A Beautiful Mashup of Talent: Sehrea N’Dayu’s Junior Recital

By Reggie Goudeau

Sehréa N’dayu (she/they) astounded audience members with a creative, healing, and engaging performance at Oberlin’s Cat in the Cream on March 9th. 

Opening with “The Siren Song,” pianist Leo Wurgaft played a beautiful melody with guitarist Archer Parks before N’dayu and the other vocalists approached the stage. These “sirens” included Gabi Allemana, Mariah Leotopoulou-Cochran, Gillian Piper, and Ruby Laks. Each held a rose and sounded angelic, chanting in various harmonies. The vocalists’ varying harmonies effectively conveyed how this is a serenade, and the sirens succeeded in entrapping the audience. 

After their initial vocals, she continued singing alone, as bassist Nathaniel Coben and drummer Max Grossman joined her alongside the previous two instrumentalists. This led to a beautiful crescendo as each band member played their heart out, before the previous four vocalists rejoined them. The sirens then joined N’dayu to repeat the phrase, “I’ll never let you go,” a beautiful yet ominous sentiment. This continued until only the vocalist and Wurgaft were left to perform as they reiterated “Come to me” in several high and low registers. Finally, the siren’s rejoined them to repeat the previous phrase, as Wurgaft and Grossman masterfully closed the tune. 

“Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” featured Abe Gould on piano, Mitchell Galligan on bass, Laks on Drums, and Kurton Harrison III on trumpet. For this more jazz-oriented piece, Harrison was easily the highlight, as his energetic performance and undeniable swagger wowed everyone in attendance. His bombastic, boastful trumpet playing especially accompanied N’dayu’s smooth scatting. 

“Invitation” featured the same lineup as the previous song. Here, N’dayu particularly starstruck audience members with their ability to hold a note and almost endlessly continue a rhythm. Furthermore, the previous song’s bandmates each leveled up for this moment, especially Gould and Harrison. 

“Ocean Blue,” featured N’dayu alongside Coben with a more R&B-styled selection reminiscent of SZA and Erykah Badu. This was also unique since N’dayu was both the vocalist and pianist. Her improvisational talent was more than useful for this instrument. 

This performance ended poetically with the unfinished song “Pick Up the Pieces,” featuring N’dayu and two members of her band, MNGLW (MoonGlow), Coben and Grossman. Both had notable moments individually and with N’dayu. At the end, she had the audience repeat her scatting noises, before concluding with more vocalizing as her bandmates returned. 

N’dayu and their many collaborators cultivated a beautiful show that would be hard for anyone but this group to replicate. From the jazz influences present in many songs, to the breaks between when she checked in with audience members, this production was uniquely Sehréa, and uniquely Oberlin.

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