Ittakes a certain amount of chutzpah for an artist to go by a singlename. Often those who do go the one-name-only route become legends, orat the very least, have unwieldy surnames. Think about it. There's Madonna, Prince, Cher, and even relative newcomers like Dido. You may want to add Waynato that list, since she wisely decided to go by her first name ratherthan attempting to squeeze "Wayna Wondwossen" on CD cover.
Who's Wayna, you ask? She's an Ethiopian-born singer-songwriter who started performing at a young age in Annie and Damn Yankees (the musical, not the '90s "supergroup" featuring Ted Nugent and those dudes from Styx and Night Ranger.)
Now a full-grown woman, Wayna recently received a Grammy nomination for best urban/alternative performance for her take on Minnie Riperton's 1975 classic "Lovin' You." You may know the song from American Idol. It's one of those numbers that the would-be Idolsusually butcher, leaving Randy Jackson to say something like, "Wrongsong, dog!!!! That's the sort of classic that you shouldn't touch!!!!"
If Wayna was on American Idol,though, I don't think Randy or even Simon Cowell would make such acomment--because the girl can tear that song up. She's switched thingsup by adding a hip-hop beat, additional lyrics, and backing vocals andbeat-boxing by the similarly single-named Kokayi. She also cleverlydropped the apostrophe and added the parenthetical word "music" to it,effectively renaming the song "Lovin You (Music)." After watching herperform, Paula Abdulwould probably say something like, "Wayna, you're so beautiful and youreally have this glow about you...I really like how you took that songand made it your own with your own style. And you're so beautiful!!!!Did I mention you're beautiful!!!!!????"
As Randy might say, "Check out this video performance, dog." And after that, take a listen to the studio version.
Don'tget the wrong idea about Wayna from "Lovin You." She's not just a coverqueen; she's a songwriter in her own right who aims to touch listenerswith her own stories that are unique yet universal. Or at least that'swhat she told MyAfricanDiaspora.com.Check it out. "I would like people to see that the stories that wethink are unique to us are a lot more universal than they feel," shesaid. "I thought my own experience was unique--I felt very different,but found that people of all races and backgrounds related to my storyand it made me feel a lot less alone."
You can hear and seeWayna's own words in the brief interview below. Wayna visited Yahoo!Music headquarters during Grammy week and Hip Hop Media Training blogger Billy Johnson, Jr. was there to interview her in the flesh.
Here's Wayna's video for "My Love." Although there are 1,376recordings with that title--not including"MyLove4ULivesOnSix2Night"--according to the All Music Guide, this isan original written by the divine Ms. Wondwossen. Check it out below.
Both "My Love" and "Lovin You (Music)" are included on Wayna's second album, Higher Ground, a title that was inspired by a Stevie Wonder song. Seems that Wayna and the Motown legend have a mutual admiration thing going on.
Waynahas a new EP in the works, but in the meantime, I'm wondering if youthink she's is a worthy addition to the pantheon of greatsingular-named performers.