068: Your childhood in Chicago with an artistic family was somewhat unconventional. What aspects or challenges of that time are you thankful for, that have contributed to who you
CK: My father was a beatnik and my mother was “able to do anything.” My love of music really came from my grandmother, who introduced me to jazz as a child. There was always music playing in our home, and my father was an artist and photographer, so creativity was always omnipresent in our home. During the time I was growing up however, there was a lot going on in terms of social revolution. I was not in choir—I was totally into my Black Panther-ism, and I was highly rebellious. I probably cut most of my classes. I wasn’t very successful; that was the point where I actually quit high school and started doing music full time. I fell in love with rock, jazz, R&B, African music, and the progressive, experimental sounds I heard when I became part of the Afro-Arts Theater scene in my early teens.
068: What drew you to the Yoruba tradition, and how did you get the name ‘Chaka’ that you have kept so close to you ever since?
CK: I attended several civil rights rallies & spiritual events with my father and his second wife, Connie, who was a strong supporter of the civil rights & spiritual movements in those early years and one of them was around the Yoruba community. I was really culturally into my Pan Africanism then. I was named “Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi” which was given to me at age 13 by a Yoruba Baba priest during an African naming ceremony. Chaka was a Zulu warrior, but the name has a feminine and masculine pronunciation. Chaka is fire, red, Mars. The “Khan” came from my ex-husband Hassan Khan.
068: You’re the embodiment of confidence on the stage, is that something that came naturally or is it the result of a deeper practice?
CK: I am actually shy—I still dry-heave sometimes when I go onstage. Yes, I’m scared to death. Are they going to like me? Am I going to f*ck up? Will I remember the words? I think that the moment I become confident for real is the time that I will probably need to do something else. Because as long as I have these feelings of inadequacy, I will always strive. I’ll always have something to work on.
068: Name an artist you haven’t collaborated with but would love to. Who inspires you? Any young artists you are excited about?
CK: Jazzmine Sullivan- the R&B singer-songwriter whose confessional EP Heaux Tales lit the internet on fire when it was released earlier this year.
068: We are excited to see your performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse on June 11th, following the annual Summer Gala. What can Connecticut residents expect? Will you be promoting your most recent album as well as the classics you are so well known for?
CK: I’ve always enjoyed performing in Connecticut- it’s a beautiful state. I’m very excited to be doing such an intimate show- It takes me back to when I first started out – back to Chicago and playing the smaller clubs on Rush Street and the smaller theaters. I’ll be doing my classic setlist, with a few of their favorites of course. If I don’t, they’ll let me know their displeasure for sure, LOL. I normally do a medley of my top hits to ensure everyone is covered and has a great time. I look forward to engaging with the audience and dancing a little too. •