Viva Otrobanda April 2002author unknown

Tumba Queen only once
Last year Izaline Calister created a furor on her native island. With the song ‘Much’i Otrobanda’ (Child of Otrobanda) she won the Tumba Festival and was unexpectedly crowned ‘Reina di Tumba’, