Since the late 90's vocalist Monique Bingham has been known for her superb vocal skills and exemplary songwriting. Her hits with Abstract Truth such as Flight and We Had a Thing dominated the club scene well after their release dates. Ms. Bingham has a fan base that extends far beyond the shores of America. She has logged many flight hours performing in other countries. Most recently she traveled to South Africa to perform at the Cape town Jazz Festival, and is returning to South Africa to take part in the South African Music Conference in Durban. House Music is much more popular in the main stream South African music scene than it is in the U. S. and Monique Bingham has many fans there. She started her own label Biggasounds a few years ago, and has a few upcoming track releases just in time for summer. While finishing off some of this new work she took a break to host a party for her label Biggasounds. In addition to Monique performing with her band , back up vocals were provided by Mary Worm and Queen Aaminah. The special attraction for the night was a performance by Caron Wheeler. Monique brought together a dynamic trio of Djs for the event; Rich Median, King Britt and DJ Spinna. They are all extremely talented and well known dj/producers and to have them together for the event only added to the eclectic flavor of the night. Monique Bingham has a strong commitment and integrity about her music, it's something that is evident when you listen to her songs, it comes through during her interviews as well.
Caribbean Posh-Monique how long have you been singing and recording?
MB-Singing? Forever. Recording since 1996. Interesting time to get into the business because it was the beginning of a complete shift in music distribution. The Telecommunications Act of 96 changed everything that came before it as far who could and could not own certain media outlets. Nothing has been the same since.
Caribbean Posh-How would you describe your music?
MB- If we're talking genre I really can't. I make all kinds of music, the house records are simply the ones that have been released. All of my tunes though are definitely anchored in Black American music traditions. The blood has coconut but I'm a bit of a Yankee. Blues, jazz, funk are always there but the spirit of what I like the most about Caribbean music is there too. You can hear direct African influences more clearly in Caribbean music I think.
Caribbean Posh-Do you have any Caribbean roots?
MB- Jamaaaaaica Jamaicaaaa. Both parents born there, we were born here. I was chronically assimilated into the American suburban middle class as a kid. Not on purpose but mommy had to work and daddy wasn't there so she could only compete but so much with the influence of peers. Bob Marleywas almost the sole Caribbean music that was played in my house. So I heard him and loved his voice and the Wailers like they were a part of my family. They almost were Jamaica to me. Then when I got older I realized how fine Bob Marley was and started looking for more dudes like him (laughs), I was very shallow.
Caribbean Posh-You've worked with a diverse group of djs and producers is there a common thread with regards to the people you choose to work with?
MB- My catalog is primarily filled with tracks that were presented to me by producers. I chose what I dug and what I could write to. Some were a little more collaborative than others but the common thread is that they were of a certain depth. Not just some bull$hit someone rattled off or spit out of a machine. I like to believe the folks that seek me out are a little deeper than the average joker you know. That they have more on their minds than the next big booming hit. They're more concerned with their final resume than what's hot at the moment. That if any may be the common thread.
Caribbean Posh-We hear a lot about the experiences of female artists in the main stream music world, do you feel being an independent gives you more freedom?
MB - Everyone has freedom. If you choose to be a wig wearing whore who spreads her legs whilst she "sings", you're free to do so. You're also free to demand that your audience respect you and focus on your craft and being your most pure, refined creative self. You're also free to be broke. The music business, like pretty much all business is male dominated. And it pains me to say but straight guys like a little porn with pretty much everything. They've mixed porn up with the news, chain restaurants, vice presidential candidates, everything. They simply like having attractive titillating women in eye shot at all times no matter what the circumstance or consequences. It's female minstrelism. So if you are a woman who thinks it's more than a little degrading to have to titillate men in order to get paid to do your job, you're going to have to reconcile this reality with your own wants and desires. And unfortunately for my bank account I am a feminist. So no crazy record sales, just pride and freedom ... hooray.
Caribbean Posh-You recently performed at the Cape town Jazz Fest in South Africa, can you tell us a little about that and how you came to be a part of a Jazz festival over there.
MB -There had been talk for years about me doing it. My musical roots are with the band Abstract Truth who at our most bloated were 10 pieces with a full horn section. All those dudes were and are serious jazz musicians so it was not such a stretch for me to be a part of the festival. Plus CTIJF is pretty open and experimental kind of event. But Leighton Moody, the hardest working DJ in Cape town, really put the bug in the festival people's ears and made it happen this year. It was one of the most gratifying moments of my career. Being on that stage, with that crowd, with the musicians I brought over there, in Africa for the first time .. incredible. Almost every musician I know who's any good contemplates leaving the business like once every few years. The "what the hell am I doing this to myself for" conversation. Then you have gigs like that and you realize they will have to cart you off. I will die on stage.
Caribbean Posh-You are returning to South Africa soon, for our readers who may not know, what is SAMC?
MB - I'm about to find out my damn self! DJ Christos and Ralf Gum are really my connection to it. The South African Music Conference will be in Durban this year. I think it's a natural progression as the South African music scene finally starts getting the recognition and attention it deserves. These folks are serious about their music. I am truly honored to be so warmly received in that territory. Blows my mind.
Caribbean Posh-Many people are not aware of the impact of House Music in south Africa, how would you describe the scene there?
MB - It's like their regular music they play on the radio. It's the music of young people. And they dig real house. The real underground dirty black room shirtless serious $hit. Not these sanitized commercial watered down insipid loops some people label as house in the US. They're open. I just hope the scene doesn't get co-opted by some outside interests that see dollar signs.
Caribbean Posh-Caron Wheeler performed at your Biggasounds label party, how was that experience?
MB - It was a real full circle moment. When you meet one of your heroes face to face and then you actually like them it's amazing! Caron Wheeler's style of singing and phrasing has been a huge influence on me. Nobody sings like that. Sisters from the UK have been killing folks forever. Killing me anyway. Caron's sound is this melange of blues and soul and reggae and jazz and hip hop, everything all at once. I believe her to be one of the most underrated vocalists of the last century. She and Jazzie and Soul II Soul changed Black American music forever with what they did and have never been properly thanked for it in my opinion.
Caribbean Posh-Has it been difficult making time to develop your label?
MB - Not really because I only have two releases. But that's all changing honey! My album may end up being released on Biggasounds this year but there certainly will be more music. But truth be told I really have no interest in running a record label. I'm doing it because I need a way to release my own music without having to appease anyone else. It's just a control thing. When I feel like putting out a record I can, whenever I want. It's kind of cool. One of the better developments of the business.
Caribbean Posh-You have some new releases out now, what are you most happy about with regards to the new material?
MB - Well I like that "You. Me.World" is out there because it's on my label Biggasounds and I produced it. That's where I'm focused now. Doing the whole thing from top to bottom. Producing, writing, performing, releasing on my own label. I even edited the damn video for "You.Me.World." I also have 2 tunes out recently on the new Bah Samba album: Bah Samba presents Shake the Dog. Love those records and have a bunch more coming up for end of the year. Along with my album. Just keeping up the hustle. I used to think I was hustling to get gigs and get records and opportunities. I now realize that the hustle is the gig.
Caribbean Posh-Any future plans to visit or perform in the Caribbean?
MB - I have never performed in the Caribbean. I would love to get down there and do my thing. I don't really perform around the States much either. My career exists mostly outside this hemisphere, in Europe, Asia and South Africa oddly enough. Need to get to Kingston and stir up some creative trouble on my own rather than wait for an invitation. Something to ponder.
Photos - Roy Anthony Morrison/Photosoul Media