Arts Desk

Meet All-Female Go-Go Band Be’la Dona


Last year, the all-female Be’la Dona won the WKYS Go-Go Award for best up-and-coming group. Arts Desk recently got in touch with bandleader Cherie Mitchell, who also sings with Chuck Brown, and we discussed, via e-mail, the group’s history and its upcoming plans, as well as the legacy of the all-women go-go group Pleasure and Be'la Dona's signature "sexual crank" sound. Read Mitchell's responses, occasionally in the third person, after the jump:

Washington City Paper: When did the group form?
Cherie Mitchell: The band officially formed together in approximately November 2008. The rhythm section of the band has performed at Posh Restaurant once a month since Sept 2008 for a showcase called "R&B Live DC," opening up and backing up artists such as Marsha Ambrosius, Howard Hewitt, Chuck Brown, and Case. After that, our first public gig as a whole (all seven pieces) debuted at yhe Cardinal's Nest, in Northeast D.C., in November hosted by Cold Blaze Promotions.

WCP: Have any of you played in other bands before?

CM: Cherie currently performs with Chuck Brown and Nile Rodgers and Chic. She has also toured with Pieces of a Dream, Stephanie Mills, Howard Hewitt, Phil Perry, Maysa Leak, Jean Carne, EU, and Maiesha and the Hiphuggers. Deanna Hawkins also performs with Musiq Soulchild. Genny Jam was a member of Pleasure Band. Karis Hill was a member of Soul Patrol. Sharli McQueen toured with Pras of the Fugees.

WCP: Are you self-taught musicians and singers or did you learn via lessons, church bands, school, or other go-go bands?

CM: The majority of the band attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts and received bachelor's degrees in music at Howard University and Bowie State. The majority are classically trained, while a few have been self-taught. Everyone in the band can read music and also have strong ears.  Each musician in the band has separate and strong backgrounds in gospel, jazz, R&B, and rock.

WCP: Are you familiar with go-go band Pleasure? Do you mind being compared to what I think was the last all-women D.C. go-go group?

CM: Yes, we are familiar with the group Pleasure. In fact, our guitar player Genny Jam is an original member. We don’t mind being compared to Pleasure nor do we mind being compared to Rare Essence, Suttle Thoughts, or Vybe. We do what we do and have fun doin' it!  In fact, people will naturally compare us to Pleasure, just because they were an all-female band, as well. We pay homage to them every show by performing one of their hits, and we enjoy it. We give credit where credit is due. They paved the way for us.

WCP: Do you just do go-go covers of R&B songs by others, or do you do some original songs as well?

CM: For now we perform R&B covers over a go-go beat. We also incorporate jazz, pop, and R&B selections in our first set without a go-go beat. Very soon, we will include our originals. Right now, we are just trying to get our foot in the door.

WCP: Are you reaching an older, "grown and sexy" go-go audience, or a younger one, or both?

CM: We cater to all age groups and demographics. We can do it all! We invented a new style of go-go, a step above grown and sexy, and we call it sensual crank.

WCP: Do you change your approach (different types of songs) depending on the audience?

CM: Absolutely.  In this town, we are basically a cover band and as a cover band, you have to cater to the crowd. We are versatile enough to play some Luther Vandross or Frankie Beverly or Aretha Franklin, if the crowd is 40 and over. We wouldn’t dare play that for a crowd 25 and younger. They prefer hot hits from the radio like Rihanna or Beyoncé
Before a performance, I (the music director) usually scope out the venue to determine which songs in our repertoire to choose. We have a ton of songs that generally work every time for any crowd setting, however, for our first set, I strategically select what i think the crowd would mostly enjoy and appreciate.

WCP: Do you have plans to record a CD and release it yourselves in 2010, or do you want to try to get signed to a label first that could help you?

CM: We do plan to have a cd out in 2010. Everyone in the band are writers and producers. As we speak, we are putting our heads together.

Be'la Dona performs every Thursday at La Fontaine Bleue, 7963 Annapolis Rd., Seabrook, Md. (301) 731-6658.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Pingback: The Wammies: Are Good Performances and Good Intentions Good Enough? - Arts Desk - Washington City Paper

  • Doris McMillon

    How do we reach Bela Dona to book them?

  • phughes

    i have the (CASSETT) tape of little benny down lorton fair, he did back in (89) ome of the most classic moment of him doing what he love to do. I never shared that tpae, so it always remained new, the city needs to here (LITTLE BENNY) i will take it to pa palace to burn into cd for everyone,I DID MY TIME OFF BENNY, YOU REST IN PEACE- NEXT TO CHUCK THERE'S BENNY

  • Tina

    What this band is describing is one of the main problems with go-go today - they're nothing more than a cover band with some extra percussion. That's not really go-go and that's why a lot of these young bands are passing fads that no one will remember.

    Listening to back in the day music from bands like RE, Benny, Chuck, and Junkyard can still hype a crowd 20 years later because they played their own music, even when they threw in a few covers. The original stuff is what we remember.

  • Bennie

    I can think back one time when my daughter came to me and said daddy it is a man down that street that has the same name as you. I said he do and then I asked her what is his name and she said Lil Benny. I told her that I know him. She said no your don't, she go on to say that he is her friend uncle and he play in a band I said boo I do know him. So we got in the car and went down the street to see him and when we saw each other he said Bennie and I said Benny. My daughter was the happiest girl in the world. Lil Benny I'll miss you all the days of my life PEACE my brother. He always put smiles on people faces. :)

  • dcroyalty

    They look like a really diverse set of women, that's unique enough. Love the grown & sexy representation!

  • Charlese Jennings

    I have to say that I am thoroughly taken with the talents of these women. Especially my girl, Cherie. It has been a pleasure watching her with Chuck and introducing me to Be'la Dona. The energy in each performance is amazing. I was especially impressed when I saw Cherie perform with all three bands at the cook- off the summer of 2009. The soft spirit and acknowledgemnet of her fans is beyond words. I had the pleasure of meeting her parents there and her husband withen my agency had the Dance D.C. Festival in 2008. She is always warm and receptive. I am so happy for her success as well as her new life as a mother. You know I love you girl and everyone you play with.

  • jason washington

    Yall sound so good lastnight u got me lookin 4 yalls regular stops. I really enjoyed yalls performance. Ill be lookin to see yall soon. I met yall after the show and yall are very grown and sexy. That's my type of party. I was tryin to c yall after the awards but my peeps was tryin to c junk. I rather saw yall beautil ladys. If u can hit me back with yalls regular spots. Keep on doin wat yall doin! I think yall changed the game 4 women n gogo.

  • Sonia M. Dawson

    I've never heard your music. But wow a new gerneration of an all female go go group! I know you sound really nice!

  • Al Alford

    Good Afternoon -

    We are in the process of brining our Cognac brand to the Washington DC area. We are going to have Kim Waters headlining a Jazz/RB Venue in the National Harbor on 17 September and would like to discuss with Be'La Dona agent the potential for them being an opening act for our show and product introduction. Please contact me at the email address above!! Thank you and I assure you this is not prank!!