The Sound Cafe
Behind The Curtain: Quisha Wint
Photo Credit: Terry Doner.
From Canadian Idol to Choir Master, Quisha Wint has had a versatile and steady career as an artist, performer, bandleader, and musical director for years. Her biography is rich, and readers are encouraged to learn more about her through personal investigation. Lots of information can be found online, and for the purpose of looking “beyond the press release”, this article will direct specific focus toward one of Wint’s songs, “Black Shoes”.
“Black Shoes” is a song that looks racial inequity and trauma square in the eye, yet used metaphorical tact to address the topic. Like many songs from a previous generation (“Whats Going On”, and “A Change is Gonna Come” are fine examples), “Black Shoes” is thought-provoking, and offers listeners an opportunity to think, learn, and ask questions. Wint takes a difficult topic and gives it purpose, while giving listeners space to think beyond the lyrics. In this article, Quisha Wint discusses “Black Shoes”, speaking of the song’s development, intention, and impact, To help readers (and listeners) take a look “behind the curtain” the lyrics are a crucial part of understanding the content of this month’s column:
“Black shoes I see you come in different styles,
And even different shades,
Seeing you in the light I could tell by my sight,
You were never about the fight
What you gonna do when the road is rough,
What you gonna do when you stand in mud,
What you gonna do when the ride gets tough
What you gonna do
Over 400 years of oppression,
I think you’ve left an impression,
Why converse when you’re quick to hurt,
Trusting you is not an option
Black shoes with the white souls,
Can’t you see that you’re worn out,
I think you’ve been used and abused,
You don’t even know who you are anymore
What you gonna do when the tide is high,
What you gonna do when we win the fight,
What you gonna do when we stand to unite,
What you gonna do
Time is ticking while police keep killing,
Our brothers and sisters as you sit and wait for your shoes to be spit shined.”
A topic that is raw and sensitive, Wint manages to put forward a difficult truth through words and music – without the intention of polarization. The conversation began with a discussion on how “Black Shoes” developed.
Wint paints the picture:
“The band had gotten together after a really long break – all of us were just ready to get together and play. During that rehearsal, we did about four new original songs, and they got recorded. The groove was there from the start. We didn’t have a big “a-ha” moment when that groove was originally laid down. I was listening back to that recording on the way home from our time together, and thought “hey, there’s something here”. We started working with that feel, and honestly, there was no real intention of writing such a powerful song. The groove was established from the get-go, but we didn’t know exactly where it was going to go. We were just working the song out, and realized that we were LITERALLY all wearing black shoes. It didn’t mean anything yet, but, as the song developed, it got very powerful all on its own. It is a true grassroots song. We all share songwriting credit on it too, because it took on the shape of what it became in that room.”
Since its debut, “Black Shoes” has reached #1 on select radio charts, been well received at live shows and even made its way to the classroom – provoking thought for youth as they learn about the song.
When asked to speak of the well-received status of “Black Shoes”, Wint says:
“It’s been amazing to witness. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t exactly sure how “Black Shoes” would be received at a live performance – with audience members being from different walks of life. I was a little nervous because there are some very powerful lyrics that are true and raw. I was very intentional that the song is not accusatory in nature, or doesn’t come from a place of anger, but it is raw, and it is about a topic that some people do have very strong feelings about. The way it has been embraced and accepted speaks to the power of the song. People have been hearing the song with the same intention it was written with – and that’s powerful too.”
Another way in which “Black Shoes” has reached people through its metaphorical message is in schools. Youth in grades 6,7, and 8 analyzed and reflected on the song’s content. When asked what that experience was like, Wint offers:
“It was just amazing to learn how aspects of the song inspired so much thought. The questions students were asking, and knowing that they were really thinking about what “Black shoes” means to them was just…amazing. It is almost an indescribable feeling to know that something you have created through creativity and your own inspiration can have an impact on how someone looks at things. And, that, to me, is the proof that “Black Shoes” has made an impact – the song is there to make people think through hearing truth. It is not an “I’m right, you’re wrong” position – it is just a truth. If it’s an opportunity to see truth from a different perspective, the song is doing what it is supposed to do.”
Perhaps this is an appropriate place to bring this edition of “Behind The Curtain” to a close – but leave it open enough for readers to take a second look at Quisha Wint’s words: “It’s an opportunity to see truth from another person’s perspective.”
What you gonna do?
Touring blues musician, Erin McCallum's formal post-secondary education was in media studies (news, radio), graduating from Humber College in Ontario, she went on to be mentored by Canadian News Hall of Fame inductee, Robert Holiday, and she is a regularly published writer in music and investigative journalism, having focused on music for the last six years.
Erin has an exclusive monthly column in The Sound Cafe featuring musicians from across Canada who perform predominantly in the Blues & Roots genres.
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Photo Credit - Harry Dunbar Photography