meta-scriptSay She She's Big Year: How The NYC Disco Funk Group Made Sure The World Wouldn't Forget Them |
Say She She's Big Year
Say She She: Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham

Photo: Kaelan Barowsky


Say She She's Big Year: How The NYC Disco Funk Group Made Sure The World Wouldn't Forget Them

Ahead of the release of their sophomore album, 'Silver,' the trio of operatic disco singers from Say She She revisit some of their favorite moments from the past year — from performing at Glastonbury to working with their favorite couture brand.

GRAMMYs/Sep 28, 2023 - 02:16 pm

The three members of Say She She are only home for what feels like "two seconds" — a much-needed but all too brief respite from a whirlwind year that included two records, nearly 100 performances and almost twice as many flights.

The Brooklyn-based trio of Piya Malik, Nya Gazelle Brown and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham perform a dizzyingly funky, operatic take on dance music — an entrancing and ever-danceable vein they dub "discodelic soul." For their groovy efforts, Say She She have garnered fans across multiple continents, topped radio charts and performed at some of the globe’s biggest festivals.   

And somehow, in the midst of international touring, Say She She managed to record their sophomore album, Silver. An expanded and sonically evolved take on their 2022 debut, Prism, the group’s latest drops on Sept. 29 with 16 tracks of earwormy disco ("Forget Me Not"), Bollywood-inflected vibes ("Find A Way") and politically-laced funk ("Norma").

"We’re all just doing the thing that we love. It is a lot of work, no one's denying that," Malik tells "It's a lot of love and work and sacrifice and community helping us."

On Silver, the trio’s impeccable voices are front and center. All are classically trained vocalists, and their harmonic and personal bonds apparent. The ladies of Say She She first met in 2018 when Cunningham and Malik, who were neighbors in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, began casually writing songs. Each were involved with other groups — Malik performed with El Michels Affair and Chicano Batman; she and Brown were both members of Brooklyn group 79.5 — and eventually became a trio. 

The rest, as they say, c’est si bon.  

In the brief interlude between tour stops, Malik, Brown and Cunningham reminisce about their favorite moments from the past year, creating Silver and their hopes for a more empowered future.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

On Writing Their New Album, Silver

Sabrina Mileo Cunningham: We planned the writing of the second album and did a nice writing camp in L.A. with our band. It was a labor of love. When we were planning when to do these writing sessions, we knew we wanted it to be a good chunk of time, but we definitely consulted the stars for a creative period of the year.

Piya Malik: If you ask any person who grew up as a Hindu, we consult the stars for everything.

Cunningham: That was definitely the most creative that I've ever personally felt. That was like channeling all sorts of different things. And yeah, it was just a really kind of wonderful and big, magical experience to write all those songs.

Malik: Prism was made in this kind of context of the fact that we were in a lockdown. And we had these old tape stems that we'd made with our friend Joey Crispiano that were originally meant to be demos and Sab and I had gone in and cut those. When we first started the band, it was really just a very quick thing.

And then, of course, we had COVID, and a lot of it was done remotely with all the production and the mixing and all that stuff, which is extremely difficult. Now, fast forward to Silver, we're all physically in the room during the process of the recording and the writing, just feeding each other's energy. And that absolutely changes things. Most of the lyrics were written on the spot — I think it's to do with capturing this excitement and this energy and this moment. 

Nya Gazelle Brown:  After we wrote "Questions," I think we all had to take a moment. I don't know if all the listeners would feel the same way, but there's a certain drive in that song — what the bassline is doing and what the drums are doing together — that creates this tension that physically works your body up. We had to have a moment of silence after we wrote it because we just couldn't believe that that came out of us.

Championing Progressive Causes Through Their Music 

Malik: We are all political just by being who we are, not just because of the jobs and the experiences that we've had. Just by being women from diverse backgrounds with something to say, who have gone through some life experience. So why not allow our truest expressions to come out in our music?

In "Reeling," there's a lyric, "Kick the door down, smash the ceiling, leave them reeling."So I think, again, you can see here, there's passion and rage, but also trying to be constructed and move forward. And we launched that single with a piece of evovinyl with Frank Moody and the money goes towards climate change activism.

Cunningham: For "Norma," there were so many emotions that we were experiencing. Because we woke up and read in the Times that Roe v. Wade might be overturned, and we just came into the studio. I think half of us were crying, half of us were just pissed. And it was just a very visceral expression of exactly what we were feeling and there was just not really anything else we could write that day.

Brown: To be able to use our voices in such a forward way, standing for the things that we really truly believe in, was really important for me. It's really special when we see the audience relate to it and sing along and do the choreography. It just feels like we're united and that we're going to be okay.

Malik: [Our tour had some] all-ages shows, and you could see teenagers. And they were screaming the lyrics, and I got such chills on that stage watching them. I felt like they felt supported. Okay, there are older women fighting for us. Even if the government isn't, we're here fighting to try and make sure that things don't go so far to the right.

