SXSW 2010: Pleasant surprises–Sharif Iman, Nexcyx, Kayte Grace

Sharif Iman


Here’s the go-with-the-flow part one. I was leaving a subpar brunch and heading back to the hotel to get some work done when I see this brotha getting ready for his set at a venue next door.  Turns out it was Sharif Iman, who I’d met at The Bellrays show on Friday.  He performed a quick 30 minute set and, yes, I was thrilled to find out that his description of himself—“Seal meets the Foo Fighters”—was spot on. Great voice, strong songs.  Basically he rocked with an acoustic guitar and some percussion provided by local musician Mikel Urdy, much like he does in the video above.

Nexcyx

Nexcyx

So I run into Theda Sandiford, who tells me there’s this incredible black rock band and that I need to see at the Barbados Tourism Tent, of all places.  Sorry, but I’m not expecting to see any kind of rock at the Barbados Tourism Tent.

But I’m very impressed with the band Nexcyx (pronounced “nexus”). Led by Mahalia Phillips (above), Nexcyx is a high-energy pop/R&B group with a decidedly rock edge.  And I’m not surprised that she’s also got a nice MC flow: After all, hip hop is the lingua franca of many. Combine all that with their solid song writing and you’re standing there tapping your feet, nodding your head.  You get it.  Right away. The band’s tight, Mahalia’s got a great voice.  

The band has already had some success, having opened for Erykah Badu and Angie Stone.  But therein lies the challenge.  I told both Nexcyx and Sharif basically the same thing: The things they’re doing now are special and it makes them each unique.  It’d be a shame if either of them didn’t hold onto that, going for least common denominator music in an effort to gain mass appeal.  That’s the exact opposite of what they should be doing. 

The world is looking for unique voices.  In order to provide that, both of these artists will need the courage to hold onto what got them to this point in the first place.  Here’s hoping they have it.

Kayte Grace

Back in NYC at the baggage claim at Laguardia, I met singer-songwriter Kayte Grace.  I know it’s 2010, but I think it’s still relatively rare to see a black woman with a guitar.  So you know I had to go over and see what’s up.  Turns out she was also coming back from some showcases at SXSW.  From the very little I’ve heard and read since then, she’s  very much in the folk/acoustic vein.  She’s gotten some press in the Columbia newspaper, where she’s a student and in the Washingtonian.  If you’re looking for something on the mellower side, check her out and let me know what you think.

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