A Love's Supreme: Joshua of Velvet Kente
“But otherwise there’s no transparent consistency in the sound—outside of Joshua’s heart-wrenched vocals, which lie somewhere between a coarse scream and a sweat-stained Pentecostal baritone.”
-Natalie Elliot, Oxford American
This was by far the most challenging interview…not because of the subject, but more so because the formula for this series was thrown completely out of the water. I can never express how wonderful it is to meet such passionate and talented artists. No matter what their craft is, the humble ones always seem to outshine their counterparts. So because this next artist is completely boss and unorthodox, so will the format of this interview…
I made my first journalist faux pas in not keeping my initial appointment with this next artist, but I was able to quickly rebound and hopefully redeem myself. What can seem to throw you off balance with this next artist is his brilliantly superficial cool demeanor, but in actuality he’s a humbly solid individual with an equated passion for art. Velvet Kente hails from the unlikely setting of Little Rock, Arkansas. Formed in 2008, the quartet; Tim Anthony, Jamaal Lee, Steven Robinson, and Joshua, insist on the non conformity of their craft with no apologies. Some would go as far as to deem them an Afro-Punk/Rock band. Lead vocalist, Joshua, would tell you they make music...just music. In the spirit of a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Joshua and I shared some words about him, the band, and the future. Get to know Joshua, of Velvet Kente…
10 Sept. 11 2:00pm: This time there was a necessity for punctuality and I hit my appointment dead on the nose. I was greeted by the wisp of Joshua’s busy day. After speaking in great deal about my previous faux pas and being invisible, we eventually got down to the meat of the matter. First…this isn’t your ordinary cat. I think it was the humility in his voice, or the sincere apologies for getting caught up in the bustle of his errands. No matter what it was, it was cool, calm, and collective. Of course we touch on the formalities. It was not surprising to find out that Joshua is what we love to call a Renaissance Man, being a photographer, designer, and musician. There’s something soulful about a creator and Joshua makes no qualms about it. Coming from a strong faith-based family, he’s almost like the odd man out. A quaint calm comes over the conversation as it drifts from simple pleasantries to his humble explanation of his decade career in music.
“I wouldn’t say 8-10 years is a long time. I’m still in my infancy stage. There’s still more to learn.”
With being a front man for two bands, several projects in the fire, and pending gigs including Velvet Kente opening for Van Hunt in October*, Joshua takes it all with an unruffled stride. The most refreshing and focal moment in the interview came when the discussion of classifying the band’s music came about.
“The music I create is not limited to one genre. Not to discredit anyone, but I want my music to be seen as universal. I don’t want to be limited to a specific category.”
It surprised me to know that he came from a very traditional family, but not so much so to believe. He spoke of music, especially jazz, with a captivating tongue. Coltrane & Davis are father figures. Between the pleasant greetings to passers-by, we began discussing the future of the band. His vision is to set camp in different cities and play a couple of shows, come back home, regroup, and set out again for the next city. “I’m becoming too old to play a different city every night. I want to eventually create roots.”
The entire half-hour was shrouded with a flirty mystique. It’s almost like I didn’t want to pry, but I did. I believe that was part of his charm. I ended the interview as I end all the ones of the series by asking the artist what’s the one thing about them that no one knows. This has come to be my favorite question because artists think of it as a set up. Joshua was no exception. He was a bit hesitant at first, but eventually spilled… “I hate smooth jazz.”
*Van Hunt will be playing in Little Rock, October 4, 2011 at Sticky Fingers. Tickets can be purchased in advance or on the day of the show. Contact the venue for more details.