Drea D’Nur’s Divine Mission

Matt Bauer/Entertainment Editor

by Matt Bauer

Calling Drea d’Nur a renaissance woman is a vast understatement. The Buffalo-born singer, songwriter, filmmaker, and community activist has been on a divine mission with her multimedia stage show “The Spirit Of Nina” and its offshoot “Dear Nina” to celebrate, give gratitude to and manifest the spirit of the incomparable Nina Simone.

“I first heard her s o n g “Strange Fruit” and I was very moved by her sound and her ability to bring the words to life,” explains d‘Nur of her first encounter with Simone‘s music. “I felt that I could see the image of the words in the way that she delivered. I felt a deep connection to her because as a singer my strength is in moving people so she was the first person I could really relate to.”

That connection has evolved into a spiritual , and you might even say, preordained voyage that has taken the nickel citybased mother of five on three European tours and has also seen d’Nur emerge as a film director (she’s helmed 2 of a projected 10 short documentaries on Nina) stage producer, artist with counsel from Simone herself.

“People think I’m crazy but I know that I saw her in a dream and she was kind of floating and staring at me but I could here her talking and she walked me through this entire process. I have a painting of her that sits on my piano so I see her when I practice. I have a painting of her home on my wall. So she’s all around me. I don’t need anybody to tell me that they understand why I’m doing this. I know this is what Nina wants me to do and that assurance allows me to move forward with a sense of confidence but also a sense of grace because I know I’m doing it for her. She’s my ancestor, she’s my spirit guide.” Simone’s uncompromising life has also informed d’Nur’s community activism and her idea of art as a force for social change.

She basically sacrificed, if you will, the image of success in order to sing protest music and some of her songs like “Four Women,” Mississippi Goddamn” were banned from the radio at a time that she was highly in demand and that hurt her career. Ultimately she left America because of the injustices, especially when they killed Dr. King. She was doing well musically but she sacrificed everything to use her voice to speak about what was happening to Black people at the time. As an artist, it is an artist’s duty to reflect the time. You should be reflecting what’s happening at the time and painting about it and writing about it at all costs because art has a way of speaking up for injustices in a way that no other entity is able to do.

“Also I learned the power of community coming together. In order for her to take her piano lessons the whole community came to pay for those lessons in a time that the community was highly segregated. I actually went to her hometown last year and I developed a relationship with a man that knows everything about her .I did a documentary there and went to her home, just knowing how the community operated, how small it was and how segregated it was it still came together because of her heart. She was so professional as a classical pianist that they believed in her. We need to look to our children and set aside our differences.”

A sense of community and a thank you to Simone was definitely fostered recently at the Albright-Knox Gallery with “Dear Nina” which featured d’Nur accompanied by a string ensemble from Rootstock Republic which paid homage to Simone’s roots in classical music and black excellence. “It was very intimate, you could hear a pin drop almost •West African Drumming Ensemble with Diaspora Drum and Dance, Tuesday, April 10, 7:30 p.m. Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave. Tickets available Rockwell hall, 2nd Floor or by phone 878-3005 Drea d’Nur ‘s Divine Mission through the entire night. There were two standing ovations. I did “Ne Me Quitte Pas” for the first time, it went over very well. We did “Wild Is The Wind” and “Strange Fruit” with dancer Jessica Hutchison (Buffalo-born) who did an interpretive dance.”

A sense of community and a thank you to Simone was definitely fostered recently at the Albright-Knox Gallery with “Dear Nina” which featured d’Nur accompanied by a string ensemble from Rootstock Republic which paid homage to Simone’s roots in classical music and black excellence. “It was very intimate, you could hear a pin drop almost •West African Drumming Ensemble with Diaspora Drum and Dance, Tuesday, April 10, 7:30 p.m. Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave. Tickets available Rockwell hall, 2nd Floor or by phone 878-3005 Drea d’Nur ‘s Divine Mission through the entire night. There were two standing ovations. I did “Ne Me Quitte Pas” for the first time, it went over very well. We did “Wild Is The Wind” and “Strange Fruit” with dancer Jessica Hutchison (Buffalo-born) who did an interpretive dance.

Drea will be releasing new music within the next three months which will include short stories to accompany the music. “I have a passion for telling stories,” she says. If Drea d’Nur’s life thus far, is any indication, she’ll certainly have many more chapters to share.