Q&A with Zakiya Hooker - a regal combination of sass and soul, has pursued life and music on her own terms

"Blues music and culture brings people together. It transcends the color line and gives people a common ground on which to communicate. Blues has the ability to bring different cultures, races and genders together and not think about who you are or where you came from. Music is a healer and the glue that holds us together."

Zakiya Hooker: The Legacy of The Blues

Zakiya is quite familiar with the blues. You could even say she had a front-row seat to view the best the genre had to offer, right in her own living room. Her dad was the renowned blues giant John Lee Hooker. To be the daughter of a Legend is a major obstacle. To choose to follow in his footsteps is a major undertaking. But rather than relying on her father, Zakiya has pursued life - and music - on her own terms, overcoming personal tragedy and skepticism along the way. But you know what they say, “the fruit never falls too far from the tree”. This certainly rings true with Zakiya. A strong and versatile vocalist, Zakiya has carved out a market for herself. Zakiya Hooker is a regal combination of sass and soul. “Keeping It Real” is a defining contribution to her legacy as a woman singing the blues. Zakiya made her debut performance in 1991 with her dad, John Lee Hooker, at the Kaiser Center Theatre in Oakland, CA.

Since that time Zakiya has gone on to perform on shows with the likes of Etta James, Charles Brown, John Hammond, Taj Mahal and many more. Zakiya’s music has carried her all over the world and given her the opportunity to perform for fans the world over. Zakiya Hooker is John Lee Hooker’s living legacy. She is the singer-songwriter daughter of this American Icon and she is carrying her father’s seminal blues torch confidently into the new millennium. Zakiya Hooker has a beautiful voice. The kind of voice that grabs your attention if her music was on "in the background." A conversation starter, if you will. She has a silky, milky, rich voice that feels like honey to your ears.  She is a versatile vocalist and a fine performer. To see Zakiya’s show is a sheer treat. She puts on a witty, funny, emotional and most of all entertaining show. Zakiya has “IT”. When she steps on the stage she becomes one with her audience and the love affair begins. Zakiya Hooker's new album "Legacy" coming out April 2020. All songs are original and were written (and produced) by little ole Zakiya and her guitar.


Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?

When I used to listen to my dad and his band during rehearsals on the front porch of our house I knew then that I wanted to be an entertainer. They were all so cool and music just seemed to put everyone into a groove.

How has the Blues music (and people of) influenced your views of the world and the journeys you've taken?

Growing up as a child I was surrounded by the Blues and the people of the Blues.  It has traveled the world with me. My views of the world came from my father and mother. Watching their struggles and watching them overcome prepared me for any journeys in my life. I keep moving forward and never stop because I did not see my father stop until he reached his dream and the end of his journey.

How do you describe your songbook and sound?

My songbook is my life as a single mother trying to survive raising three boys by myself. My songs talk about my life, my friends and family and people I have met along my journey. I learned to play the guitar and instead of my songs having a sound that was not mine I am now able to write my songs and tell my true story in my own words.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?

Because the blues was the beginning of it all. It is like the circle of life.  Everything goes back to where it came from.

"It is not just in the Blues circuit, but in any music circuit and the world. I have learned that you have to remain humble and never forget that your fans are the reason you are where you are. You have to respect other artist and remember that all of us are following our dream and we need to support one another."

What was the hardest part as an artist, to being the daughter of JLH?

The hardest part of being an artist and the daughter of JLH is that people did not want to accept me for who I was. They wanted to hear me do the type of music my father did. It has been hard all these years but I am finally being accepted for who I am. My father told me to do my kind of music and to stay true to it, and I do.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you'd like to share with us?

The most memorable show I did was my first show with my father. It was truly the highlight of my musical career. I was so nervous that I got sick after the show.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past?

It seems to me that some musicians who play the Blues don’t really feel the music. For a lot of guitarist they just want to play as many notes as they can without any feeling. It is like a contest as to who can play the fastest. The old masters played with sincerity

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

My hope is that the Blues never dies. My fear is that it will lose the true substance of the Blues. We have several young artist who give me hope that the Blues will continue to live and be respected in the way it should be.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in the blues circuits?

It is not just in the Blues circuit, but in any music circuit and the world. I have learned that you have to remain humble and never forget that your fans are the reason you are where you are. You have to respect other artist and remember that all of us are following our dream and we need to support one another.

What does to be a female artist in a "Man's World" as James Brown says?

It means that men are taken more seriously than women and are treated differently by some promoters and musicians.

"For me I think that a good artist (entertainer) should never forget that in the dance we are the dancers and the fans are the music. Without them we are just objects on the stage. We are nothing without our fans."

What is the status of women in music?

Women have made some progress but not enough. Most Blues festivals have 95% men on the stage and 5% women. There are enough women in the Blues genre to get the same chance as men.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Blues music and culture brings people together. It transcends the color line and gives people a common ground on which to communicate. Blues has the ability to bring different cultures, races and genders together and not think about who you are or where you came from. Music is a healer and the glue that holds us together.

