In Conversation With SATE at Afropunk London
SATE still had a big grin on her face despite this being her 4th consecutive interview of the night, which was a definite sign that she was sated by her Afropunk performance. SATE’s set was a remarkable one. Donned in nothing but shorts, boots and a fishnet top, accompanied with tape to cover her nipples, the image was definitely astounding to the Sunday revellers. However, as she belted her tracks, such as ‘Warrior’ and ‘Know my Name’, the initially stunned crowd began to warm her bluesy-rock voice and soon the room was filled with fans and curious onlookers.
Now, sat in front of me, very relaxed, after her high energy set, yet still commanding of my attention, not only were her clothes attention grabbing but so was her face. She wore jet black lipstick and now had her trademark blonde mohawk in blond braids hanging just below the waist. Had I just judged SATE on her looks alone, I wouldn’t have known what to make of her or her music and as we talked she was aware of the startling effect she had.
I opened the interview asking for her opinion on the Afropunk audience and she instantaneously commented on how happy it made her to perform to an audience concentrated with black people. Having performed at Afropunk Paris, she had her reservations on the crowd. Her happiness could have stemmed from her background, being a Canadian she was taught that Europe, it seems, was very white- that is, only a minute number of Black people lived there. Therefore, to perform in 2 European locations where the audience was alternative and black brought about great pleasure. She then explained how the pleasure stemmed from the defiance in the stereotype taught to her and everyone about the demographics of Europe. The idea that one should only expect to see white people when travelling and only see black people in certain areas was trumped during her performances at Afropunk and that was comforting to her. Furthermore, she savoured in seeing black people, the audience and artists alike, shown as multi-dimensional individuals. Within the line-up, we saw artists such as ThunderCat, Willow Smith, and Nadia Rose. All artists different in genre and upbringing, together performing to a mainly black diverse audience was “black magic” personified in her opinion.
In terms of audience reaction to her, she noted the differences between the Paris and London crowd. In her opinion London seemed a little “reserved” which came as a surprise. As London was the birthplace of bands such as the Clash and Sex Pistols and known for its Rock and Roll, she expected possibly a more animated reception from the audience. However, she insisted that this was not a slight but rather an observation. She already noted that most who haven’t heard of her band are unreceptive at first as they don’t know what to expect, so the reaction from the London festival goers was something she could navigate through. Although she didn’t change her performance, the songs played such as ‘Try’ and ‘Live on your Love’ were more blues influenced which elicited a better reaction from the audience and by the end of her performance she received a robust round of applause.
The conversation then shifted to the rock scene in Toronto, Canada and her experience of being a Black Rock Singer. She mentioned that there were many alternative bands in Canada but she stood solo when it came to being an artist doing hard rock and blues with punk and metal influences and being rooted in gospel, soul and blues. Despite that, she did note that the blues roots have set her apart and obviously made her stand out. Yet she does maintain that despite rock generally having its roots in black genres, it is as if they are trying to erase specifically black women from the genre, which, in turn, may be why such artists aren’t well known, despite their amazing work. As examples, she used Skin from Skunk Anansie, Ebony Bones and Straight Line Stitch, bands all led by talented black women who. she believes, should receive more recognition.
Speaking about her hometown propelled our conversation to end on the importance of Afropunk. SATE reiterated the importance of safe spaces for black artists of all genres to perform and express themselves. She then identified that the issue of representation and recognition is encouraged by the laziness of programmers. She implored them to keep their ear to the ground and seek outside the box for fresh talent, to be able to find artists such as herself and get them to perform in big festivals. Until then, tokenism will still be present, as the programmers will go to their “black rock/rap/pop” artist leaving other, alternative, performers in the dark. We ended the interview on a lighter note as I asked her about her collaboration with Cree Summer and who she would like to perform with next. SATE described Cree as her “pirate sister”, who she had known since childhood and so the record was undoubtedly fun to make. As a reply to the second question, SATE expressed her desire to work with Jada Pinkett Smith.
SATE is an artist not to be slept on and her album Red Black& Blue is one I would recommend lending an ear to even if you aren’t a rock fan. I personally created a playlist of my favourite SATE songs which can be found on the Circulation Spotify Profile.