Pioneer Report: Revolve With Kenyan Anti-colonial Punk Rock Band CRYSTAL AXIS:

Photo By: William Kane

Kenya has a vast amount of hardcore music that has been tipping over their Rock Music stratosphere. Crystal Axis are truly pilots of that legacy that is thriving more than ever now. With an introduction to the music business at such a young age, they are pioneers in their own right. I had a chance to check out Crystal Axis’ virtual performance amidst the Decolonize Fest (that was live-streamed from London, England) September 3, 2019…and was blown into amplified bliss! There was a certain charisma gathered with intense conviction that plagued their brilliant creative energy. This interview was actually conducted in October of 2020, so I am extremely thrilled to finally share it. 

Crystal Axis band members:• Ahmed Bulhan• Douglas Kihoro• Fox Elijah• Djae Aroni

Samantha Hollins: Your band name is very intriguing? How did it come about?

Crystal Axis: Well, we picked it out when we were still kids and at the time we didn’t have a particularly deep meaning for it. We had a list of choices and that’s what we gravitated towards. Over time this has become my favorite least-favorite question because I wish I could give people a great and meaningful answer but that’s the truth of how our name came to be, haha!

Samantha Hollins: I loved your live stream show with Decolonize Fest (London, UK). I know Crystal Axis was supposed to be there in person (pre-Covid). In what manner did this global pandemic shift your 2020 plans?

Crystal Axis: Thank you a ton for tuning in! It means the world and we’re beyond grateful for all your support. Prior to the pandemic we were meant to be in London for Decolonize Fest and we were also trying to set up a bunch of shows around England and the EU and make the most of it. We had to pretty much postpone all of that and go back to the drawing board. As a band, live shows make up a large portion of our earnings. Without any income from that, 2020 has been pretty rough on us as a band; financially. We’ve been forced to re-evaluate a lot of things. We’re trying to treat it is a major learning experience and try to focus on the silver lining but even that can be difficult at times; given the toll 2020 has had on us all.

Samantha Hollins: How did you guys go from meeting as teens to forming a Punk band? Was it hard getting gigs?

Crystal Axis: It’s a bit of a funny story with layers to it: Djae started the band after he watched his first Rock’n’ Roll show in Kenya. At the time there was a hardcore band made of kids from a local school named Jack The Hammer and that inspired him to start the band (Crystal Axis). A couple of years later he found out that Fox was in fact the lead singer and guitarist in Jack The Hammer and he had interest in joining the band as we were looking for a guitarist. At the time they didn’t know each other so it was crazy seeing things come full circle. 

AB initially joined as a bassist when we were still in high school but as soon as we realized he could sing we stuck him in front of the mic and the rest is history. As for Doug, we met at live shows years back; turns out he used to sneak out from boarding school in a whole different city, catch a bus to Nairobi for the show and then head back to school before anyone was wise to it. He might be the bassist but he’s hands down the coolest member of this band for pulling that move and getting away with it.

Samantha Hollins: What was the reaction of your parents when they realized their teens were Punk Rockers?

Crystal Axis: I think it was initially one of shock and surprise given our backgrounds. We were all more or less raised in relatively conservavtive African households. Ahmed and Djae were both raised in conservative Muslim/African households and Fox is the son of missionaries. Rock and Metal has always been shroudded in this air of “drug, sex and Rock ‘n’ Roll” so obviously there was concern about how and why we gravitated towards this genre of music. Also many of the shows back in the day were in clubs, pubs, etc. and as a parent you’d be concerned about a bunch of kids in such an environment. With time they had to accept this was the path we’d chosen. It doesn’t mean they were particularly thrilled but they saw the work we put in and the passion we had.

Photo By: Pixel Peddler

Samantha Hollins: How did it feel to be the first Kenyan Rock band to garner the number one spot on the X-FM TRC top 25 countdown? Did it boost your demand?

Crystal Axis: Phenomenal! It was amazing for us because, at the time, Neel and Djae had literally just graduated high school and this was our first ever studio recording. We were a bunch of 15-18 year old kids with the number one Rock record in the country! It was insane! Our demand did shoot up. We had more booking requests than ever. The irony is that Djae was leaving the country for university and there wasn’t much we could do without him so things ‘took off’ and slowed down at the same time. It was a bit of a bummer but we’re here now, still killing it even 8 years later.

Samantha Hollins: I think it’s amazing how you guys took a break to pursue other endeavors. Tell us about those experiences and if you knew that the band would get back together?

Crystal Axis: Initially we went on hiatus so we could pursue unii and higher education. We were scattered all over the globe with members being in Mexico, UK and Kenya. When we were back in Kenya we would miss each other by days, or we would see each other for no more than a week at a time.

At the time having to step back from Crystal Axis was heartbreaking, I don’t think any of us wanted that. But since then we’ve all gone through so much, individually and collectively, and those experiences have directly influenced and shaped who we are today. So I probably wouldn’t change how things played out. All those experiences put things into perspective and really solidified the fact that we were put on Earth to do this. We studied a variety of things ranging from to music marketing but what has been made abundantly clear is that we are here to create art and music. This is our calling and you really can’t convince us otherwise…no matter how hard you try.

Samantha Hollins: I hear undertones of other musical vibes in your music. What genres outside of Punk do you find yourselves incorporating?

Crystal Axis: Musically speaking we all have a wide range of influences. Individually we listen to a lot of different music and we also create a ton of different music outside of Crystal Axis ranging from House Music to Trap, Reggaeton, Lo-Fi, Metal and even Bhangra. With time I’ve come to learn and accept that there are elements of all these different genres that will seep into Crystal Axis’ music and vice versa. Take The Throne has a beat switch at the outro that was influenced by our love for Hip-Hop and Trap whereas Leopold has influences of Bossa Nova and Ska, although it’s hard to tell unless you’re really trying to spot it. As artists we refuse to be boxed into a corner or be told we can only sound a certain way. We are Crystal Axis and we do what we want.

