At the 51st Grammy music
award last Sunday, the best of the industry were recognized for their
achievements. The highlight of the televised event featured, nine months
pregnant rapper M.I.A, who took center stage to perform her hit song
"swagga like us".
This song brought together
what entertainer Queen Latifa called "a rap pack" -- featuring Kanye
West, T.I., Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne.
But this night was not only
about the big shot artists. It also gave recognition to young and emerging
talents.She did not win. But for African artist Wayna Wondossen, just being
nominated for a Grammy was a big achievement. She was in South Africa when she
found out that her song "Lovin' U" had been nominated.
"I knew I wouldn't be
able to see the actual announcements because we were in a remote area of Cape
Town [South Africa] and we probably wouldn't get the broadcast there. So early
in the morning the next day, I got up early and ran downstairs to the hotel
business center. I went straight to the Grammy pages to search for my name and
it popped-up and I just screamed," she said.
The winner of the category
in the category Best Urban/Alternative Performance was "be ok" by
Chrisette Michele, featuring will.i.am. But for Wayna, it has been a good year
anyway, and the nomination alone was an honor.
Since giving up her work as
a presidential speechwriter in the Clinton administration, she had been
struggling to make it in the highly competitive music industry with soul music,
which doesn't sell very well these days.
So what does Wayna have
over Beyonce, Shakira, Madonna and Janet Jackson? Seven weeks straight on the
music industry's top charts. Billboard magazine publishes the sales numbers and
radio airplay rankings of news albums and singles. Wayna's single release
"Moonlight Rendezvous" hit the "Hot 100 Soul Singles,"
topping all four of the other pop divas.
"This was just so
surreal. It just made me feel like, wow, I am really doing this. It helped me
be a little bit more confident."
Wayna's success in
billboard magazine and her nomination for the Grammys was an ice breaker but
has not yet led to sustained commercial success. Prospects? Yes! Satisfaction?
You bet! Money? Not yet. But she is happy about it. I caught up with her before
she hit the stage to perform at a club on U Street, the old center of
African-American culture in Washington, DC.
"I feel like I
probably have done as well financially as I did when I had a regular job. But
that, of course, is not my goal. We are taking extra steps to make the product
more accessible. We put it on I-Tunes, My Space, and YouTube. There are more
opportunities for independent artists to build their brand with the internet.
So, we are trying to take advantage of that and move on."
Writing political speeches
did not satisfy Wayna. It appealed to her intellect, but did not reflect her
dreams. She longed to write something uplifting -- something people would want
to hear over and over again.
The 34-year-old, who has
been married for six years, has two CD albums, "Moments of Clarity"
and "Higher Grounds." She says they're her babies, at least for now.
Either at back stage
rehearsals or on her CD performances, having fun with her music is the greatest
gift for her.
Back in the U Street club,
Wayna's wearing a body-skimming skirt and sparkly top. She took center stage
with her backup singers. Illuminated by the stage lights, she came close to the
mic, cupping it in her hands. A sweet long hum wooed the audience, and Wayna
introduced a song dedicated to her love of music and life.
easy Coz you are beautiful.
love with you,
all I want to do…
everything that I do,
out of loving you."
Wondossen knows the road ahead is tough. But she believes that the ride is