R&B singer Deja Belle has found personal harmony with a family move to Pittsboro
When we asked local singer/songwriter Deja Belle for a list of holiday songs that reflect her music and her influences, she picked a list of eclectic tunes by a wide range of African American artists, from Sarah Vaughan to OutKast, a selection that we’ve already added to our holiday playlist (and you should, too! See the sidebar at right for her recommendations). But after a topsy-turvy year that ended with Deja and her family finding their way to Pittsboro, the traditional favorite “Home for the Holidays” might have been a good fit.
“Pittsboro seems like a perfect place for what we like to do,” says Deja, whose real name is Edith McCaskill. She and her husband, Mati McCaskill, who produces Deja’s music under the name Matty the Chef, and their daughter, Selima, 9, moved to a farm just outside Pittsboro this past summer. “The artist aspect, and the sustainable homesteading, they all meet here.”
Deja spent a decade as an R&B singer living in Washington, D.C. and has toured with Regina Belle (no relation) and released several albums, including her latest, “U.N.I.” But the intrigue of living a more sustainable lifestyle inspired the family to move to North Carolina a little more than a year ago. They initially landed in High Point, though the city didn’t quite feel like home.
At a meeting aimed at black families interested in agriculture, they met Pittsboro native Malcolm Henry, a longtime activist in local sustainable farming circles.
“He was telling us about Pittsboro and how he needed some help,” Deja says. “We came here to volunteer and began to think about a community homestead that we want to put together.
“Since moving here, so much has opened up,” Deja says.
An early bright spot, she says, was homeschooling Selima and finding Homeschoolers of Color, a local support group run by another Pittsboro parent, Louise Omoto Kessel. The group often meets at Louise’s Clapping Hands Farm, where Deja has found an opportunity to put her musical talents to good use.
“She’s one of those people that, as soon as she arrived, you could tell she was a good fit,” Louise says. “Our program is about
the outdoors and art [and] supports a lot of kids, some of whom are high need, and she’s really tuned into our kids.”
On a recent afternoon, Louise asked if anyone might have a thought to add, or even a quick song. She threw an extra glance at Deja.
“I sang ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone,” Deja says. “After being out in nature all day for camp and truly enjoying the experience, singing that song just felt right.”
“She just blew us away,” Louise says
Deja’s Holiday Playlist
“Misty” – Sarah Vaughan – “Misty” is one of the first jazz songs that I fell in love with. I love how it wraps you in a warm blanket of orchestral sounds from the moment the record starts playing. Plus, the lyrics are heartfelt, and Sarah’s vocal performance is sheer perfection.
“Player’s Ball (Christmas Version)” – OutKast
“Winter in America” – Gil Scott-Heron – I love how Gil Scott-Heron uses winter as a metaphor to describe the cold and harsh reality black Americans were facing in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, the socio-political messages in his music are still relevant today.
“Stormy Weather” – Etta James
“The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole – Although I personally don’t celebrate Christmas, Nat King Cole’s song is undeniably one of my favorite holiday tunes.
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