Singer, songwriter and pianist Saleka Shyamalan returns to the stage at World Café Live.
Attendees of November 17’s World Café Live show with Saleka might not immediately recognize this when the Bucks County-based singer, songwriter and pianist sits down to play, but 2021 is a big year for Saleka Shyamalan. The daughter of Philly director and writer M. Night Shyamalan made her large-scale venue debut five years ago, as Saleka opened for Andra Day at a sold-out show at Ardmore Music Hall.
While Dad Shyamalan and the rest of the family stood in Ardmore Music Hall’s VIP mezzanine in March 2016 watching his daughter’s debut, Saleka used the classical piano chops she learned as a kid (she was 19 at the time) and had a sturdy, winnowing soulful voice reminiscent of Vanessa Carlton. Each of her angsty self-penned songs at this Ardmore Music Hall debut, from the pirouetting “Unfinished Business” to the bluesy “Waited So Long”, were handsomely emotional and softly intense. Plus, Saleka was casually funny, adding that she couldn’t talk about a “hypothetical” romance in her life with her mom and dad in the room. Dad M. Night wouldn’t offer a critique of his daughter that night when I grabbed him in VIP, but he did say, “I am very, very proud of her.”
With five years ago being a lifetime, and Dad M. Night off to edit his shot-in-Philly upcoming season of Servant, Saleka – no longer using Shyamalan or even Night as she did at Ardmore Music Hall – is on her own. And that solitude is working wonders for her. Saleka has been furiously busy releasing single after single after single, starting with the humming, soulful “Clarity,” and the dusky, sultry “Mr. Incredible” (a track whose equally emotional video was directed by her sister, Ishana Night Shyamalan), in 2020.
2021, so far, has brought another handful of tumultuous singles for Saleka in the Valentine’s Day track, “Graffiti,” the early Springtime anthem, “The Sky Cries,” and the powerfully anthemic, “How Many” in summer as part of an ongoing protest for racial justice whose proceeds go to Beyond the Bars and the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project (YSRP). If you own these tracks, you get the warmth and empathy in her vibe, the simmering emotionalism of her vocals and the theatrical, soulful preciseness of her piano playing. And if you don’t know those songs, get yourself to World Café Live, and find out.