Samantha Hollins: Is there a Rock market in Kenya as far as the mainstream?

Crystal Axis: Not quite; no. Rock, and all its subgenres, is still very niche in Kenya. There was a dedicated-all-Rock station but with time they became commercial and played radio friendly Pop with a sprinkle of Rock. There are one or two dedicated-Rock shows on other stations which are great, but the simple fact is that it is not mainstream. Other than dedicated Rock and Metal shows, few promoters go out of their way to book Rock bands for gigs. There’s a massive divide and at times people simply just don’t acknowledge the existence of the Rock scene. It is frustrating but we aren’t giving up.  

Samantha Hollins: What is the concept of Nyayo House? It’s so, so brilliant and lyrically vivid.

Crystal Axis: Nyayo House is a government building in Nairobi, Kenya. It is arguably one of the busiest buildings in Kenya and deals with all things concerning immigration, nationality, passports, visas, etc. It also housed torture chambers used by the Moi regime to silence the opposition; a fact that many people surprisingly did not know and that did not sit right with us. We felt like this part of Kenyan history was being swept under the rug, the same way King Leopold II’s bloody reign in the Congo was swept under the rug.

There are so many accounts of the vile things that took place in that building but nobody was ever held accountable. Some of the victims are still alive to this day and their accounts of the events that took place will just break your heart. Our music has always been about revising African history and Nyayo House was very much in line with that; using our voice and our platform as Africans to tell stories about our history as Africans.

Samantha Hollins: When was the first time you fell in love with Rock-n-Roll?

Crystal Axis: To be honest when we were all kids. The first time you hear it it just knocks you off your feet, and I don’t mean hearing it in passing, I mean the first time you actually listen to Rock’n’Roll. That feeling of confusion, excitement, euphoria; it was unlike anything else. Music had never made me feel that way before so I was hooked from the get go. It changed everything; literally. I think we all found Rock’n’Roll around the same time we were figuring out who we are as individuals. Those years are always extremely confusing as you’re growing up but the music definitely helped and played a major role in making us the people we are today.

Samantha Hollins: I would love to know: what’s on the agenda for Crystal Axis’ future?

Crystal Axis: We have a 7” titled Lunatic Express coming out next month so we’re very excited about that, given what the song means to us. We’re also working on our full length project. Though we haven’t set a date, I can confidently say we’re going to be dropping our debut album in 2021. We are also trying to get the ball rolling and start booking shows for 2021, so if you’d like to see us in a city near you sometime soon please let us know!

Photo By: Pixel Peddler

Samantha Hollins: I have to thank Crystal Axis for this very thought provoking interview. To learn more about their music, shows and merchandise check out the links below. 





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Laidback Mike Photography: Remembering A Visual Culture Keeper

Laidback Mike Photography

The iris of Mike Brodie’s creativity zoomed in on the culture of Black Rock Artists with a nostalgic eye. His camera framed multitudes of Rock-Star memories that will forever be engraved in his DMV area. It wasn’t about the financial gain or popularity. His passion to preserve the underground scene with his photography is the wealth of his documented legacy. He had hopes of elevating unsung and unheard Rockers of African descent. 

Laidback Mike Photography captured this photo at my show at the Natural Hair Care Expo in Maryland in 2013

I remember when I had a show in Baltimore, MD for the Natural Hair Care Expo. Mike sent me a DM to let me know he would be there. I asked him to meet up with me so I could get him in with my band. He declined my offer because he wanted to support by paying his way in. Mike was there way before my band setting up front and center. He had a way of sculpturing angles of the atmosphere before showtime. He would glide almost unnoticeably capturing majestic history in the making. 

Laidback Mike Photography

Whenever Laidback Mike posted that he was going to a concert, I knew the end result would be a sprinkle of photographic magic uplifting our timeline. Mike was a pixel storyteller who painted with light and the soul’s true expressions.

Who would have thought a Facebook friend would evolve into a real life friend exchanging creative energy. Mike was always cheering for the DMV music community loud and proud. That eventually filtered beyond his hometown and pervaded across state-lines and boarder lines. When I wrote for a Rock/Metal publication called Unhinged-music in 2015-2017 he read every single article. Mike was a prominent advocate for me creating The Culture Rock Griot

Laidback Mike Photography

Laidback Mike’s humble, visual-griot stance silently uplifted bands that he considered great and iconic. It blew my mind when he reached out to sponsor my Culture Rock Tour in 2019 (that traveled to Botswana and London). He stayed adorned in band merchandise that he would order or get from the show. Him having the physical CD in the palm of his hands was a golden experience. 

Laidback Mike Photography

I honor my brother-friend and one of my biggest supporters Mike Brodie on his birthday November 19 2020. When his Aunt reached out to my husband/drummer Ronin Ali and I to let us know he passed away April 2020 (not Covid), the potent sting of such a heavy loss formed from the strong impression he left on us. Announcing his transition to the world showed how massive the lens of his soul expanded over space and time. Even though he is no longer here in the flesh, the spirit of his brilliant portraits are eternally engraved upon the culture of Rock. 

Legends are not always famous in the eyes of the mainstream. Many are icons masquerading as modest local heroes. They shift energy with divine purpose unknowingly making the world brighter, like brother Laidback Mike Photography

Eclectic Soul Media Photo of Mike Brodie in his Youth

Check out Laidback Mike Photography featuring underground bands from the DMV area, touring bands and legendary bands (Fishbone, Living Colour, Malina Moye, Eric Gales, Honeychild Coleman, A Band Called Death, Etc.) right here:

Laidback Mike Photography

Job well done ancestor Mike Brodie/Laidback Mike R.I.P.

