by Dom Jones
Berklee Groove Sessions Alum, Tyesha Chaunté just dropped a new video for her song ‘Arcadia.’ Take a look below:
Tyesha’s brand of music can feel vague, as far as genre, until you hear her start speaking about her mission. At Berklee Groove Sessions she said, “Every time that I perform, every time that I write a song, my purpose is to just make sure that I am exemplifying the holy spirit through my music.” This is a bold statement to make in an industry where this kind of music is often siloed and never reaches the mainstream. I remember when Kirk Franklin had his first huge burst through with his single, “Stomp,” which featured Salt of Salt ‘N Pepa. Black churches everywhere were confounded by his brand of gospel because it also incorporated soul and hip-hop, but young people absolutely loved him, and even those who didn’t profess any religious affiliation were compelled to listen.
Where Kirk Franklin was brash and bold then, Tyesha is subtle and bold now. I’ve listened to her music enough to get a sense of her sound, but always wondered… what exactly is she talking about? When I sat down to listen to Arcadia a few times for this review, and watched the video, it clicked. You may be wondering why it didn’t click at Berklee Groove Sessions when she made her statement in her set. Well… lots of artists thank God in speeches where the art they’ve made portrays damning, violent, immoral, or gruesome images and sounds. In fact, that is the more dominant formula: an artist who makes raunchy music will win awards for said music and then thank God in their acceptance speeches. It’s just how it’s gone over the years. Tyesha is the rare artist whose musical brand matches the person behind it.
The ‘Arcadia’ video starts in black and white and in a forest somewhere unknown, with ethereal production and a girl walking through the woods. It tells the story of two friends who we can assume live together, one who appears to represent the standard of beauty that is often impressed upon the masses as “correct,” and one who doesn’t. We see the one who doesn’t become frustrated and begin examining herself in the mirror. The “beautiful” friend is also frustrated, it seems, with seeing her friend suffer in this way. At some point, they’re both reading what we can assume is the bible, and we see them praying. The big question is: what is Arcadia? According to Wikipedia, Arcadia refers to a vision of pastoralism and harmony with nature. The term is derived from the Greek province of the same name which dates to antiquity; the province’s mountainous topography and sparse population of pastoralists later caused the word Arcadia to develop into a poetic byword for an idyllic vision of unspoiled wilderness. Arcadia is a poetic shaped space associated with bountiful natural splendor and harmony. ‘The ‘Garden’ is often inhabited by shepherds. The concept also figures in Renaissance mythology. Although commonly thought of as being in line with Utopian ideals, Arcadia differs from that tradition in that it is more often specifically regarded as unattainable. Furthermore, it is seen as a lost, Edenic form of life, contrasting to the progressive nature of Utopian desires.
I think this is a long and roundabout way to say that Arcadia is basically Heaven. In this case, the protagonist in the video doesn’t die and go to heaven, but finds a place of peace through spirituality. It’s an extremely subtle way to engage this kind of subject matter, yet the songwriting and vocals stand up tall enough to support the subtlety. Both Tyesha and her featured vocalist Lisa Oduor-Noah shine equally on the song and in the video, and while it’s unclear if Tyesha Chaunté will have the success and impact of Kirk Franklin, it is clear that she has the chops.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE ‘ARCADIA’ VIDEO? SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENTS!