Prince Makes Mayte Garcia’s Dreams Come True With ‘Kamasutra': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
Prince's "Kamasutra," the title song from his 1997 album credited to the NPG Orchestra, may not have been eligible for entry on the charts, but it made its way to listeners in a variety of ways.
Initially, fans direct-ordered the instrumental album by calling 1-800-New-Funk, and they received a cassette with all 11 songs recorded on each side. The following year, Prince released his 20th record, Crystal Ball, and included a CD of Kamasutra with all direct orders.
But it's probably his then-wife Mayte Garcia's NPG Dance Company that brought it the most attention, using the album in its entirety as the second act for her premiere program Around the World in a Day. Garcia, who had been in touch with Prince for several years after sending him a tape of herself belly dancing to his "Thunder," and was invited to join his band as a dancer and singer after she turned 18, used a Prince-only soundtrack for the atypical production.
"For my husband and me, this is very spiritual," Garcia told the Detroit Free Press in 1997. "It's about having love for one another, about a new awakening. We always have our little prayer about trying to help people get to a higher level."
Garcia, who was intent on bringing a wide variety of genres from ballet to jazz, hip-hop to bellydance to the public, said that unlike traditional ballet companies that aren't necessarily meant to be accessible, her productions would be both exciting and approachable.
"My mom always taught me that if you're going to learn something, then you better learn everything about it," said the then-23-year-old Garcia. "The thing that gets to me is that, to have a company, it has to be just ballet or just modern. I don't want to do things like Swan Lake or Giselle -- they're boring. But they get the most attention."
Setting her production to Prince's music was a good start. In her memoir The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince, Garcia said she was inspired in part by Billboards, the 1993 Joffrey Ballet production comprised exclusively of Prince's music. According to her account, Prince had been patiently waiting for her to attempt a production and asked only what she needed from him. The answer: "Just give me the music."
"I sat dancer-style on the floor in front of my fish tank with 30 Prince, [Love Symbol] and New Power Generation CDs spread out on the carpet in front of me," she wrote. "This was only a fraction of my husband's enormous body of work. In addition to all his music and everything still on the shelf and in the vault, he'd written a play and an opera, he'd created the NPG Orchestra to do the music for our wedding. He'd always wanted to do something on Broadway. And then there was Kamasutra. I looked at the image of myself dancing on the cover. My shadow was the symbol that was now his name. The music was moving and told a story about a love affair between a rock star and a ballerina."
And that was that. She knew she would use the album in her production. "I developed a script with a three-act structure. The first act was hits, because Mama got to pay them bills. The second act was Kamasutra, because — wow. It was classical instrumental, and with a darkness and sexiness that a dancer would drool to move to. The third act was all new music..."
Following the show's premiere, the couple dined with Stevie Wonder, and former Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham at Detroit's Intermezzo, where they decided to take over the joint for an impromptu jam session with Prince on drums. Tony Rich and NPG's Kat Dyson also joined in. So many fans began gathering outside the restaurant that management had to lock the doors to keep them out.
"When they started playing it was just crazy. It's not gonna happen again ever," said the restaurant's office manager, Bridget O'Donnell, at the time.