Special Edition: Hallow-Themes Of Rock-Horror Scenes

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: Nigerian Film-maker Evokes The Vision Of An Eldritch Horror

An Eldritch Horror short film (Sequel) crawls in with the Innis Brother song Saint or Sinner. The correlation of the opening scene spawns into the song like a fly in a spider’s web; tangled in a haunting mood of distress. The set snatches you in with the blood tone of illumination flickering in the mystery of uncertainty. As Saint or Sinner intensifies, tormented words are uttered from the hollow heart of a serial killer. 

As his ceremony of inner demons ensues, he comes to head with his personal hell wearing a veil of deception. Just when the vulnerability in his voice takes your mind away from his malice, a stench of internal chaos invites you to an uncanny awakening. 

Nigerian film-maker, Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye, created a brilliant life force of art that he will reveal more about through our interview. 

Samantha Hollins: You are over-brewing with talent. When did film-making call you? When was the first time you fell in love with the horror genre? 

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: A while back, I think it was in 2012/13, I wrote a series of horror stories and I knew they were all so good. I fantasized about turning them into movies but at the time they all looked like an expensive dream. Fast forward to 2018, my ex at the time (who happens to be a good friend) suggested turning one of my stories into a movie (she’s studied film in school) and it seemed like an interesting idea. So I started learning how to shoot movies with an iPhone and it took me 6 months to prepare.

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: First time I fell in love with horrors in 1993. A year after that…Rock music. 

Samantha Hollins: That Blues-Rock music walked hand and hand with the opening of An Eldritch Horror| A Short Horror Movie Sequel. What drew you to that song? How did the lyric intertwine with your storyline? 

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: So, when I cut the movie up the intro seemed like a hassle. I was done but I hated it. But I was already a long way into the movie and I didn’t want to cut/edit the intro again. Then came a dm from a band here in Nigeria called Ignis Brothers. I knew one of the members well, Ruka, but I got the dm from the other band member, Dwin. He far out told me “we have a song and it should be in your movie.” I was in. But I hadn’t heard the song yet. When I did I heard it 7 times. I went back to the movie and knew exactly where I wanted the song to be. When I did it I showed it to my ex and she lost it. Show it to a couple of people and they lost it. I knew I had something then.

Samantha Hollins: Did you have An Eldritch Horror| A Short Horror Movie Sequel in mind when you created Red Room released in 2019? 

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: I absolutely did not. Red Room was a story I wrote when I was in a pretty dark place and it wasn’t meant to even be a movie. But after I turned it to a script, shot it and saw the reception it got. I figured I could make more. Truth is, Red Room is a part of a massive universe I created in my old stories. An Eldritch Horror happened out of some form of necessity. It wasn’t supposed to happen…but I’m glad I made it.

Samantha Hollins: Something about the red lighting that navigates it’s own story. What does it represent? 

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: While being in a pretty dark place (when I wrote the short story Red Room) I tried to illustrate the an idea of what a serial killer’s mind must seem like: red. Not signifying blood but chaos. The red tint in the first movie, Red Room, was mainly to signify the chaotic mind of an unhinged killer traumatized by his actions. For An Eldritch Horror, it was more of an aesthetic choice. 

Samantha Hollins: Culturally speaking are there any metaphors in your films that are connected to your personal beliefs? 

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: In a way. Yes. I’ve always believed there’s something much bigger out there than us. I’m not talking supernatural or religious. What it is hasn’t been clearly defined in my head even; living or not. But I deeply feel there’s something out there bigger than everything we hold dear or close. I find that, humbling. The entity in An Eldritch Horror represents that. The mannequin head represents the man’s connection to that a indescribable “bigger thing” out there. 

Samantha Hollins: With real life horrors taking place in Nigeria right now, in which way does your art imitate life? 

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: Nigeria is an interesting country. I don’t say that in a gratifying way. The people here constantly face varying levels of uncertainty. Not truly knowing what’s coming next. Over the run time of An Eldritch Horror, there was always an aura of uncertainty with the man…’til it finally hit him. I believe we as a people here are like that. Our moment of clarity is getting closer. 

Samantha Hollins: I am on the edge of my curiosity wondering ‘WHAT’S NEXT”!? Are there any new films in the making? 

Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye: Yes…but before that I’ll be working on a Surreal/Dark humor web series. I’m done with the scripts, got some actors already and I’ll be making it again with the help of my iPhone and some other cameras too. 

BUT, I will say yes, there is a follow up to An Eldritch Horror. This will also be a short movie and it’s a lot more ambitious. The title of this will be,’A Friendly Conversation’. It’s a story I wrote around the same time I wrote Red Room. You MIGHT be able to find the story online some place. I think anyone curious about what I’ve done won’t have a hard time finding it. It’ll blow minds, I think.

Samantha Hollins: Thank you Cheyi “AxlPif” Okoaye for your phenomenal offering to the Horror Film world!

An Eldritch Horror Premiered Sep 1, 2020. Check it out here: 

Writer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor and Director: Cheyi Okoaye


Man – Cheyi Okoaye  

Wife (VO) – Bukky Richards 

Yig-Shogg – Cheyi Okoaye

Music: Saint or Sinner by Ignis Brothers. Stream and download their album from this link here – 

Synopsis: A serial killer completes a long-lost ritual to summon a cosmic entity as he was ‘instructed.’ Face to face with the entity, things take a turn for the worse when he realizes things from beyond operate on different terms.

An Eldritch Horror is a sequel to the movie, Red Room – 

Social Media – 

@AxlPif (Twitter and Instagram)

@adankhouse (Twitter and Instagram)

If you enjoyed this article, interviews and reviews feel free to contribute to our SuSu Connection. Funds will go towards building this Culture Rock Griot site and community/non-profit organizations.

