Since the time before time Hindu Goddess Durga has been revered as "the mother of the universe." She is viewed as "the power behind the work of creation, preservation and destruction of the world." She gets depicted standing fearlessly upon the back of a lion as an assurance to her followers that she will protect them from evil and remove all fears. She manifests in a range of forms, one of which is the fierce goddess Kali.
Popularized during the fifth to sixth century A.D., Kali is believed to have sprung fully formed from Durga's brow during a pitched battle. Her "black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature"; her white teeth indicate inner purity. She stands for infinite knowledge, and her slashing sword destroys all false consciousness. Taken together, Kali and Durga blend into an all powerful, eternal mother goddess, savagely destroying the world's evil while inspiring complete devotion in her "children" and leading them to joyful transcendence.
If you've ever attended a live performance by the commanding stage artist and honey-voiced cabaret artist Denise Lee, you've partaken of the essence of a Kali-Durga transformative experience. On Thursday, Nov. 15, you can revel in these wonders as Denise Lee as she takes the stage at the Sammons Center for the Arts' "New York-style" Cabaret Concert Series in her signature cabaret "The Legends Continue: Women Who Have Made Their Mark On American Music."
A self-taught singer, Denise Lee claims she has always considered herself an actor first. Most who know her stand in awe of her vibrant, expressive, mellifluous voice and the mesmerizing effect of her vocal performances. For more than two decades Lee has romanced devoted followers with the power and purity of her instrument. Far-reaching in her musical tastes, she draws inspiration from diverse singers ranging from Lena Horne and Billie Holiday to Martina McBride and Joni Mitchell.
Passion, fire, commitment, respect for the vocal art form and the creative process, adoration for the women who wrote or sang before, some recognized, some not: the air resonates with Kali/Durga energy when Lee describes her experience of singing and the choices she made for this cabaret.
"The best feeling I ever had was the first time I sang cabaret," she says, speaking of when Bill's Hideaway gave her a start in an open mic night years ago. "I relished being able to reach out directly to my audience beyond just playing a role on stage. I adore interacting with my audience, always ask folks to sing along. In this cabaret I focus on women who made their mark on American music, both as singers or songwriters."
You'll hear songs by Carole King, Diane Warren, Nina Simone, Peggy Lee, Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holliday, Bonnie Raitt, Christine Lapin, Dorothy Fields (who President Obama quoted at his Inauguration) and Katherine Lee Bates (inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 for writing "America the Beautiful"). The song list includes recognizable classics and very special works, like Simone's pre-Civil Rights era banned "Mississippi Goddam" and Holiday's chilling "Strange Fruit."
"These songs come from a time when a singer took great personal risk in performing them, risked her life to do so," Lee says. "Each of the women represented in this cabaret have had powerful affect in changing aspects of our culture and politics. And my cabaret salutes them."
Pianist Mary Medrick will accompany Lee. The concert includes free valet parking, coffee, beer, wine, soft drinks and light snacks. Seating is general admission. Reservations and cocktail attire are required.