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For Ndegeocello, Bass Is 'Foundation and Groove'

Since 1993, Meshell Ndegeocello has released five critically acclaimed albums featuring socially provocative lyrics driven by a solid groove. On her latest CD, Ndegeocello leaves her husky vocals behind and lets her bass guitar form the centerpiece of a new sound.

"If you want foundation and groove, I'm the bass player for you," she tells Felix Contreras. "I don't want to solo, I want to create a space and bed for others to do what they do."

The 37-year-old Ndegeocello (whose self-determined surname means "free as a bird" in Swahili) grew up listening to music ranging from Stevie Wonder to Rush. Her own musical style has never been predictable, and she's not easily pegged to one genre. Her latest album, Dance of the Infidel, has been called jazz.

The album is also new territory for Ndegeocello in that it's not a solo effort. She performs with a group called Spirit Music Jamia. But Dance of the Infidel does not necessarily signal a change in course; Ndegeocello plans to record another pop vocal album in the fall.

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MusicMorning Edition
Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.