Special Edition: Hallow-Themes Of Rock-Horror Scenes

Terror Fúnebre: A Horror Punk Rock Story In Brazil 

Understanding the culture of a genre is exceedingly vital in order to appreciate the vastness of the scene. When I initially heard the term Horror Punk I had idea of what I envisioned it to be. When I learned about Terror Fúnebre, a Horror Punk Band from Natal – Rio Grande Do Norte, I wanted to dig deeper into their enlightenment. Here is my interview with Terror Fúnebre guitarist Diana (Storm)

Terror Fúnebre band members: 

Diana (Storm) – Guitarist  

André Aciole – Guitarist  

Rose Psycho – Vocalist  

Lucas – Bassist  

Rizinger Drummer – Drummer  

Samantha Hollins: I love anything Horror and I love Punk, but I didn’t realize until recently that there was actually a genre with both words as one. What is your definition of Horror Punk?  

Diana (Storm): Horror Punk is a lifestyle. It is a way of expressing feelings and opinions about everything that happens to us and the world. The way we find to shout, protest and even show affection.  

Samantha Hollins: How long has Terror Fúnebre been on the Brazilian Rock scene?  

Diana (Storm): Terror Fúnebre has been active since 2016. 

Samantha Hollins: How did your band name summon you? How does it represent your musical journey?  

Diana (Storm): I met Terror Fúnebre through the guitarist (André), who is also my boyfriend. When he found out I was a musician, he called me into the band. From then on my life on the Rock path changed completely. I can say that Terror Fúnebre was the door I needed to open to start my life on stage.  

Samantha Hollins: When was the first time you fell in love with Rock-n-Roll? How did you get attracted to the Horror Rock genre?  

Diana (Storm): My first influence on Rock was guitarist Slash, from the band Guns ‘n Roses. I fell in love at first sight with that man and soon started listening to bands like AC / DCLinkin ParkSkid Row, among others. From there, I got to know new bands until I got to Horror Punk, where I have the band Zumbis do Espaço as my biggest influence in this style.  

Samantha Hollins: Is there a Horror Punk scene within the Punk community or is it interwoven?  

Diana (Storm): Yes, and that is a very delicate matter to deal with, because one thing led to another, including Thrash Metal. Horror Punk would not exist without Trash Metal and Punk Rock. Nowadays this idea is passed from one person to another in a very distorted way, even causing fights between people.  

Samantha Hollins: Does your culture ever creep into your sound? If so, how does it shift your sound?  

Diana (Storm): Yes. As I said, Horror Punk is a way of expressing feelings, so we always put problems and thoughts in our songs. We usually face drought, hunger and violence in our region. So they end up becoming a subject for the lyrics. There are also good things, cultures and personal customs we follow thatalso influence the lyrics.  

Samantha Hollins: Lyrically how does your content speak to your audience?  

Diana (Storm): The instrumental is usually aggressive and the voice also has greater power. We want to show the world our cry and feelings.  

Samantha Hollins: What is your mission as creatives in Rock present and future?  

Diana (Storm): Influence people to see what happens around the world and help people. Many people from other countries see Brazil as something different from reality and we don’t want that. We will always show the truth through our lyrics and make people empathize with each other.  

Samantha Hollins: Thank you for sharing your dynamic creative energy. Best wishes to you and your band. 

Treat yourself to the captivating essence of Terror Fúnebre by going to these links: 




Special Edition: Hallow-Themes Of Rock-Horror Scenes

Issielle “ICE” Johnson: We Kill At Dawn 

We Kill At Dawn descends on its prey ready; to execute a massive attack. Issielle “ICE” Johnson’s flawless momentum triggers the fret board like a symphonic Metal horizon. She slays every moment with precision and empowerment. This San Francisco, CA native’s story behind this song is distinctly intriguing. 

Name of Album/EP: Solitary

Genre: Metal

Composer: Issielle “ICE” Johnson 

Producer: Ice/Kris Xenopoulos

Musicians: Guitars- Ice Drums & Bass- Kris

Date released: September 20th, 2020

Samantha Hollins: In one word what are the sinister emotions around your chord progression? 

ICE: Environment

Samantha Hollins: This song unapologetically rocks to the core. What are the scars that spawned the story behind We Kill At Dawn

ICE: The LIFE of a snow leopard.

Samantha Hollins: You play intricate things with such ease. How does that translate into the heavy weapon you unleashed on We Kill At Dawn

ICE: It’s all in the mind. I envisioned myself as a snow leopard; living an isolated yet dangerous life. You’re at risk everyday to feed your family and to survive. One slip, you’ll end up injured or dead. So I pictured myself jumping from rock to rock on high altitudes; unexpected enemies or prey. 

Samantha Hollins: How does the whole album connect to this song?  

ICE: Solitary is a statement of power and dominance yet being invisible but your presence is felt. We Kill At Dawn is that presence being felt. 

You can check out and purchase this song on these platforms. Also Ice has a very lively YouTube Channel. Join her there for skilled guitar tips and more.

Spotify, Apple, Deezer, Napster, Amazon music (most music streaming sites)

Website/Social Media Links:



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Culture Rock Song Of The Week:

Under The Gaze Of Eternity By Powerslide

Nairobi, Kenya’s award winning Punk Rock unit Powerslide unveiled their new song entitled “Under The Gaze Of Eternity” (October 18, 2020). This first single from their forthcoming album is indulging in an Indie Rock sound. The nostalgic vibe enters a zone of a free spirited affirmation. It pervades an atmosphere of tranquility as the melodic chords glides in. The collision of a heavy bass line into a pulsating drum haven makes it a dance for the hardcore. Waves of liberation overflows as the guitars layer a splash of head banging gestures. The solacing voice of empowering lyrics unify Generation Now.

