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The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

50 years in music: Chaka Khan at the Luckman

Fine Arts Complex celebrates 30th Anniversary with pre-show interview
Gisselle Mauricio
Fans react to Chaka Khan performing at The Luckman on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024.

On Jan. 27, ten-time Grammy winner and activist Chaka Khan performed at Cal State LA’s Luckman Fine Arts Complex. Khan was inducted into the 2023 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year at the Barclays Center in New York City. This year, she celebrates her 50th anniversary in the music industry. The Luckman Fine Arts Complex also celebrated its 30th anniversary with a pre-show that featured an interview with Joel Flatow and Khan before she performed.

Joel Flatow, an executive for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) introduced Khan with some special words.

“I’m not gonna be working off of notes,” Flatow said. “This is a woman who has transcended the category, who has moved the needle of the world with music, with her humanity, with her unique, utterly singular voice and power.”  

A special overview video was presented that included artists like H.E.R., Whitney Huston, Stevie Wonder, and former First Lady Michelle Obama, who shared their thoughts and emotions toward Khan.

“Chaka took that mic, and she was the boss on the stage,”  R&B singer H.E.R. said. “She opens her mouth, and this powerful thing comes out. You just feel it, and you hear it and you know that’s Chaka.”

Applause filled the room as Flatow welcomed Khan on stage.

“I’m so honored to be here, and it’s rare that I get the opportunity to connect, you know, with my audience in another intimate kind of way. It’s all communication – an expression of love,” Khan said.

Khan shared her interest in knowing what the audience’s thoughts were when it came to the world today since there should have been a Q&A at the end of the pre-show but there was no time for one.

Two people are sitting in two chairs on a stage. One person is holding a mic and speaking. There is a table in between the two people and an audience in front of them.
Chaka Khan during a pre-concert interview at The Luckman on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (Gisselle Mauricio)

“This is some coo-coo [stuff] right now, and we – we have to do something, something has to be done. I’m wondering what ideas you guys have.”

She spoke about her activism with the Black Panther Party (BPP), which she joined in 1969. Her father had remarried to a civil-rights activist who encouraged Khan to speak up in rallies, and later was recruited by the BPP at the age of 14, stated The Guardian in an interview with Khan. 

In her time with the Black Panthers, she was also part of the Free Breakfast program, which helped feed thousands of children. During her time with the Black Panthers, she built strength through difficult life moments like when her friend Fred Hampton, a chairman for the Black Panther Party, was murdered in his bed.

“I thought about that, and that’s what made me decide to be another kind of warrior. If that’s at all possible,” she said. She exclaimed that her battle was for the younger generations.

Flatow then asked Khan about how she feels to see her fans unite because of her music. 

“I haven’t seen anything top this – a clip of some gig I think it might have been a DJ’s gig or something like that it was like a gazillion people there, and they were all singing either “Sweet thing” or “Ain’t Nobody,” you know the whole audience that was frick n frack powerful,” Khan said. “That was really powerful to me. If you witnessed that, I think you would’ve felt the electricity. I felt it.” 

Throughout the interview, Khan brought attention to the “spiritual power” and “alchemy of communication” and how music does this with people. She talked about how growing up with music and art in her house helped her blossom into the producer she is now.

“You can’t separate yourself from what you do, and it is very true. I am music. I am art. I am whatever I’m doing.”

Khan said that although she did not really have any musical idols, she was grateful to have been able to sing with Miles Davis, as her father lived to see her work with someone he loved musically. 

Flatow commented about his appreciation of her ability to not look back in life and dwell on things that are in the past.

“I don’t wallow in the mind, and I don’t deal with the past there’s nothing you do about it. It’s over. This day is over. The thing is that all we own is right now.” she said.

This isn’t something out of the ordinary for someone like Khan. She has been a strong advocate for mental health. 

“In 1999, she founded the Chaka Khan Foundation, whose mission is to educate, inspire, and empower women and children to reach their full potential,” stated on the Chaka Khan webpage.

The program includes different kinds of educational programs for women and children, especially those with unfortunate backgrounds and autism. With the relaunch of her foundation, she is bringing an even stronger focus on mental health and wellbeing. Khan said that her relationship with this cause came from her love for her nephew, who was diagnosed at a very young age with autism.

“He just began to talk, and It was like he went to bed, woke up one morning and he couldn’t. And he wouldn’t give any eye contact. It was like he was gone.” she remembered.

Khan said that she wanted to do something that can help other people who are going through this in her community and culture – that her accomplishments are “done with grace.”

“I like to think that what I’m doing is from God. We speak the language of the angels, and that’s enough for me,” Khan said.

Khan received a plaque for “artistic excellence, an unparalleled contribution that has forever shaped the music world” after the interview, according to the Luckman Fine Arts Complex. 

Khan later that night performed some of her greatest hits, such as “I’m Every Woman,” “Ain’t Nobody,” “Sweet Thing,” and “I Feel for You.” 

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    Jacqulyne CarterFeb 13, 2024 at 12:55 pm

    ❤️I luv U! Stay strong my Sis… U are definitely God’s child! The Universe awaits U!