Interview Sheela Gathright Interview Sheela Gathright
Which planet are you from ?
Most of all, I define myself as a human being, on this planet where we’re trying to figure out how it all came about.
This is, I believe a creation of our thoughts at least on the physical side of it. As we know, we as a species have created many things and I know I’m also part of the creation…
Mmmh, this is becoming very interesting.( laughter…)
But what am I ? Is the part I’m trying to find out or explain, certainly not what I was taught through education.
What I am is a human being like the rest of us.
Sadly, our different ways of seeing things in this world are creating a lot of problems for all of humanity because we are not respecting each other’s culture. People try to make everybody think alike instead of saying:
“ ok, you’re from here and you have your religion and your way of doing things, but we are all humans.”
But, perhaps through all our differences we can find a way to learn, discover each other, have a different outlook. I believe our differences, how we say things, how we cook and how we see the world makes it interesting.
So, that’s where I am, what I am interested in, at the moment.
I see myself as a person in this world who is still discovering many things, from different sides and angles not from what I learned in school, in conclusion, it’s never boring.
Who is Sheela ?
I’m someone who was born in the South Bronx in New York in the sixties, contemporary to the civil rights movement, when it was just starting with Martin Luther King and a long list of people who were fighting for our rights and against racism like Angela Davis, Maya Angelou even singers like Nina Simone were out there. In the winter time, I was living with my grandmother in the Bronx listening to James Brown while in Boston visiting my father who still is a musician today, I would listen to Carole King or Rickie Lee Jones.
Because of that mixture, I also had an interest when I was a little bit older to see other parts of the world, I suppose my Finnish stepmother must’ve had something to do with that also.
I’m the type of person who has lived in many places, I started in one place and ended up leaving in Spain. A mix salad ( laughter…)
When it’s time to go and discover something else, I do it. I think:
“ ok, let me see what happens, that’s how I ended up here in a very little village of two hundred people in Biniali here in Mallorca.”
If a change is needed, I don’t believe in staying in one place when a cycle ends,
I am someone who keeps on going, I like to go with the flow.
What is your definition of being a woman ?
I think for me the idea of being a woman is synonymous with caring. A woman is motherly even if she doesn’t have kids, you still have the instinct, to take care.
As women, we didn’t always have the fair play because of our cultures and education and in some countries it is still very hard; but luckily there are a lot of women who are changing that. So, now we are coming to light, we still have a lot to do. We definitely have to keep going in the direction of change, because sometimes I feel it’s going backwards but I know we have come a long way.
Thinking about it, I never saw myself as a man or a woman, I just see myself as a person but if I have to talk about my feminine incarnation. I don’t know what it is to be a man ( laughter…) but I like to be a woman. I feel you are born with that and you have to deal with it. A lot of women have a lot to do or accomplish here in this earth still…
What would be the main reason for your presence among us ?
Or said in a different manner.
What is the intention, purpose of your personal journey among us ?
One doesn’t really know and I never asked myself really. Well, I think everyone can have a purpose, a reason to be here. It’s about living your life to find out what that is and I’m sure I’m here to sing because I love singing, I love sharing my experience as a singer, I like helping people discover their voice.
It is always for me another surprise the experience of being here on this earth because all of a sudden, I’m doing something I didn’t expect to do.
The reason why, I came to Europe would be the topic I’d prefer to talk about. Because when you leave a country, your hometown you think:
“ why am I going to live in another country ” because at first you have the family and all the kids are growing up and everybody is getting on with their lives.
You think: “ why am I leaving my family to be in another country.”
Now years later I know why I’m here because my family comes to me, and I am the one opening up the doors to different countries and cultures, it’s a whole different world opening up for them.
Why Mallorca ?
Because I lived beforehand in Germany for 25 years, I ended up coming to Mallorca as it was a holiday destination in the country I was living in.
Actually, I wanted to go to Portugal and going there at that moment was very expensive and I wanted to treat my vocal coach to a holiday.
And when I found how much money, I though: “ wow! It costs so much money, money I don’t have, so let’s get real ” ( big laughter…)
So, I ask anywhere else we can go ?
And I ended coming here, it was for me a big discovery, at a time when it was not about internet. I fell in love on the road to Valldemossa to Deià, it was love at first sight…
What do you do for a living ?
I know you are a very busy lady, doing plenty of things besides what you are known for locally. I’m sure the people who have met you would all agree on the fact that you are a very interesting, prominent, talented and beautiful soul.
