Nite Bjuti Documents the Breadth of Black Womanhood on Fully Improvised Debut Album

In 1945, a letter from Zora Neale Hurston to W.E.B. DuBois called for a new cemetery for notable Black artists and celebrities. The purpose was to ensure that the legacies of the “illustrious Negro dead” did not wane into obscurity. This idea resonates in Nite Bjuti’s eponymous album, but the trio’s resurrection of Black legacies goes beyond those who achieved fame. On Nite Bjuti (pronounced “night beauty”), vocalist Candice Hoyes, bassist Mimi Jones, and sound chemist Val Jeanty paint a narrative of Black womanhood with a broad brush, focusing on the depth and breadth of our experiences rather than on a single narrative that is thrust upon all Black women. Born from the perspectives of a community so often typecast into a finite existence, the entirely improvised album, released July 28 on Whirlwind Recordings, chronicles the multitudes within Black womanhood by drawing on rich cultural histories.

“Mood (Liberation Walk)” introduces us to the experience of Black womanhood through the seedlings of Black girlhood. The lyrics are a haunting deconstruction of the clapping game “Miss Mary Mack” against electro-percussion mimicking the sound of clapping. The recurring chant “fore the streetlights come on” stirs an impending narrative shift, which is confirmed by the closing phrase, “What’s the point of freedom if you don’t feel free? … as I jump into womanhood.”

Nite Bjuti (Val Jeanty, Candice Hoyes, and Mimi Jones) -- Photo by Maciek Jasik

Nite Bjuti (Val Jeanty, Candice Hoyes, and Mimi Jones) — Photo by Maciek Jasik

The track ends suddenly, and we’re immediately thrust into grappling with the many facets of Black womanhood for the remainder of the album. As such, art imitates life; the transition into “Stolen Voice” reflects the abrupt way in which Black girlhood prematurely turns into womanhood. Brushing up against topics like love, sexuality, and vulnerability, “Stolen Voice” illuminates the throughline that often connects girlhood and womanhood: being seen and not heard. But in this sonic oasis cultivated by and for Black women, Hoyes’ voice is heard in all its multitudes. While airy whispers of electronics and a sparse bassline ground the piece, Hoyes oscillates between crooning and guttural, touching everything in between.

Throughout the album, the space between extremes leaves room for the individuality and specificity of each musician’s improvisatory voice. One minute, they’re experimenting with metallic and futuristic sounds paired with chants (“Silk Asteroids”), while the next they’re drawing inspiration from Haitian rhythms and folklore (“Singing Bones”). Both tracks share a quality of transcendence while adopting divergent sources of inspiration — one imagines the sounds of an Afrofuturist world, while the other tugs the sonic identity of ancestral societies.

As listeners, we are immersed in the juxtaposition of it all. Jeanty’s far-reaching percussion repertoire is the epitome of “jazz adventurism,” as the ensemble so aptly calls the project. The blend of electronics with the nakedness of acoustic percussion creates a culturally expansive sound that allows for the free expression of a breadth of emotions, once kept silent and subdued. In “Witchez,” it allows the ensemble to lean into storytelling rooted in taboo topics such as death, magic, and vodoun (an African diasporic religion that translates to “spirit” in many languages). Jones grounds the piece by bowing a drone so filled with tension that its sound periodically falters. This depth contrasts with her wiry harmonics and the quiet, metallic clang of Jeanty’s cymbals that hang unobtrusively under Hoyes’ voice.

Nite Bjuti (Candice Hoyes, Val Jeanty, and Mimi Jones)

Nite Bjuti (Candice Hoyes, Val Jeanty, and Mimi Jones)

Inspired in part by photographer Carrie Mae Weems’ Kitchen Table Series (1990), the trio cultivates an air of sisterhood and invites the listener to be part of the process. “Airy Thoughts” is 18 seconds of dialogue in which the trio discusses the musical direction of one of the improvisations, evoking the same feelings of connection fostered by clapping games like “Miss Mary Mack.” This joy of belonging later fills Jones’ bouncy electric bass line and Hoyes’ untethered romantic declarations on “Soursop.”

Nite Bjuti transcends genre while incorporating the spirituality of ancestral connection, and ensuring that those connections have a place in our future. The trio’s unwavering commitment to preserving diasporic musical traditions bolsters their ability to convey the complexity of Black culture and the myriad experiences within it. While tackling the seemingly insurmountable task of telling the story of Black womanhood, Nite Bjuti takes the limited narratives imposed on Black women and finds the entire world in a grain of sand.

I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, and is made possible thanks to generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF.

You can support the work of ICIYL with a tax-deductible gift to ACF. For more on ACF, visit the “At ACF” section or