Words by Korby Benoit
In 1994, the Wu-Tang Clan emerged as a collective of nine gifted emcees from Staten Island, NY. Their musical contribution has been unparalleled and this year marks the 20th anniversary of their seminal release, Enter The 36 Chambers. Undoubtedly the Wu-Tang style, slang and sound has left a permanent impression on hip-hop fans across the globe.
Amanda Seales is an artist known for her various work as a television host, visual artist, DJ and vocalist. She is also someone with an appreciation for Wu-Tang’s cultural impact. This week, Seales will perform a show entitled Mo’ Betta Wu at (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York City. Together with pianist Kris Bowers and additional band members, she’ll be performing an assortment of jazz standards over reworked and reinterpreted Wu-Tang classics.
According to Seales, “It started with just an idea I had. I was randomly singing a Wu-Tang song in the form of jazz and I threw it up on my Instagram and it got a really, really strong response. I thought, well maybe I should do some more with this. I mentioned it to Q-Tip and he was like “You should talk to Kris Bowers.”
Kris Bowers is an accomplished musician who holds a Masters degree in jazz performance from the Julliard School. He was also featured on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne album. Bowers explains, “I have a lot of depth in the jazz tradition but I also grew up listening to hip-hop; I’ve played with a lot of hip-hop artists, so we both kind of came in at the same place having a mutual respect for both art forms.”
“In having to interpret the songs into jazz, I’ve had to really pore over the lyrics and excise from them the parts we’re going to keep and let go”, explains Seales. “And in doing so, you have to look at the whole big picture first. I’ve really always been a Wu-Tang fan, but in doing this I’ve been able to truly respect their lyricism and their unorthodox use of cadence. It’s one thing to hear it, but it’s another thing to see it on paper against what you’re listening to. It’s incredible because they are using their cadence much like a jazz drummer.”
“I’m a vocalist who left the traditional music world and I actually do comedy now,” she explains. “I always try to create different comedic works where I can slide music in. With this project we found a way to highlight Kris’ gifts and highlight my vocal gifts and make it theatrical. And Wu-Tang, they’re comedians in their own right so it’s the perfect mesh.
Mo’ Betta Wu looks to offer something new to hip-hop and jazz fans alike. Tickets are now available at LPR’s website for purchase.