Carrying The Torch of Black Girl Magic: A Conversation with Calandria Allen

Photos By Thee Cookie Jar, LLC.

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Special Edition 2022 – I Belong

Music is in Calandria Allen’s blood. She is a native of St. Francisville, La., where she teaches choir at West Feliciana Middle School. Her grandfather was a guitarist and played for the American Gospel Group, the Soul Stirrers. She often would sit at his feet, fascinated watching him play so skillfully. She studied his fingers and hand motions so she could sneak and play his guitar during his naptime. These moments opened the door for Calandria to teach herself how to play guitar, later leading her to found Landi’s Lead Notes, a music instruction school that focuses on cultivating the talents of individuals in areas such as instrument techniques, sight-reading, and music theory. Music has always been a massive part of her life. Calandria shares some moments that cultivated her to become the musician she is today. 

What is your name, and what are your pronouns? Where are you from? What instrument(s) do you play? My name is Calandria Allen, and I am from Saint Francisville, La. I play the piano, guitar, bass, and drums.

How long have you been playing the guitar, and when did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
I started playing when I was around five or six, so I have been playing for roughly 26 years. I have fond memories of my grandfather playing the guitar. I remember how much time I spent studying his hands to figure out what he was playing. I wanted to learn how to play, so one day, I grabbed his guitar and realized I could mimic what I heard. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to be a musician.

Being a musician comes with many positives and negatives. In your experience, what is the best part about being a musician?
The best part about being a musician is the ability to express myself through music and the theory that makes music what it is. Finding the “Do, Re Mi’s,” the sharps and flats, etc., open a new perspective of the world around us. It doesn’t matter the state of mind. The music helps move me to the following outlook. 

Music is a powerful tool that tells stories and serves as a universal language. Black culture has informed the foundation of many genres of music and movements to this day. What do you think of when you hear “Black History”?
I think of power, sacrifice, and determination. I am Black history. 

Is there a specific Black creative that inspires you? Why?
Maya Angelou inspires me because of her ability to express herself unapologetically. She exemplified tenacity and boldness. I think one of the most powerful moments of her legacy was learning that she lost her voice due to a traumatic event in her childhood. Later, she found her voice and used it to transform the spaces around her. She redefined the meaning of “using her voice” to inspire the world and encourage others to find their voice and use it for good.

Why do you think it is essential to pay homage to the Black creatives that came before us? Why do you think the world needs to learn about our Black history?
I believe paying homage to the Black creatives that came before us is essential because many did not receive their flowers while they were here. So many had to rise against the odds stacked against us, including oppression, but they still grew and inspired change. If they didn’t receive the honor they deserved while living, they deserve it now.  

What are your current studio and live performance setups?
I am a plain Jane, meaning I do not need much to play. I often use Logic Pro. But, when doing things solo, I whip out my iPad or iPhone and use GarageBand. Add a few cables, a guitar, and an amplifier, and I am set to go. I do not use many effects besides reverb, chorus, and delay. When I feel a li’l wild, I throw in a li’l crunch! 

What does it mean to be a Black creative to you? What do you want your voice to contribute to the industry?
It feels like a ripe harvest being a Black creative today. I am a product of the Black greats that came before me. My ancestors paved the way for me through the perseverance they held onto throughout the hardships of Black American history. They planted the seed that is now plentiful and ripe! I am the seed, and I will continue to grow and plant the seed for the next generation!

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your eight-year-old self looking up to the adult version of you now?
Be you! Be the light! Worry not about others’ opinions because your life is predestined! God will lead; you just follow!