Brilliantly gifted vocalist Kiana Marie (www.kianamarie.biz) is fast-tracked for success and comes by it honestly. You could say she was born and bred to the craft, as her family has been part of Twin Cities music for generations.
Sitting at a South Minneapolis coffee shop, she acknowledges, “The support and teachings that have come from my family are my foundation. Music and performance [have] always been … part of my household. I’m so grateful because I have never wanted to do anything else with my life.”
She adds, “To learn from them and have that under my belt…is a blessing.”
The “them” of whom she speaks are no slouches, starting with her mom, Joyce Mayes, who, sitting at the next table, comments, “Music was always important in our house. My dad plays the harmonica … still today at 91. When Kiana was preschool age, he would play and she would sing. He taught her the blues. I took piano lessons at age seven. I loved jazz and spirituals. When I played ’Something in My Heart’ by Michel’le when Kiana was two and she sang with it, including the high notes, I knew she was going to sing. She hasn’t stopped since.”
Joyce relates that going farther back in the lineage there’s “my uncle, Willie B. Hale [who] was choir director at Zion Baptist Church. So, my aunts and cousins were in the choir and I occasionally joined for the holidays. Pharaoh Black, my brother-in-law, had the first soul radio station here, KUXL.”
For good measure, family friend and Kiana’s mentor these past five years, Twin Cities R&B and soul legend Kathleen Johnson, states by email, “I have never mentored and workshopped with a young artist more polished, sturdy and hungry for learning the technique and art form of live performance as Kiana Marie. She is a perfectionist working very hard at mastering what she has been chosen to be — a great vocalist and performing artist!”
You get the idea? It’s hardly by chance that, at the relatively young age of 26, she has star quality stamped all over her in block letters.
For further convincing, sample Kiana Marie’s artistry yourself. You’ll find her prowess marked by crystal clarity, fluid phrasing and no lack at all of sheer power. In fact, she sings with authority well beyond her years. Of course, she also has that essential ingredient, originality — you name the genre, Kiana can sing in it. On top of that, “Get Away” which she wrote, is a smooth, avant-garde rock ballad contributed to the album Black by Centrifuge Emotion (Kiana Marie, Proper-T and Montrell Moore).
Her repertoire, in a word, rocks. For instance, when she rears back on Liv Warfield’s “Stay,” Kiana Marie can knock a hole in a brick wall. With Teena Marie’s “Yes, Indeed” she sails up and down scales with acrobatic grace. Listening to an MP3 of a live performance, you can hear someone in the audience encourage, “Go on, girl!” It’s hard to think of vocalist this amazing since 1970s icon Laura Nyro.
She’ll be at the Dakota this week with a project called Success(or). “It’s led,” she says, “by Proper-T and featuring myself, Kathleen [Johnson] and other great musicians. Many songs are originals and it’s a journey. They tell a story. The concept of the show is a young man’s musical quest to discover the inner workings of his soul. [It’s] going to be a beautiful night!”
Part and parcel of the entertainment industry, fair or unfair as it may be, is that one must be, as the expression goes, easy on the eyes, an aspect Kiana has down cold, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Beyoncé Knowles. She doesn’t, though, let it go to her head and quotes Proverbs 26:12, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
She adds, “Nothing is promised. Your looks won’t last forever, hence the plastic surgery craze. Talent is what will sustain you. There’s so much competition, you have to be thankful for the opportunities that come your way.”
This brings Kiana to emphatically underscore that her career is about, “honing your craft, coming into your own as an artist, being the best you [that] you can be, and everything else should fall into place!”
All said, keep your eye on the horizon. A new star is rising: Kiana Marie. Remember the name, because she is one unforgettable talent.
Success(or) will perform at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis, 1010 Nicollet Mall, on Friday, Nov 21, 11:30 pm; cover is $5.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.