In a delightful, calm, reverent visual from her debut project Kari, Sacramento artist Kari Jay showcases what it means to honor the divine being that resides inside of us all. On the 27th of November, Kari released the highly anticipated visual to the album’s opening track: Soul Food. Soul Food is a lofi hip-hop single with a strong neo-soul influence. The track is versatile in its subject matters, highlighting all of the various ways in which we as people, particularly Black people (and more specifically Black Womyn), navigate the often discordant imagery and messaging that has been passed down to us through several generations. Kari’s desire for something that is nourishing, something that is good for her soul is explored through critiques of predominantly white institutions such as the American school and Collegiate system as well as through ideas about black respectability and how these policies affect how multifaceted we are given the space to demonstrate ourselves as in society. Kari rejects notions of the pillars of American society, seeks to challenge misguided social norms without compromising her free spirit, and offers praise and veneration to the ancestors that guide Black/African people as we navigate these systems and this world. Simply put, Kari showcases that in order to honor what is good for our souls, we must be honest and encouraged to name the trials that we face as we work to overcome them for the betterment of ourselves, our communities and the future generations. We must be inspired by those who came before us and those who helped to order our steps into ourselves and our wishes, hopes, desires and dreams.
The video opens with a shot of neighboring trees, which serve as a reminder that all of our growth is indicative of where we are able to plant our roots, water them as they mature and seek shelter in them as they blossom. The ever watchful eye of the ancestors which takes our soul mission into the further and nourishes and replenishes our essence as if it were a decadent, sweet nectar ladled directly from the heavens. Following this visual, we are immersed into a scene at a Riverbank featuring Kari in a white skirt with a tannish gold top morphing into a dinner party scene indoors where a group of young Black Womxn are seen eating soul food, drinking champagne and being serenaded by the musical stylings of alto saxophone jazz player. In this intimate setting, these womxn are dressed to the nines in all black attire contrasting the illumination that comes from black lights screwed into predominantly white lampshades. Perhaps to visually illustrate the lyrics that play in the backdrop, the contrast can lay reminiscent of the pressures of embracing blackness under white supervision. Searching for something good for your soul is an important journey we all should embark on in the spaces and around the people and creations that we feel the most comfortable around. Kari sits at the center of the table, perhaps to highlight her desire to be of service to a higher cause as well as her higher self. It is a position that requests trust, faith and responsibility from those who join us on our soul journeys and soul missions as well as from ourselves. Following some interpretive dance by the water, an act of grounding the self in their body and allowing the emotions and movement to flow that has a vital legacy throught the Black experience from the earliest days in the motherland to the dispersion and diversion of the African continent through immigration, the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade and the remnants of colonization still deeply felt in this world, we are transferred to a gallery of a young Kari reflecting on who she is outside of who she has been assigned to be through the observation of various paintings of African Womyn. This forms the third main setting for the video. As Kari and another young womyn dance in unity, we see a representation of the relevance of the oral tradition and the passage of culture through generations through elders and other community members. As Kari is growing into a confident young womyn, she is simultaneously there to inspire and help usher the growth of other young womxn like her.
We can see Kari joined by the water by a beautiful Black man dressed and long time friend, Jalen Tyre' (@jlntyre) in all an white ensemble consisting of white pants, a white long-sleeved button up shirt and what appears to be a white gold Cuban chain. Here we see these two spirits almost as if it were an engagement between Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine. As they both dance barefoot in the dirt, their connection and their reverence for Mother Earth is shown and from Her, their power is drawn. The two place alternating hands above their heart and then elongate their arms as if to communicate that the rhythm is replenishing and opening up their heart chakra and that their healing in movement is in activation. As the two continue, Kari marches forward while her dance partner moves behind her as if to both offer stability and protection while additionally giving her the spotlight so to speak. Kari and her partner alternate sides from the right hand to the left hand which is later represented by the lyrics “sharing the same soul” as their movements with the synchronization and the fluidity they have is indicative of that case. As the video comes to a conclusion, we hear Kari has learned and rejected the conditioning and the commodification of her body, soul, life and worth that was bestowed upon her and adopted her own set of values to carry her through her soul’s path. As Kari’s philosophy delves deeper into one that is reflective much like the surface of water, we see her leveled, crouching down and admiring her reflection in the ripples of the waves. As she closes out her last verse with an exalted statement of gratitude, she and the various souls she has bonded with on this journey and her celebrate in a calm and carefree manner.
A beautiful overhead shot of trees on the water is shown seconds before the video ends, capturing a similar theme to the opening shot of the trees in the breeze looming like calm ancestors watching over she. The trees and the water do not only highlight the absolute beauty of California’s State Capitol, Sacramento. They also remind us that as we allow ourselves to be watered and poured into by those who came before us and acted in service of us, we too can blossom and grow abundantly. The last shot being equal to its first shot in reverse, where the first shot panned from Trees to an adult Kari in her White and Gold attire standing and dancing among the rocks and the River, the final shot ends with Kari merging with the River spirits and water deities spoken about in the motherland. The cinematography handled by Mango Daniel perfectly encapsulates Kari’s artistic direction and shows a thoughtful, introspective talent with an eye for spiritual refinement and the ornamentation and orientation of the detail driven narration that is to be expected from Black futurism as it correlates to the ongoing practice of storytelling as a medium for culture exchange and cultural immersion. Simply put, the cinematography shows creative prowess and a deep, impassioned control over Kari Jay’s artistic vision from its conceptualization to its execution.