With her alabastrine skin and magnificent mane of dreadlocks, the performance artist M. Nahadr has a presence on stage that is hard to ignore and even harder to forget. Recently featured in Elle and Maxim magazines, the Maryland native combines music, poetry and theatre to create stage pieces such as MADWOMAN: A Contemporary Opera or her new disc, EclecticIsM (LiveWired), a “beyond category” motherlode that encompasses funk, R&B, blues and free jazz.
In an interview with The Root, Nahadr unapologetically embraces her identity as an albino, black American woman, what she calls her “uniqueness” or her “birth attribute.” Her powerful voice can be compared to Chaka Khan or Sandra St. Victor, and she has a knack for writing poignant, personal songs akin to those penned by Tracy Chapman, Nina Simone and Joan Armatrading. Despite these bankable gifts, Nahadr opens up with us about choosing the “performance art” route instead of a career in mainstream R&B and jazz.
The Root: In MADWOMAN: A Contemporary Opera, you touched upon “otherness.” Tell me about growing up and realizing your otherness as a legally blind, albino, growing up in an African-American neighborhood, right outside of Baltimore. What were some of the hurdles you had to leap over?
Nahadr: The presentation of the word, “otherness” as you’ve interpreted it, is exactly what I deal with, except, it is flipped. I’m not singing, writing or performing about otherness; I’m actually talking about sameness. What I’m saying is that it’s all the same. What you see is other because it’s so stark. But it’s indeed, so not.
The uniqueness of us all is not seen in comparison and contrast because some of us are so similar to our mothers and our fathers; there’s a comfort in that similarity. But everybody is so unique and that’s so unseen that someone like me would seem other. Get it?