Although the first night of Night Pop at Starline Social Club started on a quite somber note, night two was a rambunctious endeavor. In the upstairs ballroom, Sandu Ndu, Velvet Negroni, and Sudan Archives all showcased their individual visions of R&B and soul with a lot of swagger.
And though openers Sandu and Velvet Negroni (Jeremy Nutzman) faced some sound issues, each managed to break through the crowd’s chatter (Ndu with her crisp voice, Nutzman with his sheer personality and occasional yelps).
What was emphatically clear, though, was that this was Brittney Parks’ night to shine.
As producer, singer, and self-taught violinist now known as Sudan Archives, Parks blends R&B production that sometimes evokes Kelis with Northeast and West African fiddling traditions modeled off of the likes of Asim Gorashi, Ali Farka Touré, and Juldeh Camara. Really though, this is a world of Park’s own making. Her work cleanses the senses and transcends in such an alluring way.
Parks started the night setting what resembled a seance (complete with colored candles) before rejoining the stage, armed with a violin and loops to create texture for her beautiful voice. Both tribal and modern, her songs are often anchored by pizzicati (plucked strings) with a backbeat of effects that slowly crescendo. So much of her material feels like soaking in the sun and beginning anew.
Throughout the night, Parks tracked her violin samples as she performed much of her latest work, Athena. The humid, smoke-machine filled room was a transfixing landscape and allowed Parks to create a world that was all her own.
On creating music, Parks has said: “I just feel like an African queen, like I’m ruling the world…I can make any sound I want, any world I want, and no one can steer me another way.”
In Oakland, it was Parks’ world, we were just living in it.