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Shakoor For Sure (Arrested Development, J. Buffett)

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3 p.m. Dec. 17----

Nadirah Shakoor's stint with the hip hop group Arrested Development came in handy for her current role as a vocalist in Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band.
His audience is in a perpetual state of arrested development.
Now, after 13 years on the road with Buffett, Shakoor has released her first solo CD. It is called "Nod to the Storyteller," ( which of course features seven Buffett songs. I don't need to hear someone else cover "Margaritaville" so what hooked me was the non-Buffett material such as J.J. Cale's intense gospel-swamp composition "When This War Is Over."


Buffett duets with Shakoor on "When This War Is Over" as a modern day Belafonte-Miriam Makeba.They are adroitly backed by Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth and his band. It is the record's highlight track and far too political to be heard at a Buffett concert.........

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     ....Nadirah Shakoor joined Arrested Development in 1993 while living in Los Angeles. She moved with the group when they relocated to Atlanta and remained with the group until they disbanded in 1996. (They reformed in 2000).

Shakoor neded another singing job in 1996. She had three offers:
Jimmy Buffett.
Maybe Spearhead + Yanni = Buffett.
"Initially I was going to go with Spearhead," she said in a conversation from her Atlanta home. "I liked their music and I knew them. But it was a short gig. Yanni would have been great, but I would have sung one song per show which would have been boring." (For me, any Yanni song is boring).
So she chose Buffett.

"Nod to The Storyteller" seems conceived as a Buffett tribute CD, but what worked for me was how Shakoor's soulful sensibiilty has the potential to push Buffett. Shakoor can sing in a lilting Caribbean cadence, but also stretches into scat on her own composition "Give Henry The Receipt," the best jazz number I have heard about a CPA.
Buffett and Shakoor had talked about doing a solo record for years. "I do solos in his shows and the response is cool," she said. "I've built up a fan base of my own amongst his fans. Of course, he had like 300 to 400 (of his own) songs to choose from. It was overwhelming. Instead of listening to all of them, first I went to his daughter Savannah and asked what she would suggest."
Savannah Jane Buffett, who hosts a radio show on the online station Radio Margaritaville, gave Shakoor a list of about 28 songs. That list was taken to Buffett, who refined the slate. Shakoor said, "Then I went to one of the Parrott head (the web's largest Jimmy Buffett website) --to ask fans to tell me what songs meant something in their life and why." Besides "Margaritaville," the Buffett covers include "Creola," "Makin' Music For Money" the beautiful La Vie Dasante," and "Volcano." Buffett and Shakoor eloquently duet on Buffett's "Son of a Son of a Sailor."
But Shakoor also picked a soulful ringer like Art Neville's "Why You Wanna Hurt My Heart" because the oohs-and-ahs-backgrounds reminded her of the Four Tops. "I know it sounds silly, but that's why I chose it," she said. "At first I didn't realize it was an Art Neville song. (It also has been covered by Buffett). Once I found that out we added a New Orleans flavor, but Mac (McAnnally, producer) is from Muscle Shoals (Ala.) so we added that R&B flavor too."

Buffett's stage show is full of musical ideas, ranging from former Belafonte-John Lennon percussionist Ralph McDonald to Robert Greenidge, a master steel drummer from Trinidad who has also played with J.J. Cale and Taj Mahal. "I've been to Trinidad three or four times with Ralph and Robert," Shakoor said. "Ralph's parents are from Trinidad too, even though he was born and raised in Harlem. That encouraged me too, the first time I went to rehearsal met Robert and heard more of the Caribbean flavor in Jimmy's music." Ralph McDonald also has a new solo record out called "Mixty Motions," which features guests like Ashford and Simpson.

Shakoor was born in San Antonio, Tx. and raised in Los Angeles. Her mother Anna worked for the phone company and her father Rasheed was a carpenter who also played guitar and trumpet. In 1992, while working outdoors in Los Angeles, her father was shot and killed by a stray bullet.

"I think about him every day," Shakoor said. "I remember him telling me to never give up and just keep going. I'm not 24 anymore, but I'm still going."

Shakoor was first attracted to Arrested Development after hearing their 1992 breakout hit "Tenneseee." She had just gotten off the road singing in the Janet Jackson "Rhythm Nation" tour. "My brothers and I had a group similar to Arrested Development in that there was singing and rapping going on," she said. "A little more pop and less hip hop. When I bought their CD "3 Years, 5 Months, & 2 Days in the Life Of...." I was looking for Dionne Farris on the cover (she sang lead on 'Tennesee') and discovered she was a guest artist. I wanted to be a part of that group. I liked their music, the women and men together in hip-hop and I liked the positive message."

Shakoor checked out the entourage when they came through Los Angeles. They shared a bill with En Vogue, who ironically was Janet Jackson's former band. Shakoor had an in. She auditioned for Arrested Development in the arena's catering room. "Speech hired me and next thing I know I was on the Grammys with them," she said.
It was a bit different than playing in front of throngs of Parrotheads every summer.

"I first thought Jimmy was a jazz gig," she said. "(Buffett saxophone player) Amy Lee lived in Atlanta. She made me feel comfortable. She told me how people had been in the band for years. It was a family type atmophere. All the drugs and that craziness was past them." There are 12 members in the Coral Reefer Band including Buffett plus a crew of 39 people, not including the truck drivers. Shakoor explained, "They talked to me how important it was for Jimmy's people to have open personalities and good attitudes." You can hear the results in "Nod to the Storyteller," a project that radiates warmth on these long December nights.

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I have enjoyed the CD "Nod to the Storyteller", immensely. Not only will I tell her over and over how beautiful her voice is, but I will tell her the true beauty of her music. Nadirah sings about what she believes in and can feel in her soul. And with this feeling she emanates love and energy that rushes you without notice. She is not only a singer but she is an artist of many forms that can purge and elevate through her music. She has the heart of gold and gives of herself all of the time. She used to let anyone without a roof use hers and without question. The depth of her music is who she is, happy, whole, selfless and spirited.

Peace and Love

That's a darn nice picture there Nadirah! You two look so young! and vibrant! ;o)

osh, I love this CD. I am mesmerized and truly enjoy Nadirah's presentation and the various genre of music. The Jazz Piece, Give Henry the Receipt is so cool. My 10 year old nephew and his friends love Creola. My favorite? so very hard, here goes, and in this order. Let Him Go, When This War Is Over, Makin Music for Money, Creola and Give Henry the Receipt. Ah heck the entire CD.
A Perfect Holiday Stocking Stuffer. Trust me, you will be Thanked.

Seeing you for the first time on
Jimmy Fallon Show, prompted me to
get more data about you. You have
such a talent and presence. Glad
I caught that show and now know more
about you. I hope to see one of your
shows if/when you will be on the East
Coast or in the Atlanta Area.

From an old Jazz Vocalist!!


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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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