Solange Knowles comes full circle with ‘A Seat at the Table’
‘A Seat at the Table’ the latest album from Solange Knowles has dominated the charts since it’s release on September 30.
Almost ten years in the making, Knowles’ music explores the depths of the African American experience from the female perspective. It drills deep in to the point of view of the artist navigating the hostile social structures of systemic racial and gender discrimination.
Themes of family, relationships and society
Her songs are interspersed with her parents, Tina and Matthew Knowles, sharing about coming of age in the South in the middle of the last century; a time when black people were openly terrorized by the KKK.
Indeed, these are heavy subjects and often artists find it challenging to put forth an eloquent and constructive approach that successfully engages listeners in the discussion. Knowles pulls it off by keeping the focus on her own journey as opposed to generalizing. She comes from a place so personal that it has all the intimacy of your best friend gently pulling you away from the crowd to whisper a forbidden truth to you.
An organic creative process
Knowles worked with some once-in-a-generation talents on this album among them Rafael Saadiq, who co-wrote, co-produced and played bass on ‘Cranes in the Sky’, and Questlove who co-produced and played drums on ‘Rise’.
“I just wanted to get musicians in the room and build off of the melodies and chords that I had already been building.” Knowles said, describing her creative process, “I wanted the essence of the music to create naturally and set the tone for the songwriting.”
Knowles began writing ‘Cranes’ in 2008 with Saadiq and she explains, “It was kind of a long journey, and, at times, I took long breaks. It was important to work at my own pace and really tune in to what I wanted to achieve.”
Coming full circle
One of the reasons this album cuts so deep is that Knowles’ own family history resonates with every note. Underneath the privileged life she enjoys today is a history in which her maternal grandparents suffered racial and economic injustice to such a degree that it split the family apart and they ended up relocating to Texas.
Three years ago Solange decided to return to Louisiana where she lives today. The imprint of her family history on her world view is poignant.
“This story and the idea of having a family, setting your roots down and then having to leave with nothing and rebuild is very powerful to me.” Knowles reflected, “Going back [to Louisiana] as their granddaughter and being able to tell their story, my mom’s story, my dad’s story, and my story – that meant a lot to me.”