Q&A with strong and versatile vocalist Zakiya Hooker, carrying the blues torch confidently into the new generation

"Blues is a part of all music. The younger generation has reached back and infused the blues in their music of today. Each generation has to grow up to realize how important the Blues is to their music and understand how it broadens their sound and feel of their music."

Zakiya Hooker: Keeping The Blues Real

Zakiya Hooker was born in the Motor City - Detroit, Michigan - but she was also born into the blues. You could even say she had a front-row seat to the best the genre had to offer, right in her own living room - her dad was the renowned blues giant, John Lee Hooker. The blues has literally been with her from birth. Zakiya was privileged to see and hear some of the greats that shaped the history of the Blues, as we know it. To be the daughter of a living 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.”

(Zakiya Hooker / Photo by Jane Cassisi)

Zakiya made her debut performance in 1991 with her legendary father at the Kaiser Center Theatre in Oakland, CA. Since then, she has gone on to perform shows with the likes of Etta James, Charles Brown, John Hammond, Taj Mahal, Charlie Musselwhite and many more, at the world-famous Fillmore Auditorium, The San Francisco Blues Festival, The Monterey Jazz & Blues Festival, The Avignon Blues Festival in France, the Copenhagen Blues Festival in Denmark and The Chicago Blues Festival. Zakiya has graced the cover of several well-known trade magazines including Billboard. Her voice can be heard on advertisements for Lexus and AIWA, also on the soundtrack of the movie Chalk, which won both the Camera d’Or at Cannes and the Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in San Francisco.

 

Interview by Michael Limnios                Zakiya Hooker, 2020 interview @ blues.gr

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

I have learned to be open to listening to ideas, criticism and making changes. I have learned to be humble and kind and to always be encouraging to and willing to help others on their musical journey.

What has remained the same about your music-making process?

The coming together of fellow musicians and vocalist who form a musical family that creates good music.

How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

I say a little prayer for me and all the others involved.

How do you want the music to affect people?

I want them to listen to the words of my music and let them know a little about me through my words and music.

"My spirit is what guides me in the way I treat people and lets me know right from wrong. My music is how I express my life and experiences and share them with the world. The meaning of life I don’t know. I only know that I am here for a short period of time and I should leave something behind that will keep me alive in people’s mind and heart." (Zakiya Hooker / Photo by Maurice Thompson)

What do you think is key to a music life well lived?

To understand that music is our gift and blessing from the Supreme Being. Music is life and if we are fortunate enough to be able to do it until our time is up on this earth we have lived a life well lived.

Why was the Blues never a part of the pop/popular music?

Blues is a part of all music. The younger generation has reached back and infused the blues in their music of today. Each generation has to grow up to realize how important the Blues is to their music and understand how it broadens their sound and feel of their music. 

Why do you think that John Lee Hooker music continues to generate such a devoted following?

My father’s music was and is his story. It is the story of all people in the world. We all have trials, tribulation; heartache & heartbreak, joy pain and all the emotions that we as human beings share. All this is in my father’s music and in the fiber of everyone on this earth.

What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

I think that soul is something that does not require a technique. Technique comes from what you learn in school or working with other musicians. This shapes your music and how you play it. At the end of the day soul is always the first ingredient in what makes your music you.

John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

My spirit is what guides me in the way I treat people and lets me know right from wrong. My music is how I express my life and experiences and share them with the world. The meaning of life I don’t know. I only know that I am here for a short period of time and I should leave something behind that will keep me alive in people’s mind and heart.

Zakiya Hooker - Home

(Zakiya Hooker / Photo by Jane Cassisi)

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