What Growth Sounds Like: An Interview with Sarah White, BGIO Music Curator

Photo: Jaafar Alnabi

Interview by Lauren Ash

I don't remember when I first met Sarah White, but I do remember always feeling drawn toward her and the energy she exudes. She is both calm and exciting. Bold, yet subtle. With a creative energy all her own, it's no surprise that she wears so many hats: DJ, Mama, singer-songwriter, and yogi! I knew that music was going to dance around the heart of BlackGirlInOm in many ways (in my former life, I was a DJ) and decided to ask some of my favorite DJs to curate mixes or playlists for BlackGirlInOm. I am thrilled that Sarah said yes and gets to illuminate more about what growth means to her through her mix as well as through our conversation:

LA: You're our first music curator! When I first told you about our theme, growth, what first came to mind?

SW: I feel like that word really resonated with me because right I'm going through a lot of different transitions in the way that I navigate through life, through my day, and through my family. And I've been thinking a lot about sometimes how hard it is to grow. And sometimes how much resistance you feel with growth, but it's something that you have to do. You can't stop time, you can't stop evolution, you can't stop change. And, once you start to embrace it and swim with it versus swim away from it [that] you slowly start making steps toward growing. That's pretty deep, but that's what I thought about. Even in regards to music I was thinking about resistance and oppositions.

LA: Totally. That's deep, but growth is a deep topic! So, you're obviously a lot of things -- you're a mother, you're a DJ, singer-songwriter, all these beautiful things. How have you seen yourself grow creatively in this past year and how do you foresee yourself growing even more creatively in this next year? Big question, I know! (laughs)

SW: Huge question! I think already since 2015 started I've been taking more risks. Even things that I feel a little uncomfortable doing sometimes. And it's already pushed me into being more dynamic. Being more true. And being more fearless, when it comes to exploring things creatively. And that's where I want to keep going. I want to try to tackle things that scare me. Tackle things that are sad and that are hard. That I've been trying not to deal with. Once you get all of that mess out of the way I feel like it's so much easier to be creative because you're really being yourself.

LA: That's so true! If you're not afraid then you're just willing to explore everything. No questions asked.

SW: And that person is there. That person is just waiting for you to remember yourself again. They always say when you expose light to the darkness, there's no more darkness.

LA: Totally. So, your mix...what kinds of things were you thinking of when you chose the songs?

SW: First off: I love Hiatus Kaiyote. I've watched Hiatus Kaiyote's evolution. The way the band has changed, the style has changed. I just love how her style is so original. And when I listen to "Laputa" I feel like I grow in the way I think about concepts, the way I think about music. But also, to me that was a "birth-sounding" song to have at the beginning. 

Jesse Boykins: great. "I Can't Stay,"...if you listen to the lyrics it's a lot about growth and just having to not stay in the space. There's all these reasons why he wanted to stay. You know, the beauty, the feelings. But he couldn't because it wasn't right for him. And sometimes it's hard to really deal with the truth and move on. 

D'Angelo, that song is so deep. Even the words [of the title]: "Betray My Heart." [He said] "I will never betray my heart." Figuring out in the end what you need to do to keep yourself safe, and to keep those you love around you safe, I think there's a lot about growing in that.

Yuna "Live Your Life" for me was the peak of the growth in the mix. She's talking about not hiding from yourself. Not being afraid. Hoping for more and if you want to live you just have to live. She's saying live if you really want to. It's such a simple line but it's so hard. People always say I wanna live later. Later I'll do this. [But] life is really about living now. I love that song. 

Mostly, just all sides of growing. Emotionally, mentally, physically, spirituality, I tried to cover all of those with the mix...and unconsciously!

LA: Another huge part of who you are: you're a yogi and a wellness practitioner! Tell us more about that.

SW: My next ... new chapter is this summer. I go to Costa Rica for three weeks. I just put down my registration fee today! I'll be studying yoga with 20+ dynamic women from all over the world. Through Sacred Yoga in Brooklyn. I've been doing yoga for 11-12 years. It's a huge part of how I deal with things going on in life. Balancing being a mom and an artist and a student and also [being] in community. I really want to start working at putting yoga in more of our communities in Minneapolis which is a big part of why I'm going on this training. And also just to be more available and helpful to the growth of all of our women of color especially in Minneapolis. And, all over the world!

LA: Thank you, Sarah. Also, lots of gratitude for Quinn Wilson who designed cover art for this month's mix.

Have a listen to Sarah's Growth mix for BGIO. Also, if you'd like to support her journey as a yogi, you may do so here!

If you're in the Twin Cities during March 19-21, check out a play about an incarcerated black yogi that has everyone talking: There Are Other Worlds, written and directed by Junauda Petrus featuring soundscape music curated by Sarah. Word on the street is that there's a waiting list!

Track List:

1. Bonobo - Towers (feat. Szjerdene)
2. Hiatus Kiayote - Laputa
3. Jesse Boykins III - I Can't Stay (Gold Panda)
4. D'Angelo - Betray My Heart (Dino Soccio Edit)
5. Recloose - Can't Take It (Herbert's Some Dumb Dub)
6. Groove Theory - Tell Me (George FitzGerald Remix)
7. Yuna - Live Your Life (DJ Wonder Remix)
8. Janet Jackson - If (Kaytranada Remix)
9. Aaliyah - One in a Million (su na Remix)
10. Chris Turner - Extrasolarlove (Interlude)
11. Sarah White - Create Found [MYK Remix]
12. Kwabs - Last Stand
13. Lianne La Havas - Lost and Found (Ifan Dafydd Remix)

cover art: quinn wilson 

cover art: quinn wilson 

Sarah White, singer, emcee and soundscape designer, has played both nationally and internationally. Best known for her creative work with Shiro Dame, Black Blondie and Traditional Methods, Sarah has independently released two solo albums and her voice is featured on record label releases from the Midwest to Tokyo. She won Scion’s Best Electronic Vocalist Competition in 2009. Currently the Music Resident at Public Functionary, a music curator for BlackGirlInOm and creating the sound scape for the play There Are Other Worlds, Sarah is steady, focused and continually challenging her growth and process. Sarah is also a mother of two, a yogi, photographer and a creative with a Minneapolis-based event production company. Listen to more of Sarah's mixes on her Soundcloud page.

Quinn Wilson is a four year Entrepreneurial Studies student at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is also a professional makeup artist at MAC Cosmetics as well as the creative director for Q+A and junior AD for Issue 04 of Greenroom Magazine. View more of her work here.