This artist-activist couple opens their home to local musicians
March 08, 2016 at 9:23 am
On Tuesday, Vibe took us on a journey through Umi Selah and Aja Monet’s home in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami. Selah, an activist and musician, and Monet, a poet and educator, had a dream to have a studio within their humble home and with the support from one another, their idea has taken a life of its own and transformed into a musical movement.
Monet moved from New York City to Miami to help Selah set-up Smoke Signals Studio and offer support while he worked with the community group The Dream Defenders. Soon their two-bedroom home went from an ordinary dwelling to an extraordinary space where creatives can be inspired by and work to their heart’s content.
Inside of the home studio you will find: walls covered with vintage vinyl covers, works from local artists, a soundproof recording room, a space to brainstorm and chill, a kitchen, and a stage in the backyard for artists ready to perform live.
“Your home is a very intimate place…It’s a place where, to a larger degree, you can control the vibe and create a culture. We wanted that for the studio space. It’s a community studio space where we believe really powerful things can happen and most of those things happen around the kitchen table or in a home environment. It’s actually a really cool place,” Selah told Vibe.
Although the studio has not officially opened to the public at this time, last week the couple had their first communal visit for Smoke Signal Studio and encouraged those who attended to explore their space and tap into their creative side. Well-known artists like David Banner and Vic Mensa visited their space as well. Banner even let them listen to some of his unreleased music from his upcoming album The God Box.
With the couple offering so much to potential strangers it leaves some questioning why they would be so generous? Selah and Monet are genuinely interested in being able to provide an open space for creatives to express themselves while adding the chain of community growth.
“One of the things we want to do is transform the value system… So how do you do that? For every hour that someone spends in this studio to record to make music, we hope for them to give an equal amount of time doing radical, political education or giving a training or workshop to other folks with the same skill set that they can provide. Let’s say you’re a really good guitar player, and you’re here for an hour to use the studio. You could give an hour of guitar lessons to the community or to our young people.”
Overall, Smoke Signals Studio is more than just your traditional studio. It’s a combination of a lifestyle, a movement and link to advance the community creatively and socially.