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Ulab Sessions

U-Lab White Sessions: Desmond Scaife, Jr.

This singer-songwriter grew up singing in church and was also deeply influenced by the likes of Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder.
21 Feb 2017 – 5:06 PM EST

Desmond Scaife, Jr. grew up in Auburn, Alabama in a musical, church-going family: his dad was a Methodist minister and his mom the choir director and pianist of the congregation.

Now based in Boston, where he attended Berklee College of Music, Desmond's musical influences also include blues, jazz, R&B, gospel, soul, and hip hop. Black artists from the sixties and seventies like Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron are especially influential for Desmond because through their chart-topping hits they celebrated their black pride and identity during and after the Civil Rights Movement.

"I feel that what they were doing at that time is very similar to what's going on now," says Desmond. "Everybody still wants to party and still have a good time, but that doesn't mean that you have to be oblivious to what's going on in your local government, or in politics. We should be cognizant of the things going on around us because that fuels our tomorrow."

Asked if he feels we live in a time where popular music can have a message and reach the masses, Desmond remains hopeful: "I like to operate out of the West African Nigerian philosophy 'I am because we are, as opposed to Descartes' 'I think, therefore I am'" says Desmond. "I'm not saying one is better than the other but they are different aesthetics. This helps me connect to everything and everyone around me. That is how I feel with my music."

Desmond is part of the first generation of artists we're producing as part of U-LAB's music sessions produced by Nacho González and Javier Limón. We've baptized the inaugural sessions as the 'White Sessions', shot in Boston, all live instruments and voice recorded in one take.

'I Need to Know' (White Sessions)


This is an original song composed by Desmond. Recently after a performance, his parents asked him over the phone "How did you sound?" to which Desmond replied: "I dont know how I sounded, but I do know that people came to me and they said 'I felt this, I heard this, I remembered this', and that's what's important to me. Can everyone take away something from what I did?"

'Steal Away' (White Sessions)


Desmond chose to perform this negro spiritual song for the White Sessions because it takes him back to his church roots. "That is the time I felt freedom. When all those people are lifting their voices, everybody knows it....no one is conducting. People's eyes are closed but their heartbeats are aligned", he says.



Hear more from Desmond about his music:


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