From the Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse comparisons, Joy Crookes is an old soul bringing new life through her original compositions. Her velvet voice melts us, leaving us hanging on to every word. I took some time this past week to go on a listening journey of Joy Crookes’s work.
Firstly, my listening journey started off with her cover of “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles. I was captivated by her vocals at the 0.25 mark of the video when she started singing. “Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back No more, no more, no more, no more.” There is something special about a 1962 classic being performed with a modern-day twist as a cover. From the start of Crookes’ musical journey, I could see themes of blending nostalgia with a modern touch.
Secondly, my listening journey continued with Crookes’ “Sinatra,” which is her second single off of her “Influence” EP. The track is a blend of a couple of genres, most notably soul and trip-hop. The music video showcases how addicted an individual can be to another person even if they are not right for them. Lyrics like, “My feet don’t move when I’m halfway out the door,” truly showcase this feeling. The most magical part of this track, in my opinion, is the build-up of the post-chorus. “And the rain keeps falling to your sound, and all I wanna do is say now.”
Thirdly, Crookes continues to be a role model for vocalists around the world and an example to strive for on her EP “Reminiscence.” In her song “Don’t Let Me Down,” we see Crookes’ vocals shine throughout the track over the background instrumentation of an electric guitar. The project was inspired by Crookes’ first trip to Bangladesh. Crookes was born in South London and also wanted to showcase her dual identity of being of Bangladeshi and Irish descent.
I’m a Bangladeshi- Irish, South London born musician. I pay homage to MY culture in the Don’t Let Me Down music video and hope that other lil Desi girls will pick up their guitars, paintbrushes, voices and go and do what they feel they have to do too https://t.co/kIiX2FDqBbpic.twitter.com/vJCxCbXFVz
Fourthly, on Crookes’ song “Since I Left You (Demo)” from her “Perception” EP, we hear a beautiful ballad about what it is like to be taken advantage of in a relationship. With lyrics like, “You dined on my demons when I was just seeking, For someone who I could call home,” we continue to see Crookes talk about intimate relationships. What I love about this track is that it is centered around minimalism putting an emphasis on her vocal capability.
In conclusion, my listening journey ended by diving into Crookes’ debut album “Skin.” I specifically wanted to touch upon the track “19th Floor,” as it showcases a great sense of representation. “Doing like my Nani, 70s steez Cardamom stain my teeth I see the things you’ve seen, but you don’t speak, You’re leaving traces, Like I picked up a parcel handed down through generations.” We truly see that there are very few South Asian artists in the music industry. Ultimately, I feel that Crookes’ music is timeless. It will stand the test of time, pushing South Asian artists forward in this highly competitive landscape.
Throughout my listening journey of Crookes’ projects, I fully immersed myself in her themes of self-reliance and one’s own culture. Her music is reminiscent of early Jazz singers from the 1920s and 1930s, purely based on her vocal capabilities. Comments sections around the world hope for her tracks to end up on a James Bond movie soundtracks. Crookes continues to showcase brown excellence through her compositions and iconic soundscapes. Hope to see Crookes take a well-deserved break as she just dropped her debut album “Skin” this past October. Libras taking over!
Sustainable development practices can be utilized as a model for addressing gender inequities worldwide. Empowering women with the resources to gain opportunities, learn skills and collaborate in a safe and welcoming environment is crucial to women’s growth and development as individuals.
After witnessing the first-hand effects of gender-based violence growing up in Guyana, Menakshi Babulall founded the Canadian nonprofit A Different View Project (ADVP) to promote and implement sustainable development methods across Guyanese communities. Vaksana, which means “nourishing/refreshing” in Sanskrit, is a branch of ADVP exclusively aimed at developing Guyana’s first eco-friendly women’s retreat center. The retreat will offer wellness activities, training services, regenerative farming and community outreach programs.
Babulall was inspired by Guyana’s rich rugged beauty as a child. Her dual passion for preserving the environment and aiding underserved communities contributed to her studying International Development at Toronto’s York University before launching a public service career. This eventually led her focus back to Guyana. Babulall talks to BG about her journey as the founder of ADVP, the progress of Vaksana and her perspective on sustainable and ethical charity work.
How and when did you create ADVP?
“ADVP was founded in 2016 with the vision of empowering communities and fostering sustainable development. The idea stemmed from my desire to create an organization that could address pressing social and environmental issues through innovative and collaborative approaches. One thing that fills me with immense pride is ADVP’s unique ability to bring together diverse stakeholders, including those from the diaspora, to create impactful projects that make a tangible difference in people’s lives while also providing them with an opportunity to connect with their homeland.”