Let's take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would go back to my home in Oakland California. I would spend the whole day with my youngest son on the last day of his life.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

The best moment was my first time performing live with my father in 1991.  It was the highest point in my career. The worse was when I did a short tour in Argentina and at the end of the three shows they did not pay us.

How, and where do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?

We get them from just everyday life. Someone once did a song called “Life is a song worth singing” and that is so true. Every song comes from something that is going on in someone’s life. I don’t really have any special mentors in songwriting.  I just like good lyrics wherever they come from. There are so many great songwriters out there that it would be hard to chose from them.

What does the BLUES mean to you & what does Blues offered you?

The Blues is just life. It always tells a story about men and women, good times, bad times, life and death. Blues allows me to express feelings and emotions whether they are happy or sad. Blues covers it all.

What do you learn about yourself from music?

You learn to let go and lose yourself in the music and to open yourself up to your audience.

“The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have” (Photo: John Lee Hooker & Zakiya)

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

For me I think that a good artist (entertainer) should never forget that in the dance we are the dancers and the fans are the music. Without them we are just objects on the stage. We are nothing without our fans.

Do you remember anything fanny or interesting from the recording hours?

When we were recording my CD “Flavors of the Blues” (1996), my dad came into the studio for his part on the CD. I had to cook him a soul food dinner so he could eat before he did the session. He was the King of the recording session.  

What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

The very first professional show. I did it with my dad. I was so scared my stomach hurt. My very first performance in Europe. I had traveled to Europe but I had not performed so it was a real treat.

Are there any memories with the late great John Lee Hooker that you’d like to share with us?

One of my most favorite memories would be the stories my dad told us when we were kids. He would tell us about “Crawling Charlie” who needed to find the Hoodoo lady. He told us about the man who wanted to go to heaven “whole soul and body” but he did not want to die. Nobody could tell a story like my father.  My father was one of the funniest people I knew.

What advice John Lee Hooker given to you, which memory from your father makes you smile?

The best advice my father gave me was to be true to myself and follow my heart when doing my music. He told me to be myself and not try to do blues the way that other people thought I should do it. When I think of my father I remember my father sitting in his chair when we were children and watching the ballgame. He would always roast peanuts for the game. He would always burn the peanuts up but we did not care we ate them anyway. We just loved spending that quality time with him. I remember how kind he was and how funny he was. He had a smile and a laugh that lit up the room wherever he was. My heart becomes full when I think of my father. I see that smile and hear his laugh.           (Photo: BB King, Ruth Brown, Zakiya & John Lee Hooker)

"Growing up as a child I was surrounded by the Blues and the people of the Blues.  It has traveled the world with me. My views of the world came from my father and mother. Watching their struggles and watching them overcome prepared me for any journeys in my life. I keep moving forward and never stop because I did not see my father stop until he reached his dream and the end of his journey."

Do you have any amusing tales to tell from your show with Etta James, Charles Brown & Taj Mahal?

The ones with Taj (Mahal) and Etta (James) were good shows but the one with Charles Brown was “Off the hook”. I got to sit and talk with him and take pictures. He was a very kind and open person. He was a real humble and down to earth person.

When did you last laughing in gigs and why?

I have forgotten where we were playing but we were in the green room getting ready to go on stage. They had a television and we were watching one of those court television shows. The bailiff in the courtroom had a big silver badge like the sheriffs back in the cowboy days and everybody just could not stop laughing. I think those are some of the most stupid shows on television.

What do you think is the characteristic of you personality that made you a musician?

I think it is my love of the music and my love for people. I love dressing up and changing into my alter ego. Performing allows you to leave your humdrum life and go to a glamorous place that not everyone has the opportunity to go.

What do you think of SOUL & JAZZ music & how close are to the BLUES?

I love both genres of the music. They are the children of the Blues. They contain the roots of Blues but they have evolved and become another generation of the Blues with a different flavor.

"My songbook is my life as a single mother trying to survive raising three boys by myself. My songs talk about my life, my friends and family and people I have met along my journey. I learned to play the guitar and instead of my songs having a sound that was not mine I am now able to write my songs and tell my true story in my own words."

And one last, tell me about your motto: “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have”.

You don’t have to have all the finest things are life to be happy because things cannot make you happy. The more you have the more you want. A simple and happy life is one filled with a love of God, family and friends. That is everything we have and that is everything we need to be happy in this life. In essence they have the best of everything. I have a poster that I always keep so that I can see it. It reads “May I live simply so that others may simply live”. God is my strength so I have everything I need to be happy.


Zakiya Hooker - Official website

Views: 911

Comments are closed for this blog post

social media

Members

© 2020   Created by Michael Limnios Blues Network.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service