Arts Listings

Arts: Sistah Kee Celebrates Debut Album at Yoshi’s, By: Ken Bullock

Friday March 17, 2006

Sistah Kee, aka Kito Gamble, will bring her original music to Yoshi’s on Jack London Square Monday night, March 20, for shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., rapping and singing at the keyboard to celebrate her debut CD on Gamble Girls Records, Represent. She’ll be backed by a full horn section, guitar and rhythm section, violin and cello, plus three backup vocalists and her mother, noted jazz singer Faye Carol, deploying her celebrated scatting style. 

Sistah Kee’s music is the compound of a whole spectrum of styles: jazz, blues and hip-hop, with classical and spiritual influences. Such a wide-ranging combination is only natural to the daughter of musical parents like Faye Carol and the late Jim Gamble. Her father, “who taught at UC and privately, whose passion was writing, arranging and teaching music,” started teaching her piano at the age of three. “He taught me so much before I even knew it! He wrote some material my mother and I do together, though not at this show.” Both her parents were from Mississippi, and the influence of the South and of blues is strong in her: “I talk to my relatives, and they tell me I sound like I’m from down there.” Sistah Kee’s performing career began when she was 16; her own sound is coming from “the music of Otis Spann, of Ray Charles, of McCoy Tyner. I love McCoy Tyner!” 

Sistah Kee spoke about the history of rap, how in the beginning “the message was hard; it wasn’t sugar-coated. But then it veered off into gangsta rap. Sometimes, a number would have a good beat—but I wouldn’t want my music students to hear it! I’m glad things are coming back around to positive rap, to wanting to work with live instruments, with real musicians.” 

Spirituality suffuses her playing and vocals. “I’m just telling how glad I am that God’s touched my life, every day. In that sense, it’s gospel, but musically it sounds more like jazz or blues. I didn’t grow up playing in church. But my mother did; she sang in church. And she’ll be singing at my show, just like she did on the CD. All my life, my mother’s been a full-time, professional singer.”  

The show at Yoshi’s will be MC’d by gospel comedian J-Red. “He’s called a gospel comedian because he takes his material mostly from the Black church—Baptists, Church of Christ ... and it’s clean! He’s also promoted youth events. The local gospel rap scene wouldn’t have been the same without his participation.” 

Besides Faye Carol, Represent features well-known players from different styles of music, including innovative Jazz trombonist Steve Turre, and former 3xs Crazy member Agerman. “Agerman will be at Yoshi’s, and so will Eliza O’Malley, who sings operatically on one track of Represent, while you hear a DJ scratchin’! That’s my music, from hip-hop all the way over to classical, all at once.” 

Represent will be available at the Yoshi’s concert, as well as at Tower Records, Reid’s Records and Western Christian Bookstore.