ADVP has worked on projects within Guyana’s fertile Pomeroon-Supenaam region, a vast expanse of hills and villages that dot the Essequibo Coast. Past projectsinclude building a centralized outdoor recreation space for families and facilitating peer tutoring groups for children affected by COVID-related school closures. They also engage with the children of Queenstown Village through storytelling and interactive activities to nurture their passion for the environment. Overall, the focus of ADVP’s projects is geared toward education and sustainability while developing meaningful and positive relationships with the local community.
Babulall’s remigration to Guyana during the pandemic to oversee Vaksana was a humbling experience. Living in rural Guyana allowed her to witness the benefits that wellness and eco-tourism can bring to a community, but also highlighted entrenched socio-economic struggles. It heightened her senses of resilience, adaptability and empathy; all key facets she believed essential to an effective leader. She soon realized the importance of cementing Vaksana as a catalyst for positive change in the region, particularly as a safe haven for women and gender non-conforming individuals who may face discrimination.
“The idea of Vaksana was born out of extensive research and a deep-rooted passion for creating a transformative space that combines wellness, eco-tourism and community development. The journey began with a vision to create a place where individuals could experience holistic well-being, connect with nature and promote sustainable living.
Vaksana’s foundation is built on three essential elements: tourism, community outreach and regenerative farming/agriculture. These elements were thoughtfully chosen to ensure a holistic approach to personal growth, community empowerment and environmental stewardship. By integrating these pillars, Vaksana becomes a powerful force for positive impact, both within the retreat center and the wider community.”
Vaksana is an ode to Babulall’s Indian heritage that was originally displaced and irrevocably transformed upon arrival to the Caribbean. Like its namesake, individuals have the opportunity to reclaim and reinvigorate themselves. Future plans for Vaksana include a kitchen/restaurant alongside sustainable farming, a workshop/training facility and a multipurpose room offering wellness classes such as meditation and yoga in consultation with a behavioral psychologist and holistic therapist. Collaborations with local businesses and partnership with the University of Guyana ensures that Guyanese citizens are actively involved in every aspect of the project, providing employment opportunities and allowing them to take on leadership roles.
What is the current progress of Vaksana, and where do you hope to see the project in one year?
“As of now, Vaksana is in an exciting phase of planning and development. We have made significant strides in securing the land and are eagerly awaiting the approval of the lease for our carefully chosen site. Our dedicated team is diligently working on the architectural design and construction plans to bring our vision to life.
In one year, we envision Vaksana having completed its initial construction phase, with the retreat center standing proudly amidst the natural beauty of Guyana. We anticipate being fully prepared to open our doors and welcome our first guests to experience the transformative journey that Vaksana offers.”
Babulall believes in transparency regarding the difficulties faced with running a non-governmental organization. She has overcome several obstacles such as limited resources and bureaucratic hurdles by seeking collaborations, leveraging available resources and engaging in open dialogue with members of the community.
When asked about the misconceptions of running an NGO, she replied, “Many NGOs actually strive for financial independence by implementing income-generating initiatives and fostering partnerships that create long-term sustainability. Another misconception is that NGOs are not as efficient or effective as for-profit organizations. In reality, NGOs often have lower administrative costs and are driven by a strong sense of purpose and commitment.”
She also disagreed with the belief that NGOs only focus on aid/handouts and says, “Many NGOs prioritize community-driven development approaches, working with local stakeholders to identify their needs/strengths and supporting capacity-building initiatives that enable communities to thrive independently.”
By debunking these perceptions, NGOs such as ADVP can continue to attract like-minded individuals to participate in the diverse work they undertake to address social challenges and advance a more equitable future.
How would you suggest those get involved in ethical public sector/charity work?
“I would recommend starting by identifying your passions and areas of interest. Research and connect with organizations that align with your values and goals. Volunteer your time, skills or resources to make a tangible impact. Stay informed about social and environmental issues and advocate for positive change. Collaboration and learning from others in the field are also crucial for personal and professional growth.”
What is your ultimate goal and future plans for ADVP and Vaksana?
“My ultimate goal is to continue building ADVP as a leading organization in sustainable community development, promoting social and environmental justice. With Vaksana, we aim to establish a renowned wellness and eco-retreat center that serves as a model for sustainable tourism, community empowerment and holistic well-being. We envision expanding our impact, fostering collaborations and creating positive change at both local and global levels.”
Guyana’s raw and authentic lifestyle has left a profound impact on Babullal as an individual and a leader. While embarking on the Vaksana project has not been without roadblocks, she is grateful to have gained the strength to confront difficult realities head-on in hopes of creating a safe place for individuals to learn and flourish. She has found contentment in the beauty of Guyana’s lush surroundings and hopes that others find its premise rejuvenating and inspirational.
To learn more about ADVP visit their website here or follow them on Instagram.
To donate to the Vaksana project, visit their GoFundMe page.
Featured Image: Menakshi Babulall | Photo Courtesy of Menakshi Babulall