Kenneka Cook is a soft spoken woman with a smile that can warm your heart. As we spoke about her musical and life journey, she said I caught her on a “good day”, referencing her introversion. Typically, interviews are not her forte, a character trait that wasn’t apparent as she laughed through any awkward moments. A Richmond native, Kenneka grew up in Chesterfield and went to VCU where she majored in Criminal Justice. While Kenneka has been singing all her life, professionally she came about this career unconventionally.
When speaking about her family, you could see Kenneka light up. She expressed appreciation for her mom and sisters, explaining how they have played an important role in her life, supporting her though every challenge she faced or new path she ventured. She even joked that they probably promote her music more than she does. Kenneka found her musical voice while going through one of the hardest moments of her life, the loss of her grandmother. She processed her pain and feelings through the exploration of music. On a whim, she decided to attend an open mic night where she explored rhythm through the use of looping, demonstrated in her TedX performance. She found herself going to those open mic nights every week.
In the years to come, she continued to explore and find her sound which she describes as eclectic. Soon she caught the attention of RVA musicians. Her tracks are a collaboration of sounds created by Devonne Harris (piano/Butcher Brown), Kelli Strawbridge (drums/Kings), Caleb Knight (drums/Sammi Lanzetta), Chris Speasmaker (piano/The Congress), Andrew Sisk (drums/Angelica Garcia), Marcus Tenney (trumpet/Foxygen), Russell Lacy (guitar/Mikrowaves), Sid Kingsley (saxophone/Sid Kingsley), and Jared Pool. Completing the theme of eclectic and unconventional, Kenneka’s album was recorded in a 100 year old, Jackson Ward house owned by her producer, Scott Lane. This unique setting required them to set up and dismantle the studio in his living room for each session.
With gold crescent moon earrings dangling from her ears, Kenneka spoke of her connection with celestial forms and the universe. This connection has influenced her personal life and her music. Her album title song, Moonchild, speaks of the pull of the moon keeping her in awe of its beauty. Kenneka shared the impact celestial wonders have in her reflections and reasoning. We are so tiny individually but can be connected to something so large, a sentiment shared by both of us. Connection is a theme weaved into Kenneka’s lyrical message. She believes that “music is medicine.” She would like her music to have positive influences in a negative world.
The vision for the music video, stemming from her producer, begins with Kenneka walking alone in a park; but by the end there is a large group of people joining her in celebration. The music video is a strong visual representation of the core of the song. Kenneka is asking, “what about love, how we get that back?”. How do we get back to the place where we have interaction with people? As she casually strolls down the sidewalk in Libby Hill park, she weaves together the people in the park. People who would normally only share a space are now sharing a moment, together.
After talking to Kenneka and listening to her album, I’m left with one question ringing loudly in my ear: How do we create that connection and interaction within our changing community?
You can catch her playing locally this week on Thursday, March 22nd at Strange Matter and this summer in June 22nd at Friday Cheers. Tickets are still available.
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