WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN
On Oct. 29, North Island residents emerged from their dens to attend the first in a series of concerts put on by the North Island Concert Society since the pandemic started. Vancouverite, Krystle Dos Santos, put on a performance highlighting the music of Motown—those songs that have been the soundtrack to so many people’s lives for the last 60 years.
Dos Santos is a two-time winner of the R&B artist of the year award at the Western Canadian Music Awards. She has recently released her fourth album of original music in Feb 2020 called Bloom/Burn. She is also an actor, performing in the musicals Dreamgirls and The Chelsea Hotel at The Arts Club, and in The Songs of Leonard Cohen at the Firehall Arts Centre. She also created, Hey Viola!, a musical about the life of Viola Desmond, as well as the virtual concerts for schools, A History of Motown and Blak/ Canadian Women in music.
After a long pandemic, the gremlins had had their way with things: the stage lights weren’t working and some lights at the back of the stage were missing. With simple makeshift lighting, the concert had the feel of a “kitchen party,” which seemed quite apropos for the tail end of a long pandemic.
Dos Santos is a towering beautiful woman blessed with a rich smokey voice. She has magnetic on-stage charm and a natural gift for banter. The concert made for an enjoyable evening, the audience happily nodding their heads and tapping their feet to the catchy beat of Motown. Dos Santos also included some of her own original songs that are soulful laments or exultations about the ups or downs of life. Her performance earned her a standing ovation.
Dos Santos’ representation of the Motown sound was very faithful to the originals, almost like a recording, therefore missing that element of “personal interpretation.” She can emulate that American Motown sound almost too well!
When I saw her very folksy-looking poster, with a side of view of her face and the flowers in her hair, I had expected a somewhat more exotic repertoire, perhaps with Latin or African hints. Her promotional material talks about her “Guyanese roots.” I thought that those Guyanese roots might make an appearance somehow.
As an example, the artist Shakira, a Columbian with Lebanese ancestry, incorporates unexpected influences into her music. On the surface, she produces typical American-style pop music, but with that intense Latin beat and even a few rifts of belly-dancing music, as well as a whole lot of interesting layers and interactions in between those influences.
Dos Santos can emulate those R&B stars from the past like she’s a reincarnation of one of them! Although I have been a life-long fan of R&B, I would have liked to have seen her personalize her music more, perhaps by adding something new, old, unexpected or global into the songs to give that oh-so-familiar American R&B sound from the 60s and 70s a modern refresh.
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