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Multidisciplinary artist Clara Kent talks growing up and creating music in Pittsburgh

clara kent
Pixel Ray Photography
Artist Clara Kent

Clara Kent is an Afro-Indigenous multidisciplinary artist, and the CEO of Bounce House Studios and Productions. She is also a part of the Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Family, hosting More Bounce with Clara Kent on 91.3 WYEP on Friday nights.

She spoke to WESA's Priyanka Tewari on Morning Edition about her recently-released EP, "The Four Winds: EAST."

Tewari: Let's start with your music. Your latest EP is called 'The Four Winds: EAST.' What's the story behind the title?

Kent: I wanted to do something that honors the culture that I'm from. I'm Afro-Indigenous, so my culture is Oglala Lakota and one of the systems we practice is just following nature. And it's a medicine wheel, it has four parts — technically seven, but I'm following the four parts of the medicine wheel. So each EP covers a direction, a season; a season of life you're in, whether it's child, teenage hood, adulthood, and then Elderhood. And it took me, ironically, four years to do that EP system to just get it started. So I'm very happy that it's rolling out now.

Tewari: So it's been created, thought of and put down all in Pittsburgh.
Your song 'Play Clothes'. I really, really love the joyful beginning of this song.

Kent: It was important to have that part. They didn't want to put it in at first but I wanted to show people what it's like when we're in the studio together.

Tewari: What does play clothes symbolize?

Kent: I love music from the sixties. I like how simple the melody lines are. The lyrics are just to the point. They would talk about like, making love, or a partner, and the connection they have with their partner. But it was in such a cute way. So I kind of took that format, did it in my way. I just felt like something that was very soft, feminine, sultry, but also was fun to play with, it was something I wanted to make for this album.

Tewari: The sales from this EP will go towards supporting Indigenous People's Movement and Afro-American Music Institute at Homewood. What was the thought process behind that?

Kent: That was actually one of the first missions of me thinking of the EP. I wanted to support organizations that directly impact those communities. Afro-American Music Institute. I grew up in Homewood. That's my hometown. That's where I learned jazz, where I learned how to use my voice. So it just made sense to give back to the place that helped me so much as an artist.

A woman smiles at a camera surrounded by flowers
Artist Clara Kent

Tewari: In the song, 'I'm Good,' it made me wonder, as a woman of color, creating and being your authentic self, what challenges, if any, did you have to overcome to get to a good place?

Kent: I went through a lot of challenges. So many people fought for me to get to this place and I fought for me to get to this place. So there is just a lot of things I had to navigate myself. The song is a mantra to remind myself, 'I'm good. I'm going to get through it.' And I'm good because I have a love of self now.

It's a perfect morning song. It just has you reflect on moments where you're just like, 'Hey, you're a human.'

Tewari: Do you have any professional training when it came to learning about music, how to be a singer, how to put music together?

Kent: Yes and no. Yes, because I went to the Afro-American Music Institute. I also was in concert choirs and vocal choirs as a kid growing up in Second Baptist Church. Then I went to college for vocal jazz. But when it came to performing, I had to learn from the hip hop scene.

Tewari: Is there any one song on the EP that you really loved making?

Kent: My absolute favorite song is 'The Juice.' The song in itself is also a mantra, like, 'Take your time, take your time.' And then while you're trying to meditate, to take your time, there's that feeling that comes up of 'But what about this? And what about that?' And then it's just reminding yourself, 'Take your time. You don't need to know the answers right now. You have it within you. All the things you're asking about, you have within you. Just relax.' 'Euphoria' is really good too because the switches in that, I produced the stomps and the claps, like in a gospel song.

Audio production and editing by WESA's Doug Shugarts.

Priyanka Tewari is a native of New Delhi, India. She moved to the United States with her family in the late 1990s, after living in Russia and the United Kingdom. She is a graduate of Cornell University with a master’s from Hunter College, CUNY.