Under The Gaze Of Eternity is a timeless song that could easily shift through multiple eras of Rock. I found myself raising my Rock’n’Roll fingers and singing along with Under The Gaze Of Eternity, as if I were front row center. 

Go here to experience and purchase Powerslide’s new single “Under The Gaze Of Eternity”.

Written by: Willy Ojiro and Timothy ‘Qreed’ Wafula

Vocals: Willy Ojiro, Maggie Nekesa

Guitar, Bass and programming: Willy Ojiro

Produced by: Willy Ojiro

Mixed by: Willy Ojiro and Wilson Muia

Mastered by: Wilson Muia

Powerslide Unit: 

Vocals/Guitar- Willy Ojiro

Drums- Timothy Qreed Wafula

Bass- George Zuko 





Powerslide Discography:

The Young Rockers Enjoying Powerslide: “Under The Gaze Of Eternity”

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She-tar Column

CLAY: The Alternative Crown Of A Nigerian Rock Goddess

Photo By: Anny Robert

My diaspora research for Rockers of African descent landed upon Nigeria in 2017 on Instagram. Her intriguing vibrato captured me. Her enthralling riffs moved me. Her vivid lyrics captivated me and her lively presence made me want to know more. Who is this force of nature rockin’ out culturally; all the way on the other side of the world? As I dug deeper I unveiled how bright the crown of CLAY’s extraordinary music career shines. She is like a shooting star adorning her place in Rock-n-Roll history. 

Photo By: Anny Robert

Samantha Hollins: What is your native tongue? How does your language intertwine with your music?

CLAY: My native languages are Igbo and Yoruba (this I speak more fluently). These languages are part of the three major tribes (there are over 300 tribes and 500 languages spoken) in Nigeria. It’s a natural thing for me to infuse Nigerian elements in my music, be it subtle drums or my dialect . It’s who I am. I’m Nigerian.

Samantha Hollins: When was the first time you fell in love with Rock-n-Roll?

CLAY: I don’t think I remember the exact time. My Dad listened to a lot of the classics when I was a child and in my early teens. When I could barely afford to buy CDs, I would go scouting for Soft Rock, Grunge, Punk and Power Pop music.

Photo By: Anny Robert

Samantha Hollins: Most parents in general are not as welcoming to the rebellious nature of what their children are listening to and wearing. Culturally speaking, how did your family respond to the first time they saw your alternative attire?

CLAY: LOL! My mom is a sweetheart. She supports us; no matter what we decide to do. I don’t remember her complaining or anything. She just makes jokes about how I’m always dressed as if I’m going to a war front, lmao!

My Dad initially didn’t like it. I remember my first discussion with him on my style. He didn’t sound too ecstatic (although in retrospect, I believe he was a little proud on the inside 😂) . He’s all for it now. Encourages me and proudly tells everyone ‘Clay is my first daughter’ (how embarrassing 🤦).

Samantha Hollins: Your guitar tone is very enchanting and edgy at the same time. What was the defining moment that made you yearn for the six string instrument?

CLAY: OMG. I had to read that again. I mean, I couldn’t hold a candle to you when it comes to playing the guitar. Thank you ☺. To be honest, I initially picked up the guitar a few years ago out of necessity. I couldn’t afford to pay a guitarist everytime I had a gig ( and God forbid, I perform with a backing track 🤢) . The very first time I performed with a guitar, was at a charity event for orphaned kids. My playing was absolutely terrible. I don’t think anyone really noticed (I mean, I hope they didn’t 😂). Now, I’m grateful I started to learn to play. It’s such a beautiful thing: the guitar.

Samantha Hollins: I love your band (The Misfits). What is the environment like being the only female amongst your male counterparts? What’s a typical rehearsal like? Please introduce us to them all (names and what they play).

CLAY: Thank you! Aaarrgh! It can be pretty hectic. Human management is such a chore! But we get along and get by eventually. We all have some mutual respect for each other and absolutely love to play together. Once the music starts playing, all negativity is let go.

Every rehearsal starts with them coming late 😂. I try not to scream, I really try 🤦. It’s always ends on a high note and every one is happy.


@Jheri_jay – Drums

@beststrings_musiq – Rhythm and lead

@orange_naijarockstar – Lead

@D_groovy2unes – Bass

@isonil – Electric Violins

Photo By: Anny Robert

Samantha Hollins: You are full of upbeat energy when you perform. What gets your mood amped for a show? What’s a typical meal before or after a show?

CLAY: I’m mostly nervous and antsy before any show. I’m prayerful and hopeful too. I try not to eat before performing. Maybe a fruit and lots of water. Of course, I gorge down everything I lay my hands on right after performing. The better the performance, the more I eat to, you know, celebrate.

Samantha Hollins: You play as astonishingly as you sing and sing as astonishingly as you play. Do you have any rituals to stay sharp as a singer/songwriter/guitarist?

CLAY: Thank you, again. I try to vocal exercise every single day. Sometimes 10mins, other times 40mins…BUT I try to do it everyday. I am constantly on the look out for ways to improve my voice and performance.

Samantha Hollins: Your lyrics are very emotionally expressive, so are you speaking from experience?

CLAY: Yes! I’m mostly writing from something I’ve experienced, want to experience; thoughts I’ve had or stuff I’ve seen happen.

Samantha Hollins: I saw a BBC piece that captured you very well. How does it feel to know your passion for Rock is traveling the world virtually? Will you ever do an international tour?

CLAY: It feels great everytime an international/foreign news company wants to share my love for my music. I just can’t get over it. Very grateful. Of course, how can I not do international tours? If I died before I did several, I would have to get my dead self up and get to it 😂.

