Mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis grew up in the small North Texas town of Keene.
It can be nerve-wracking for singers to debut at the Metropolitan Opera, the largest performing arts organization in America and one of the most prestigious opera companies in the world. It’s even more challenging if they have less than a week to learn the part.
Such is the case with mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, who grew up in the small North Texas town of Keene. She got a call only six days before the start of rehearsals for the Met’s upcoming production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, asking if she could fill in as Baba the Turk. Because of her experience in contemporary music, Bryce-Davis had the skills to quickly learn the role. “That very short time period makes everything so much more focused,” she says.
Produced only once at the Dallas Opera, in 1983, The Rake’s Progress traces the descent of man-about-town Tom Rakewell. After leaving his fiancée, he marries Baba the Turk, a bearded circus performer. Baba provides comic relief, throwing a tantrum in her first aria, later revealing the poignant side of her character.
“She finds she’s been abandoned and betrayed by her new husband,” Bryce-Davis says. “And she picks herself up, gathers her dignity and decides to go back to the stage, back to her career. It’s actually a really powerful moment, and quite touching.”
In Keene, Bryce-Davis sang in choir at church and school, and played the clarinet, piano and violin. Her mom, a trained singer, studied music education at the University of Texas at Arlington and dragged her daughter to performances around the area.
We need to be made aware of Dr. Samella Lewis’ accomplishments as an institution builder for a better understanding of how to create generational progress in our communities. If you are at all interested in African American art, you need to know who she is. Although she is an artist in her own right, she sacrificed her career as an artist to educate other people about African- American art. Her prominent role for much of her life was that of an institution builder. She has started galleries and a museum, wrote books and established an art magazine.
Dr. Lewis has seen this world change drastically, and she has played a pivotal role in its progress. While African Americans in contemporary times have a tremendous voice, in that we can let the world know where we stand on issues, Dr. Lewis, came of age in the Jim Crow South, a time when speaking up could result in dire situations. But she made her voice heard despite potential negative consequences.
There’s a new sci-fi book series that’s taking the young adult genre by storm—the first book, The Upper World, written by Femi Fadugba has already caught the eye of studio executives, and “Netflix has acquired the film rights…[and] Queen & Slim’s Daniel Kaluuya [is] attached to produce and star.”
Fadugba’s debut novel was also recently “shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize…in the Older Readers category” in addition to being “longlisted for the 2022 Branford Boase Award which is given annually to the author of an outstanding debut novel for children.”
One review attributed the novel’s “unusual credibility” to the fact that Fadugba is a real-life physicist and “has based his ideas about time travel on real science, including Einstein’s theories…(even if you don’t grasp it at all).” Fadugba wrote the novel after many conversations about with people who would ask him to explain quantum physics. “They’d always be super fascinated and wanted me to recommend a book, but I couldn’t find one that I could put my hand on my heart and say: ‘You’ll dig this,’” he told The Guardian.
Fadugba, 35, who splits time between the UK and the US, sat down with ESSENCE to discuss his inspiration for writing the book, his career path and meteoric rise to fame, as well as his upcoming projects.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ESSENCE: What inspired you to write The Upper World?
It’s a complicated one because it has a few different angles. I went to university, and I ended up doing quantum physics, quantum computing, specifically and I thought I was going to be an academic physicist at that point. I published an article at PRL, which is the same publication that Einstein published a lot of his stuff in, so that was kind of like the peak of my career. I was looking for what’s next, but the academic route just felt a little bit abstract.
When you think of the Dallas music scene and you combine that with R&B, Neo-Soul, and Hip- Hop, you instantly think of The Erykah Badu, often called the “Queen of Neo-Soul”. And if you’re from Dallas or even reside in Dallas, it’s a joy to know that this amazing soul lives amongst us. Erykah is an integral part of our Black history as well as our Dallas History. How many times have you heard someone say,” You know she lives here right?” Don’t tell Tyrone though.
Born in the Triple D, Erykah essentially started awakening her talents at the age of four, singing and dancing at the Dallas Theater Center and The Black Academy of Arts and Letters under the guidance of her godmother, Gwen Hargrove. She later graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and later chose to study theater at Grambling University. Though Theater Arts was something that she always loved, she decided to focus more on her musical talents.
It was a 19-song demo called Country Cousins, created while working and touring with her cousin, Robert “Free” Bradford that landed the attention of record producer Kedar Massenburg. We can go On&On about what happened in between, but this moment in time led to a duet called Your Precious Love with singer D’Angelo and she eventually signed with Universal Records.