Well, you know I’m a survivor luckily to my genes, to my family, we had to survive.
( laughter…) I always find something to do, of course I have this beautiful finca where I organise concerts, sometimes I organise vocal workshops with other artists, letting the space to practice other art forms and activities like dance, jams, meditation, etc… Like you said, I can be seen as a facilitator of the arts, indirectly…
What was your experience as an Afro-American, here ?
How did you live your integration ?
Because I’m a singer it makes my integration easier, seeing things musically.
So I’m not confronted with the everyday reality as if I had to look for a job.
Living in Germany, arriving as a young woman in an all different culture was very good for me personally because they are very structured and disciplined there. It was a great opportunity compared to living now in the south, to me they were very trustworthy people and I never had any problem. Today it might be a different story but back then, we’re talking probably about 30 years ago, for me it was one of the best thing, I ever done to go from New York to Germany. A life changing experience definitely, getting to Europe, the languages, the culture a great learning experience.
Later on, moving to Spain after twenty some years in the north was also a shock because of the way of living, the weather, the sunlight. I was also quite surprised to see that they are very conservative here not as open as I thought they would be. Even, if the people were not as open as I wish them to be, I still didn’t have a problem with that because I met other people from other parts of the world, so it made life easier and it took a very long time to be integrated.
Anyway, in Spain you are not really integrated, comparing with my experience in the north where I had access to people homes by invitation, here until they invite you to their home it can take forever… One of the reason is, the socialising outdoor facilitated by the weather and lifestyle. And another reason would be in a peninsula like Mallorca that you’ll find the islander syndrome after so many invasions which makes the autochthons wary of outsiders.
I never really had any problems with the colour of my skin not that I felt it or realised it. I always saw it as an advantage because you have something different, you can offer something else and if people are open for that then it’s very nice. It would be similar to act as some kind of local ambassador, being one of the first American bringing a another flavour in a different environment, in a different culture, something they were not used to, maybe that was the route.
Another thing which many people forget about, is as soon as you move from wherever you rooted from, wherever you move to, it will never be the same.
Since, I’m come from New York and Germany moving into this little village, I have change something in my area wherever it is at the end, it will never be the same ( laughter…). It nice to shift things and be part of the change.
How did you find the atmosphere here ?
I feel very fortunate to be able to focus on the moment because when you know what is going on in the world…
I always say I have luxury problems.( big laughter…)
I try not to forget those who are still fighting to survive before starting to talk about my share, because I’m not doing that bad…
Look at us, we have time to talk about it.
This interview alone is a lot compared to others realities. Of course, there are things I want to do, experience but I can’t complain overall.
What is love for you ?
I will tell you the truth, the definition has changed for me immensely. It’s nowadays, totally different from what I was told as a child. First of all, I have to love myself, love who I am, things around me, my immediate circle.
Sometimes, we think too far away, we surrounded by an infinite number of little things, moments in life or the people who are part of my reality.
Love has different forms at my age and time.
If we have to talk about relationships, it would be a lot of fun to be around someone with similar sensations and perceptions. I’m someone who always think about helping others forgetting about myself. It is very important after expanding the spiral to go back to the centre. Love is an amazing sensation, synonymous with enjoying life and every detail of it to the fullest.
Do you have your own family with you ?
My family here are all the people that I have met here.
All the musicians, I work with and all the people who are still part of my life decades later, my way is creating another kind of family ties.
Your definition of spirituality ?
I think we are all spirits, everything around us is energy. To me religion doesn’t relate, we are all combined coming from the same source, feeding on the same kind of nutrients, breathing the same air.
What makes you laugh uncontrollably ?
Laughter is a survival tool especially for Black women. We can laugh almost about everything, about the silliest, saddest or the craziest things. Laughter saves us, if you cannot laugh something is wrong.
Your definition of happiness ?
To be happy or feel happy or sad is a decision.
Of course, if I am under the influence of others making me lose my balance, pushing my buttons to make me feel miserable when I am not on my guard, it might work. But then, I have to decide if I want to dwell in that or get on with my life, this is a personal decision.
By choice, I prefer happiness.
Accepting things the way they are, is the way to bliss, laughing or crying if it’s the emotion of the moment. Being in touch with my feelings, keeping my senses awake, is a form of meditation. Living every moment because there is always something else that will happen.This is our life and we are constantly changing as well. To me, it’s getting used to the idea that everything passes not trying to hold on to anything.