Samantha Hollins: Is there a market for Rock artists like yourself to thrive in Lagos? How do you create your audience?

CLAY: Sincerely, there’s little market here. We have tiny communities here and there. There’s also a thriving expatriate community in Lagos. Between this and that, we get an audience. However small, the joy is in the music.

Photo By: Anny Robert

Samantha Hollins: I love your rock star attitude! What is next for Clay? Where can we hear your music and witness your amazing video’s?

CLAY: Rraaaaaghhh! 🤘

Currently gearing up to drop a new single.

Working on a long long awaited album.

Samantha Hollins: Thank you very much, I truly appreciate your amazing presence in The Culture Rock Griot!

CLAY: Find my music on all streaming sites by searching ‘clayrocksu’ , same as YouTube and social media.

On all streaming sites search ‘clayrocksu’

Instagram, twitter, tiktok, facebook -@clayrocksu

Samantha Hollins: Thank you very much CLAY for sharing the narrative of your phenomenal Rock destiny. I love it and you are truly Rock Her-Story!

DESTINY (remix) feat KEL – Clay

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The Culture Rock Hall Of Fame Chronicles:

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Mother Of Rock-n-Roll Philadelphia Her-Story Up Above My Head

Photo By: Samantha Hollins

I’m remembering Sister Rosetta Tharpe 47 years after she passed away in my hometown Philadelphia (born March 20, 1915 in Cotton Plain, Ak-October 9, 1973). In 1957 the prominent Gospel scene in Philadelphia was buzzing with the likes of the Dixie Hummingbirds and the Ward Singers. That is what allured Rosetta and her husband, Russell Morrison, to move to the City of Brotherly Love. They ended up residing in the Yorktown area on 11th and Master St.. The fifteen years of her creative life behind that door intrigues me whenever I am near. A historical maker is now standing outside of their modest brick home. 

Photo By: Samantha Hollins

I grew up merely five blocks away on 16th and Master St., so I knew her footsteps in the neighborhood very well when I visited the locality. A quick stroll from her home to N. 12th St. would lead you to the Bright Hope Baptist Church, where she was a faithful member. 

Photo By: Samantha Hollins

Rosetta recorded some of her most notable music while in Philadelphia, including “Sister On Tour” and “The Gospel Truth” on Verve Records. She toured extensively overseas with the likes of Blues greats Muddy WatersSonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. When she returned to Philly after falling ill, things changed when she had her leg amputated (in 1971) due to diabetic complications. It may have slowed her down, but it did not stop her spirit. Rosetta continued to perform in 1971 and in 1972. 

The year when Rosetta Tharpe was scheduled to record a new album with Savoy Records, she passed away at Temple University Hospital. October 9, 1973 Rock Royalty ascended to another plain, leaving her flame of Rock-n-Roll flickering on the North Philly streets. Her celebration of life was sung by her dynamic partner in song, Marie Knight and Gospel Star Marion Williams at her Bright Hope Baptist Church home. 

Photo By: Samantha Hollins

When Rosetta was buried at Northwood Cemetery her grave was unmarked. On January 11, 2008 a fundraiser that was held at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA (on the outskirts of Philadelphia) ignited an overflow of support. Full circle friendship prevailed through the Dixie Hummingbirds and Marie Knight who were performing at the fundraiser. With the help of the Memphis Blues Foundationthe Philadelphia Rhyme & Blues foundation and a good friend, enough funds were gathered to bestow a beautiful rose-shaded headstone for the Mother of Rock-n-Roll. That day was also declared Sister Rosetta Tharpe day in Pennsylvania. Time shifting in to 2017, she was inducted in the Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame. 

Photo By: Samantha Hollins

Rosetta’s presence is embedded in my hometown Philadelphia. Her sound is still echoing here and I believe I caught the tail end of the wave of it as a Rock singer/songwriter/guitarist. Sister Rosetta Tharpe will forever be a monumental Rock-Shero that melodically thrived in and lived in my neighborhood. I hereby induct Sister Rosetta Tharpe in The Culture Rock Hall Of Fame. Rise In Power Ancestral energy! RISE “Up Above My Head”!

Video By: Samantha Hollins

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She-tar Column

Starr Cullars: Nobody Funks With The Amazon Rock Queendom

When I started interviewing Starr Cullars for an exhibition I was curating (in our hometown Philadelphia last year), she was in motion to attend the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony with Parliament-Funkadelic on May 11, 2019. 

Somewhere in Philly, when I first started out on the music scene (it had to be between 2000-2004), I was invited to witness magic. With the allure of a dungeon-deep bass line accompanied by a hardcore vocal roar, I was like “Wow who is this”? Someone said “you don’t know about Starr”? Right away I thought “well I know now”! She WAS the show and she dominated her male counterparts with grace and grit. At the time I didn’t know how much I needed to see that. She rendered me with  inspiration as a Black Woman in Rock! Starr Cullars has kicked down many enormous doors and has pulled down a legacy of glass ceilings; creating windows of opportunity for women in Rock. 

Samantha Hollins: When was the 1st time you fell in love with Rock’n’Roll? and what ignited your interest in playing bass (guitar)?

Starr CulIars: I asked for a guitar when I was 5 years old. My Dad brought back a little Roy Rodgers’ plastic guitar. I strummed it, looked at it, and gave it back saying “Dad, I want a REAL guitar!” So my Father brought me a little Yamaha nylon stringed guitar. I strummed it, smiled and kept going. While I was singled out of music classes to solo acoustic guitar instructional, I started hearing and playing bass notes and parts on the guitar. Then my Dad brought me a Jazz copy heavy-thick Bass. And I started playing in the better neighborhood R&B/Funk bands. By college I had gone on to PRINCE and became his disciple; a few years before I was hired by The P-Funk.

Samantha Hollins: Please tell the Culture Rock Griot readers about your connection with Prince? 

Starr Cullars: This is my full Prince encounter, and mentorship into the professional industry:

Starr Cullar reign with Prince on the Old Guys Talk Metal And Sometimes Punk Podcast

Samantha Hollins: What year was your band established? 

Starr Cullars: My band, The Starr Cullars Crew (The SCC), was established in 2001. I am the only female-musician-member from George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic; and I began opening for the P-Funk with my band in 2001.

Samantha Hollins: Were you signed to any record labels, management deals or agencies?

Starr Cullars: I was under a production deal with George Clinton. And I had 2 different deals under that production; recordings owned by Clinton

Samantha Hollins: What was your debut song, hit song or the song that your core fans will identify you with? 

Starr Cullars: Among some of them: Red Alert, Femme Fatale, I’ll Kick Your Muthafunkin Ass!

Samantha Hollins: I love that you are taking charge of your own career. What drove you to start Cosmic Nation Productions?

Starr CulIars: So many factors were involved with my starting Cosmic Nation Productions. Among them were: 1) Lack of ANY kind of company that endorses REAL Women Musicians 2) The complete misogynistic, macho abuse and sabotage 3) The complete ABSENCE of any endorsement and support for BLACK WOMEN in ROCK MUSIC. I wanted to be The Boss; the one who is completely in power and in charge of my career: the vision, the direction, the philosophy, the creativity. And only I would be capable to guide the company ship the best way. I also obtained my MBA (Masters of Business) degree to fortify my position. 

Starr Cullars CD “Living Galaxy” on her Cosmic Nation Production Company.

Samantha Hollins: Name any prominent venues or events your band played?

Starr Cullars: The Robin Hood Dell East, The Mann Music Center, The Electric Factory (just in Philly). The BB Kings Club, The Wetlands, Tramps (in NYC). The House of Blues, The BB Kings Club, The Nokia (in Los Angeles). 

Samantha Hollins: What is the game changing role your band impacted in the Rock genre/sub Rock genre?

Starr Cullars: Without question the game-changing role has been and is: The Bass-Player/Lead-Singer/Songwriter! Who happens to be a Black-Native-Indian-WOMAN; who is the only female-musician-member from P-Funk…Who is a TRUE-Hard-Progressive-Rocker!

Samantha Hollins: You are like a super Shero powerhouse bassist. Who and what inspires you?

Starr CulIars: Thank you, Duchess Samantha! There are a few male influences, but they have all gotten far too much exposure throughout the centuries! So I am reserving this to the WOMEN who have inspired me. From being a child and teenager, I always was directly inspired by Wonder Woman and The Amazons! I knew I was the Wonder Woman in every part of my life. More specifically I was and am Wonder Woman’s Black Twin Sister, Nubia: the 1st & true Wonder Woman! Then although we are in different music genres; I was majorly influenced by Janice Marie Johnson, lead-singer/bass-player of Taste of Honey. By the way Janice and I are friends now (mentor & disiciple). She has interviewed me on her cable-tv show, “Women Behind The Beat”. And finally I would have to say as a business mogul inspiration: Oprah Winfrey. And let’s give a shout-out notice to YOU, Duchess Samantha, for being Music Goddess and MAMA of your little ones!

Starr Cullars (Bassist) – Ladies Behind the Beat.TV – Interview/Performance

Samantha Hollins: Inject your sage wisdom into the new generation of Rockers?

Starr Cullars: For any aspiring musicians or singers; I would say first, be authentic to your true self. Explore and discover, first, to see if being a serious contender in this business is for you. And for any women who might be interested in this…PLEASE, for yourself and my sanity…ESTABLISH IF YOU ARE REALLY A TRUE MUSICIAN, PLAYER OR SINGER. Then truly…seriously learn, practice, play hard…and continue to do that throughout your life! Then you will establishing a true path for yourself in this business of music.

Samantha Hollins: Your career is what longevity is all about. What’s next for you?

Starr Cullars: 

  1. Powerfully and gracefully moving forward!
  2. I will be further establishing and growing my company to thriving progress. 
  3. Performing tours and events that Cosmic Nation is commanding and/or working in collaboration with Live Nation. 
  4. Producing the documentary films and videos that produce successful profits and establish respect in the industry
  5. …and being a parental Auntie to my nephews and nieces 
  6. …and expanding my whole Goddess-Priestess-Self for my most positive world. 

Thank you, Goddess Samantha!

Samantha Hollins: Thank you for your world famous Star that shines so humbly, while kicking hardcore legendary ass! 

Go here to take flight upon Starr Cullars Cosmic Nation Productions:

Purchase Starr’s Cullars Living Galaxy CD here:

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She-tar Column

Malina Moye: The Diamonds And Guitars Of A World Renowned Rock Star!

Photo By: Isaiah Mays

With a powerhouse name globally etched into the culture of Funk-Rock, Malina Moye has been engraving her-storical changes in a masculine driven genre. Her presence shines like a rare jewel worth all the accolades. I met Malina in Philadelphia as she inducted Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk Of Fame. Her humble spirit was just as extraordinary as her artistry. When Malina Moye’s album Bad as I Wanna Be landed #1 on the Billboard charts I felt the shift of a new portal widening for Black women in Rock. 

Samantha Hollins: Where are you from and how did that atmosphere shape your sound that is now world renowned?

Malina Moye: I was born in Ohio and raised in Minneapolis. I think having the Funk side from Ohio and marrying it to Minneapolis, which is the Rock side, definitely had a lot to do with my palate. My parents are musicians and music was always an education to me…learning about artists, breaking down songs. The best way to describe it would be like a teacher giving a student an assignment and discussing what you learned. That was everyday conversation in my household.

