In-demand singer, songwriter and proud Asbury Parker Khadijah Mohammed teams with brother Talib at the front of The F.L.O.W. Show, the musical force that’s seducing new fans through a monthly residency at The Saint. (Photo by King Joseph Photography)
(Expanded from article originally published in the Asbury Park Press on June 19, 2015)
She’s performed at Giants Stadium with P. Diddy; sang before a London audience of 100,000 people with Lenny Kravitz; toured internationally with Dave Matthews, and shared a recording booth with Cissy Houston at the invitation of Luther Vandross. But even if Khadijah Mohammed has spent much of the past 25 years as a sought-after backup singer for some of the biggest arena-scale acts in the business, there’s no venue as important as anywhere she performs in any given moment…no song more exciting than the original music that she’s now sharing with the world…and no place like Asbury Park, the music-mad city where she and younger brother Talib grew up and eventually assembled the band known as The F.L.O.W. Show.
Growing up in a musically minded household headed by veteran West Side scene vocalist Melvin Chandler of The Fabulous Blenders, the two siblings — respectively numbers five and eight in a family of ten kids — applied that freewheeling middle-child energy to a project that’s gotten their formidable songwriting skills and musicianship noticed by an ever-widening base of fans and followers. In what’s become a monthly happening at downtown Asbury landmark The Saint — a residency that continues on Friday, June 26 — The F.L.O.W. (for Following the Light of the Word) purveys a tightly accomplished, ready-for-prime-time brand of groove-infused original music that ranges from party-starting persuasion to pure-pop poignancy. Chasing their own sure compositions with savvy covers from the likes of Gnarls Barkley and Rufus, the Mohammeds take turns tag-teaming at the main mic with singer Kindra “Rose” Brown and frequently featured vocalist Kareem Davis in a rotating arrangement that reinforces the “show” aspect of the evening. The core band of Jameison Ledonio (guitar), Devone Allison (keys), Deronne “Bash” Woodside (drums) and Mo Bass (need you ask?) keeps the train humming on schedule though numerous stylistic station stops, in a manner befitting their collective credits among the most in-demand session players out of NYC and Newark. Meanwhile, manager Joe “Flip” Wilson brings to bear the accrued wisdom and expertise of his tours as music director for Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.
According to the music pro who also answers to the nickname Kiki BoomBoom, it’s a project whose roots trace back to her childhood home; specifically to that time her father — whose conversion to Islam and status as respected imam in the community spurred his retirement from the secular music scene — overheard his then-shy seven year old daughter singing an Anita Baker song in her usual venue of performance, in front of the mirror.
“Bernice, we got one!” Khadijah recalls him calling out to her mother with a laugh. “From that point, he took an interest in my singing…he harmonized with me; trained my ear; introduced me to his friend Lenny Welch (the Asbury-bred crooner whose “Since I Fell For You” went all the way to Number Four in 1963), and kind of lived vicariously through my own music career.”
It’s a career that found the teenaged Khadijah gigging and recording with a group called Infinity; winning multiple competitions at the Apollo Theatre, and spending nights sleeping in the studio before heading back home to attend high school the next day. Another gig on the far fringes of the regional music scene — cleaning bathrooms and floors at such legendary Shore music clubs as The FastLane and The Green Parrot — found her impromptu vocals attracting notice (and encouragements like “never ever stop singing”) of music bookers and touring talent like her future employer Kravitz.
It wasn’t long before the girl from Bangs Avenue was living the life of a busy, New York-based singer for hire — but following Diddy’s decision to lay off all of his backing vocalists in the middle of a 2003 tour (“the road manager told me that if I could write as passionately as I sing, I’d have the career I wanted”), Khadijah made the hard choice to focus upon her own developing songsmith skills; regrouping with “baby brother” Talib back home in a city that was beginning to put forward an eclectic new generation of music makers.
“I’m so proud of my town,” says the frontwoman whose efforts to enhance her band’s live “F.L.O.W. and Friends” experience include the planned addition of a tap dancer and other talented guests. “It’s given me what I needed to make a life in music, and I’m looking to give Asbury some of what I saw out in the world.”