"Echo In The Chamber" is about gun control and we've actually launched a postcard writing campaign; it's a letter to senators that we're going to be including this on the mailouts with all of the vinyl …a campaign to help support the Background Check Expansion Act. We need to do something to use our voice in a constructive way. We start every writing session and well, "What is it that we want to say and what are we mad about right now? What are we feeling and what's going on out there in the public?"  

Our live set and a lot of our music is there to uplift, and we believe the medium is the message. And so the way in which you present messages is important for how people receive them. So I love that our protest song, "Norma," is actually a space to dance and to make people get up. To protest, to fight for your rights, to defend that doesn't have to be violent. It can be a celebration too.

Playing Glastonbury Four Times In 48 Hours…And Almost Getting Crushed 

Brown: There was so much drama getting our equipment to the recording [of the BBC's live from Glastonbury coverage with Lauren Laverne]. Fatboy Slim and Lana Del Rey were performing and their crowds were massive! So we had to get our gear from one place to the other and go through that crowd. It was just impossible. I don't know how many hours we waited to be able to get the stuff through the people.

Malik: Nya and I nearly got crowd crushed trying to run to the van and come back! They're waiting for our backline and there's an hour to go before we're meant to go tape. So we turn around and we look at each other and we're like, "Okay, get your boots on. There's no way we're letting this not happen." We managed to just lug the gear across the field and get it to the BBC in time and use some of their backline. 

Lauren Laverne [is] a childhood hero of mine. You never think of an Indian girl in the UK that Lauren Laverne's going to put you on the radio one day. Everyone in England watches this. My family are crying, tears of joy for once, instead of telling me, "What are you doing? This is not a proper job. Come home."

Performing Sold-Out Shows At Iconic Venues

Cunningham: Opening for Thee Sacred Souls at Brooklyn Steel was a real highlight. It was a sold-out show. We're all from New York, so the family was there and it just was such an incredible night.

Brown: Just the air was right, the sound was right. The energy was just so perfect. Everybody was waiting to experience the night and the magic was just so thick.

Malik: [Playing] the Hollywood Bowl was really special. Portugal. The Man are just the nicest people on earth; we'd met them some years back and stayed in touch. And so, it was crazy that they invited us to open for them for the Hollywood Bowl. Who could have thought? We were practically an unheard of band — people wait their whole lives to play the Hollywood Bowl. And it's special for the boys [in the backing band] because they're from LA. [The venue holds] 17,000 people and it's a sold-out show and we didn't know that until afterwards. 

Making Their National TV Debut On "CBS Sunday Morning"

Cunningham: That was a huge moment for us. 

Malik: It was so inspiring to me to watch this female director — she's absolutely gorgeous and this badass powerhouse — and she's like, "Cut to here! Do this! Camera! Directing!" And I just like, Yeah, of course you're amazing at this, you multitasking, amazing woman. She put so much thought into every single detail of the stage. It was a newfound appreciation for how much work goes into everything that you watch on the TV.

Getting Creative With Couture At Chanel's Summer Music Series

Brown: It's Chanel, okay? It was really a special treat. We got to wear these beautiful clothes and pick out things and the people there consulted with the Paris office in real time, "Do we like this? Do we like that?" That was pretty cool.

Malik: We really manifested that. What's the line? "Say She She. Say Chanel?" That was a favorite brand of ours. We always wanted to work with that brand. It was very specific and it was something that we would say quite a lot.

We love couture, but you want things to be accessible. And I think that Chanel has really reached out to kind of bridge the gap between affordability in the fashion world, but still keeping class and celebrating women's bodies. 

Cunningham:[Co-curators Caroline de Maigret and Vivienne Rohner] were looking for working bands from New York, and the fact that the name of the band is a silent nod to Nile Rodgers. And now Rodgers is someone that Chanel's been working with quite a bit in a lot of their campaigns.

And we got the call and we were just like, "Yeah, definitely." Again, we had two seconds to drop our bags: We were in the UK, came back and then headed to the Hamptons. 

Malik: Caroline de Maigret is just an icon; she's this incredible musician and producer. She's navigated the music business for so long with such grace and she treats people with such respect. It was this beautiful alignment of all the things that we wished to be and places where we wanted to be.  

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Franc Moody
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."


Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.


L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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Portugal. The Man's John Gourley

Photo: Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images


Portugal. The Man, Nineteen85 & Yuna Added To ASCAP EXPO Lineup

The trio of artists join previously announced guests Wyclef Jean, TOKiMONSTA, Lee Ann Womack and keynote speaker Questlove for the "I Create Music" songwriter event in Hollywood

GRAMMYs/Apr 19, 2019 - 03:29 am

ASCAP has announced additional guest for this year's "I Create Music" EXPO, including Portugal. The Man, producer Nineteen85 and singer/songwriter Yuna. The songwriting extravaganza featuring everything from workshops to performances and networking sessions is set to take place May 2-4 in Hollywood, Calif. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="">@portugaltheman</a> will perform at the 2019 &quot;I Create Music&quot; <a href="">@ascapexpo</a> (May 2-4 at LA&#39;s Loews Hollywood Hotel), joining a line-up that includes <a href="">@Questlove</a>, <a href="">@Wyclef</a>, <a href="">@LeeAnnWomack</a>, among dozens of industry-leading music creators. Details: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Shore Fire Media (@ShoreFire) <a href="">April 18, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Portugal. The Man have signed on to perform as part of ASCAP's Annual Membership Meeting on May 2. The band earned their first career GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 60th GRAMMY Awards last year.