Samantha Hollins: I first learned about you when your “K-yotic” music video featuring Bootsy Collins was circulating online. How did that collaboration come to life?

Malina Moye – K-yotic ft. Bootsy Collins

Malina Moye: I wrote the song based on life getting a little crazy at the time. And then while touring around Europe, running in some of the same circles, I ran into Bootsy several times and we all became friends. I then approached him about the record and voila: you have K-YOTIC!

Samantha Hollins: When you learned that you were going to be the first female to join the Jimi Hendrix “Experience Hendrix Tour” what went through you mind? What was is like the moment you stepped on the stage and began to rock out?

Malina Moye: I didn’t know that at first. I was just excited to play with a lot of my guitar heroes and I had a ball! I learned so much from each of those players. The first night I was so nervous. All the guys came to the side of the stage to watch me. I think that was the initiation (lol). It was exciting and I am so grateful to Janie Hendrix for the experience.

Samantha Hollins: The second time I saw you was on the Arsenio Hall Show rockin’ with the house band. It was so profound to witness a melanated woman on T.V. playing the electric guitar (something a lot of us didn’t get to see growing up). What type of response did you get after that moment?

Malina Moye: Thank you, I appreciate that. It was great. It also reminded me how much we still need to evolve and continue to see ourselves in different spaces. I always say representation allows us to see what’s possible. It’s so important. I’m sure there have been many others trying but society makes it difficult to attain certain levels of exposure. In the light of 2020, I’m starting to feel hope. I think a lot more people of color will occupy spaces they’ve been fighting for.

Photo By: Josh Schultz

Samantha Hollins: When did the guitar call you? As a lefty guitarist did you ever get flack for playing in an unorthodox manner?

Malina Moye: I started playing the guitar at nine. My dad handed me a right-handed guitar like a right-handed person would play it. I didn’t like it, so when he left the room, I took the guitar, flipped it upside down and started playing it that way. I loved it ever since. Yes, other guitarists are totally confused or just in shock that someone plays that way…& then I help them discover Albert King, Eric Gales, and some guy called Paul McCartney—all playing the same way. I’m blessed that it works for me, so I just keep trying to get better than I was yesterday.

Samantha Hollins: When was the first time you fell in love with Rock’n’Roll?

Malina Moye: I’d say early in my life. Probably witnessing my parents play in their band. I love the energy of it! I love any artist who needs no permission to be themselves and to me that’s at the heart of true Rock & Roll. My mom has that energy, so I was exposed to it and in love with it at around five years old. My mom recalls that I would go to the mic and sing with the band.

Samantha Hollins: Tell my Culture Rock Griot readers about your family band and what made you go solo?

Malina Moye: That was my education as an artist. We explored all types of music. It was a family band with my two brothers and my parents. We played all over the country and then ventured internationally. It definitely made me who I am today as an artist. Going solo…I just wanted to discover Malina Moye as an individual artist.

Samantha Hollins: Who or what inspires you? Did meeting Prince early in life shift anything for your pursuit of music?

Malina Moye: I’m so inspired by everything. Life inspires me. I like to look at myself as a vessel that’s always open. Meeting Prince early in my life definitely made me think I could make something happen in music. I remember thinking, ‘hey if Prince thinks I’m cool, then I know I can make something happen’. I remember saying, ‘Mr. Prince after all this I think I can go out and be somebody. Thank you’. He said very shyly as he shook my hand, “I look forward to watching it Malina”.

Photo By: Smooch 1 RT

Samantha Hollins: You are often named as the best female or one of the best female guitarists on many lists. I love seeing your name on the “best of” lists regardless of gender. How do those labels make you feel?

Malina Moye: Thank you for celebrating me, as I celebrate you as well. You’re amazing! I’m glad to simply be thought of, first off. I guess it’s human nature that people like to label things. I’m just happy to be on any list (lol). I for one will be glad when we are all on one list because there are a lot of us out here raising the bar and bringing different things to the instrument. As a female who’s doing something that doesn’t showcase a lot of women represented in the media that way, that becomes a talking point but, a lot of us are finally breaking through to that next level and it helps us all. The good news is there are more women now than ever before playing the guitar, which is cool, But regardless of gender and race the goal is to be a good guitarist; period. I only hope I can represent myself in a way that makes it better for the next woman or player coming in.

Samantha Hollins: What is a day in the life of Malina Moye outside of the spotlight?

Malina Moye: I’m pretty simple. It depends on the day, as I also started venturing in films now as well. I’m up then I answer emails, have breakfast, go for a run, and see what’s on the agenda for the day. No matter what, I always take an hour to walk around the neighborhood to just think and marvel in the wonders of life. And say ‘hi’ to my neighbors.

Samantha Hollins: What was the key moment that motivated you to start your own record label?

Malina Moye: Realizing that I am a different artist. I don’t fit into a specific mold or genre. I’m a Black woman who plays electric guitar and my music is a gumbo of Funk, Rock and Soul.

Samantha Hollins: As an ARTivist I love that you are using your super Shero powers to uplift others. Can you tell me about your foundation?

Malina Moye: Thank you! I can say the same about you! The foundation is called Drive Hope and our mission is to fuel the passion of underserved youth and empower those who possess the desire, yet lack the resources or access, to discover life and career opportunities in their community and throughout the world.

Samantha Hollins: Any new projects that we can start getting excited about?

Malina Moye: I’m excited about my new album which will have a 2021 release. Also, I have a few movie projects and a TV series in development. The future is looking good. Thank you for sharing my story and doing such thorough research. Stay safe! Xo

Samantha Hollins: You are very welcome. You have a very important story that will inspire generations of girls with guitars, heels and business. 

Malina Moye Official Music Video “Enough”

To stay plugged into Malina Moye’s music and brand go to

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