Peace of Mind: The Como Mamas’ Angelia Taylor talks Faith, France and Fame ahead of 2018 Double Decker Arts Festival
World-traveling gospel trio the Como Mamas will be lighting up the Double Decker stage at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 28.
The Como Mamas are sisters Angelia Taylor and Della Daniels, and their cousin Ester Mae Smith. Born and raised in nearby Como, Miss. in Panola County, the Mamas are known for their rich harmonies and a capella song choices. They may sing traditional songs they grew up hearing in church, but their voices have resonated across the world since they were discovered in 2005.
The Como Mamas come from a long line of singers. Their grandfather, Miles Pratcher, was an old-school blues singer. In 1959, legendary folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Pratcher and his brother Bob, playing and singing North Mississippi Hill Country-style songs on the front porch of the family’s home place.
Decades later, documentarian Michael Reilly came down to Como from New York to film local musicians, many whom, like the Como Mamas, were descendants of blues forebears. While visiting Taylor’s home to hear her son Kevin rap, Daniels and Taylor let it slip that they could sing, and Reilly insisted the women sing him a tune. They agreed and sang a number by Shirley Caesar, and the only thing Reilly could say was, “Wow.”
“I sat there and thought to myself, ‘Oh, my God, what have I done?’ I still feel like I’d done something wrong, because this is my child I’m trying to help here,” Taylor said. “[Reilly] was so amazed at our voices.”
The two sisters called Smith to bring some material she had from their grandfather’s encounter with Lomax, she joined in and the rest is history.
Today, the Como Mamas are part of the Daptone Records family, have two albums and have traveled across the globe sharing their gift to all who will listen.
It’s something Taylor, whose deep voice rounds out the trio, said she never would have imagined as a child, attending West Side Church of Christ with her father and joining her sister and cousin at their mother’s church, Mount Mariah CME.
“Della always wanted to be a person that sang and was a star. But me, I never really thought I’d be doing something like this,” she said. “Now that I am, I’m so grateful and so humble that God chose me to do this, because I know this don’t happen every day.”
The Como Mamas have played in France, the UK, Poland, Canada and a slough of venues in the United States. They started out going to New Orleans once a year, then twice, and then, Taylor said, “it just kept on going.”
Sharing the gospel with people who don’t understand their language or call themselves Christians is something Taylor said she feels anointed by God to do.
“I’m more of the quiet, meek one of the group, but when I get onstage in front of all those people, it’s like God just comes to me,” she said. “The song I sing is ‘Peace of Mind.’ When we’re onstage I have to let them know that, like the song says, ‘I’ve got joy that I never could find. I’ve got love that lasts, and life cannot be so bad.’”
After singing “Peace of Mind” to a 500-person congregation in France, Taylor said, she got a standing ovation.
Her favorite performance, however, was at the world-renowned Apollo Theatre in New York City. Growing up watching Showtime at the Apollo, Taylor said she knew the notoriously tough crowd would let the Mamas know exactly what they thought of their music, whether their reaction was good or bad.
The trio performed at the Apollo Theatre in 2015 as part of the Daptone Records Super Soul Revue. They were the first to go onstage and a last-minute technical difficulty meant they had to sing a capella, but Taylor said she still had a good feeling walking out and facing a sold-out crowd.
“Out of all the places I’ve been, the Apollo was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. We got a standing ovation, too,” she said. “Even now, when I watch Apollo I get this feeling inside like I just want to cry. Here I am, a woman from Como, Miss., and to know I’ve been on that same stage is amazing.”
While their fame is growing to international proportions, people passing Taylor, Daniels or Smith around town treat them the same as they always have. It’s something Taylor said she prefers it that way, and reminds herself to stay humble in all things.
She also added that the ladies love to tell their story, because they’re living out their dreams, and hope they inspire and enable others to do the same.
“I want people to know I’m not doing this just for me. Nothing is worth doing if you can’t bring along somebody else,” she said. “I want to open doors for other people to share this moment, because it’s amazing to get on those stages and deliver my songs. For them to tell me, ‘I didn’t believe in God, but I think now I’m going to start to investigate this,’ that’s what makes it worth it.”
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