Grammy nominated music artist Maimouna Youssef has just released a new hot single “Shine Your Light” with DJ Dummy. Bringing back the old flavor of fun fueled concept music that had blazed the air waves in the 70s. Talented and beautiful, Maimouna Youssef allows listeners to escape melodically to an acoustic utopia. Taji Mag had the opportunity to interview her about her new single, her influences, and her sage like wisdom on life.
Taji Mag: What sparked your influence for your new single?
Maimouna Youssef: I wanted to develop music to make people feel good about themselves. Being that I grew up informed about the struggle through my family, I have not been surprised by today’s hardships. I feel like people that didn’t have similar upbringing, don’t know how to deal with some of the issues of today. I hear people say that they don’t know what to do with all this negativity going on in the world and I want them to know that it is going to be ok. That they can keep moving forward because what we are going through is nothing new.
TM: How did you combine dance and concept music in your new single “Shine Your Light”?
MY: I took influence from the 70’s that fused concept and dance music together for people to enjoy. Music shouldn’t have to be really serious or just dance music, it can be both and the 70’s were good for that.
TM: Would you ever consider doing a socially conscious album similar to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?
MY: I would love to do a concept album like that. The beauty of being an independent artist is that you are able to put whatever you want to put out without any questions. I love making whatever music I feel moves me. Instead of having someone tell me I can’t put out certain types of work, that limits me as an artist.
TM: How did you learn to keep self love?
MY: My mother inspired me and taught me to love myself. She told me no one else is going to give me that love, so I needed to learn to give it to myself. Everybody should have that love for themselves. I think that it is important now especially with what is going on today that you really have to have that self love.
TM: What advice do you give to your son about life? Women? Society?
MY: I talk to him everyday about his experiences and dealing with emotions. That’s why I have him in boxing in Baltimore with his uncle. To teach him about discipline and dealing with his emotions. I feel like some men of color don’t have that. A way to let out their emotions and not have it bottled in. You see a lot of men with good careers, lots of degrees, money, and are able to function externally but internally they are dealing with a lot of anger and frustrations that they don’t know how to handle. I don’t sugar coat things with my son and keep it real with him. I homeschooled him because during his time in pre-school I felt he wasn’t learning some of the things I wanted him to learn. An Example, in kindergarten he had the daily lesson of differentiating similarities and differences between objects. One day the assignment was to circle all the clowns with red noses and put an X on the ones with different colored noses. I noticed that he had a positive attitude towards the clowns that he was circling because clowns with red noses are the norm but when he had to X out the clowns with different colored noses, I noticed his attitude towards those clowns were more aggressive and dismissive as he was X’ing them out. Then just as an experiment, I asked him instead of using X’s which in our society connote something negative to be excluded and Circles to be something positive to be included, I asked him to use triangles and rectangles which don’t have social connotations neither positive or negative. So, he began doing the assignment and his whole attitude changed. He was feeling positive to all the clowns no matter what color noses they had. I knew right then that that assignment he was being asked to do everyday was teaching social intolerance in the most subconscious and insidious way. Its also teaching self hate because as a boy or color in this society, he’s going to routinely be the one that is different that society will want to X out. If we don’t have self love we didn’t have anything.
TM: Which artist made you fall in love with music?
MY: My mother and grandmother both made me fall in love with music. Especially my grandmother having a gospel background. They kept me exposed to artists like Mahalia Jackson and Donny Hathaway. I wanted to listen to groups like Total back in the day and they kept me on artist like Ella Fitzgerald. Both of them kept me into old school good music, that helped shape the artist I am today.
TM: Which other Artist influenced you?
MY: I have done some background work Lalah Hathaway who inspires me because she is awesome! There have been times where I have not been able to focus on my part as background vocalist for Lalah because she was so great during the performance. I also worked with Cody Chesnutt and I love his work as well. I always try to pick his brain and seek his mentorship because I think he is so talented and has great musical skills. I love working with Eric Roberson, he is another gifted artist. All these great artist are my mentors and I’m always asking them for advice to make my skills better.