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With his distinctive white maquillage—traditional face paint; his is worn in homage to his departed dad—Paris is a striking figure in the rap world, and his art is a pulsating melting pot of hip-hop, EDM, and Afrobeat styles. Growing up in the Hudson Valley and living in, touring, and experiencing the cultures of hugely varied locales has informed his outlook as well his music. "It's definitely a privilege, to be able to have so many lenses to view world through," says Paris, who in 2017 launched Melanin, a company with the goal of lifting the self-esteem of people of color. "Right now, Melanin is a web platform, but the idea is to build it into having public conferences, panels, and other events," he explains.
- Val Shaff
- Pamela Badila
Those who of us who spent time around this focused force of nature when he lived in Hudson and had yet to make the exodus to Brooklyn that's a rite of passage for so many aspiring young artists always knew Paris was going to make it. He simply worked too hard—recording, making videos, promoting his music, and performing wherever he could—for there to be no way he wouldn't make it. And it's inspiring to see him doing it, at last.
"That's the thing about the Badilas," says Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, a Hudson resident of several years himself. "That family is one of the hardest-working groups of people I've ever met; everything they do, they do to the fullest. I gotta give it to Elombe and Pamela for raising such a beautiful bunch of kids. Paris was actually the first best bud I had when I came to Hudson after living in New York. He really gave me the lay of the land up here, as far as the divide there is between the people in the poorer community and the businesses that come to town and bring their own workers rather than hiring more local people. So he made me aware of that and want to do these benefit concerts I've been putting together to help the people around here [Stinson has sponsored area fund-raising events for the Hudson Little League Association, local youth agriculture organization FarmOn!, and other causes]. I think I've worked with all of the Badilas at this point, between playing with them at benefits or at little local shows, or on recording projects."
One of those projects has been a series of recordings by Lady Moon aka Ngonda Badila, now based in Brooklyn as well. The music of her band, Lady Moon and the Eclipse, as heard on their 2016 debut EP, Believe, shimmers with ethereal funk soul that pairs deep contemporary artists like Erykah Badu and Meshell Ndegeocello (the latter a sometime Hudsonian) with the classic American and African sounds she was raised with. "Growing up, I heard people like Aretha Franklin, the Pointer Sisters, and Diana Ross through my mom, and through my dad I heard Salif Keita and other Afropop artists," says Moon. "Then I discovered Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Ella Fitzgerald. I could see the whole journey."
Speaking of journeys, the singer is currently working on her group's debut full-length, the aptly named Journey to the Cosmic Soul, which is set for release next year. As someone from a home that included a modest two sisters, it's hard not to wonder: Being reared among so many other siblings, did Moon or her brothers or sisters ever feel competitive toward one another?
"Not really," she says. "There was never really any alpha energy in our family. No matter what we're going through, we're always inseparable. Love holds us together. Love always defeats all the bad things."
This month, Hudson Hall pays tribute to Hudson's "first family of creativity" with three special days of music, dance, and theater performed by the Badilas and their collaborative friends from the community. The series will feature the folk musical "Spirit of the River" and concerts by Young Paris and Lady Moon and the Eclipse. For the prodigal son Young Paris, who hasn't played live in his hometown in eons, the occasion represents a triumphant homecoming that's been long in the making.
"It's definitely going to be a celebration," he says. "I just want everyone to see what we do together as a family. And to be part of our tribe."
Hudson Hall will present "The Badila Family" from July 20-22: Diata Diata Folkloric Theater will perform "The Spirit of the River" on July 20 at 7pm, July 21 at 3pm, and July 22 at 5pm; Young Paris will perform on July 20 at 9pm; and Lady Moon and the Eclipse will perform on July 21 at 7pm.