Nineteen85, the GRAMMY-winning producer behind Drake's "One Dance", "Hotline Bling" and "Hold On, We're Going Home," is slated to join the We Create Music panel at EXPO, alongside previously annouced guests songwriter Anthony Rossomando, GRAMMY-winner Lee Ann Womack and film composer Pinar Toprak.

Yuna is a rising artist who has worked with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Usher and Jhené Aiko. She will participate in a conversation on the future of electronic music with her friend and collaborator, GRAMMY-nominated artist/producer TOKiMONSTA.

Additional previously announced participants like for this year's ASCAP EXPO include keynote speaker Questlove, as well as Wyclef Jean, Desmond Child, Victoria Monét, Leland, Matthew Koma, and Rossomando, and many more. 

For a full schedule of events, guests, and registration info, visit ASCAP's website.

Questlove Keynote & More Added To ASCAP "I Create Music" EXPO

The Weeknd photographed in 2017

The Weeknd

 Photo: Johnny Nunez/


Beyoncé, The Weeknd, X Japan: Most Anticipated Coachella 2018 Performance | Poll

The final countdown to the 2018 installment of Coachella is on — which performance are you looking forward to the most?

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2018 - 12:47 am

The race to the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is winding down as we're just one week away. With headliners The Weeknd, Beyoncé and Eminem leading the slate of more than 150 festival performers, Indio, Calif., will once again be the place to be throughout the next two weekends (April 13–15 and April 20–22).

Aside from the headliners, there are many artists fueling the pre-festival chatter. There's the Coachella debut of Yoshiki and X Japan; recent 60th GRAMMY nominees SZA, Cardi B, 6LACK, and Kali Uchis; the likes of Jamiroquai, St. Vincent, and Nile Rodgers & Chic; and family affairs in the form of Haim and Migos.


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Coachella (@coachella) <a href="">January 3, 2018</a></blockquote>


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And that's but a small taste.

Are you making a roadie to the Southern California desert for the parties and music? Or will you be tuning in to Coachella via live stream? (According to Brooklyn Vegan, details on the stream are forthcoming.)

In either case, we want to know which 2018 Coachella performer you are looking forward seeing (or streaming) the most? Make sure to cast your vote in our poll!

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Janet Jackson, 2017

Janet Jackson

Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images


Female Artists Top The Lineup For Outside Lands 2018

The San Francisco music festival will feature two female headliners for the first time ever in 2018

GRAMMYs/Apr 4, 2018 - 01:44 am

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival has officially announced its lineup of performers for 2018, and in a welcome departure from the traditionally male-heavy booking practices of most major festivals, the late-summer celebration of music and culture will play host to female headliners on its largest stage for two of its three nights – a first in the festival's eleven-year history.

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Topping the lineup this year are GRAMMY-winning pop icon Janet Jackson and GRAMMY-nominated British indie rock band Florence + The Machine. GRAMMY-winning darkpop/alternative R&B superstar The Weeknd rounds out the lineup as the third headliner.

Both Jackson's and Florence + The Machine's music catalogues are clearly at top-of-mind for talent bookers this summer, as both were also announced as the forthcoming headliners for Los Angeles' annual two-day FYF Festival.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">ranger dave is part of the rhythm nation. 3-day passes for <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#outsidelands</a> 2018 go on sale thursday at 10am pt. <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; ranger dave (@sfoutsidelands) <a href="">April 3, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Along with the expected appearances from top-tier artists such as Future, Beck, Portugal. The Man, Bon Iver, DJ Snake, N.E.R.D., and many others who are generally must-have bookings for any contemporary music festival looking to compete on the U.S. summer circuit, the festival's middle and upper cards are also packed deep with rising and established female and female-fronted talent.

Acts like CHVRCHES, Carly Rae Jepsen and Jessie Ware are obvious and anticipated additions to the billing of early-evening sets, but it's equally exciting to see so many newer names like Tash Sultana, Sabrina Claudio, Jessie Reyez, Margo Price, Lizzo, and others featured so prominently, bringing a welcome diversity of genre, vibe, and national origin in rising female talent to the festival's slate of offerings.

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"We wanted to create a lineup that is really well-rounded and speaks to what people are listening to now. We didn’t just want three big names on the top," said Allen Scott, VP of the festival's co-producer Another Planet Entertainment, to SF Gate. "We look at it from every level and always strive to build a unique festival."

Outside Lands 2018 will take place in San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Park on Aug. 10–12. Tickets will go on-sale at 10 a.m. PT on Thursday, April 5 via the festival's official website.

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