pope (New York,Usa). If you which to use any of this interview. Please contact us. Copyright laws apply.

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