|Dawn, Bella, Jade|
"I'll go wherever you are"
I saw New Zealand singer/songwriter Bella Kalolo and her band, the Soul Symphony, in concert in Tauranga tonight. She opened the 49th annual National Jazz Festival. I didn't know anything about Bella before attending the concert aside from what I'd read online: "Bella Kalolo is New Zealand's answer to Tina Turner and Chaka Khan." Okay, I'm interested. The write-up included nouns like "funk" and adjectives like "soulful." Sign me up (rather, charge my credit card). You can hear Bella by scrolling to the bottom of this page and clicking the "play" arrow: http://www.jazz.org.nz/festival-programme/concert-series/bella-kalolo-and-the-soul-symphony
I met my friend, Jade, at Baycourt Theatre for the show. We had a close, clear view of the stage from the venue's graduated seats. Those seats are stacked so tightly one after another, I'm looking forward to my next airplane ride, where I'll have more leg room. I would've been eating my knees if not for an aisle position. And I'm only 5'5''. Woe unto the 6-footers.
Anyways, we had a fine vantage point for Bella and her band. The songstress cut an impressive figure: tall and substantial, she wore a black belted shirt dress with lace shoulders and high-heeled shoe boots. The hair that lay sleek and straight in promotional photos blossomed wild and kinky, poofed atop her head like a loaf of bread. She's exotic-looking, with cocoa skin and almond-shaped eyes. "What's her heritage?" I asked Jade. "Maybe Samoan, or Tongan," she said. In fact, Bella's website says she's of Samoan, Tongan and Maori descent.
"Fools fall in love in a hurry/Fools give their hearts way too soon."
Bella's velvety voice would play well on any island or mainland. And her songs, many of which she wrote, speak to a life of joy and heartbreak, struggle and success. She said as much in describing her set at the start of her concert: "There's love, there's loss, there's death – which we'll get to later in the show."
Bella's bass guitarist is also her husband ("Kind of like me marrying my videographer," I thought). She sang a song about him that went like this:
"I'm feeling like a Superstar/I'll go wherever you are/I'm feeling like I just can't breathe/I'm going deeper, yeah..."
Another song called, "Starry Sky" included:
"Holding you is like the feeling of knowing I'm home/Loving you is like the starry sky right before dawn."
From "I Feel Like I'm in Love:"
"I feel like I'm in Love but I don't know what's going on within this head of mine."
"...Are you sittin' on my side of the fence?"
Bella's mother passed away in 2007. She said her mum was a "hilarious woman and she wanted us to laugh and laugh and sometimes, cry." She sang, "Heaven took you up too soon." Anyone relate to that?
Bella shared the stage with her 2 back-up singers (she's sung back-up, herself), one of whom soloed a Joss Stone song. The other sang James Brown. And the mistress of the show wanted us to share her joy, encouraging the crowd to dance: "Don't be afraid," she said. "Life's too short to be afraid."
The point of this post, other than to recap a fine performance, is that music is universal. The same themes emerge worldwide, regardless of race, age, culture, gender... Love and loss. Laughter and tears. Success and failure. It's not just the performers' stories told in song – they're our stories, too. That's why I appreciate musicians from Upside Down at the Bottom of the World, as well as from home in Spokane, Washington. Among them: Bella, Kathleen, Cheryl... Their songs are our songs. Thanks for adding a few more notes to the soundtrack of our lives.