N'Kenge: Defying Gravity
International award-winning songstress N'Kenge has been heralded by The New York Times as "a classically trained diva that can stretch from Broadway to Pop, Soul, and Opera". Trained at both The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, N'Kenge's vocal and musical range spans 5 octaves and 11 languages.
N'Kenge made her Broadway debut in "Sondheim on Sondheim", and slayed the game on Broadway originating the role of Mary Wells in "Motown: The Musical", which garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Theater Album.
On June 20, 2016, Broadway Sings for Pride premiered its 6th anniversary benefit concert "Ovation" in New York City, at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. This milestone event was filled with singing (from pop to Broadway), stories, special celebrity guests, and more. The show honored Tyler Clementi Foundation and AIDS pioneer and activist Ruth Coker Burks. Broadway Sings for Pride is a multiple award-winning, non-for-profit organization that brings together Broadway talent, activists, and celebrities, to educate the public, raise awareness of the needs of LGBTQ+ youth, and support these young people, so that they may reach their full potential.
N'Kenge performed the song "Defying Gravity" during the benefit concert, where Shefik served as Videographer. "Defying Gravity" is the signature song from the musical "Wicked", composed by Stephen Schwartz, originally recorded by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. It is mostly a solo sung by the main character of the show, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West), with two small duets at the beginning and in the middle of the song between Elphaba and her friend Glinda, and a chorus part at the end in which the citizens of Oz sing.
The core to the song is that "Elphaba finds power through her own outsider status", which has universal appeal due to audiences rooting for outsiders. The piece begins with Elphaba and Glinda talking, then they slip into song, bickering in short sharp phrases that are reminiscent of how girls would argue in real life. At this point, the key signature is constantly shifting, creating a sense of unease. The song is in cut common time, but the duo rarely stick to the bar lines, often jumping in half way in a syncopated style. In the passage "I'm through with playing by the rules...", the song unusually contains an 11th interval.
The song builds on leitmotifs established earlier in the show, and then "raises the stakes" by lifting her voice up an octave and physically lifting her up on a cherry picker, embodying the first time the audience sees her as the Wicked Witch of the West. Due to the song's difficulty, it is achievable for a few and impossible for most, thereby making those who succeed outsiders by default.
Last Updated: October 8, 2022