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April 20, 2013
Stax Records' soulful truth-teller
Saturday, April 20
Soul music has produced some serious truth tellers in its most glorious past. Finding the conviction to pursue our fondest dreams and the courage to face-up to our darkest truth is perhaps the artist’s greatest challenge. Pink Elephant, the long-awaited Stax Records debut from stirring soul singer N’dambi, explores the art of revelation. “I want to write about the elephant in the room,” she explains of her third U.S. release. “They see her but refuse to acknowledge or talk about her, let alone confront her. That’s why I’m here.”
Pink Elephant was recorded in Santa Monica, California, with producer Leon Sylvers III, whose credits include work for Shalamar, Blackstreet, Gladys Knight, The Whispers, Lakeside and many more. N’dambi insisted the record have a modern sheen yet adhere to the sturdy influence of classic R&B and soul artists like Slave, Heatwave, The Jacksons, Betty Davis, Isaac Hayes, Smokey Robinson, and The Sylvers. That led her to The Sylvers’ famous producer, big brother, Leon. Working in the studio with the veteran producer forced her to dig deeper than she had before, pushing her voice into a higher register on some tracks while layering her molasses-drenched vocals into cushy multi-part harmonies on others.
N’dambi’s purposeful songwriting offers the listener detailed lyrical snapshots largely created from observations, rather than her own life. “Sometimes I write from my experience, but mostly I use my imagination to express myself through story telling,” she explains. “I think of the place, the time, the setting of a story, and invent a situation that shines a light on a particular issue or theme. They are rarely from my own life. More often, they’re someone else’s story.”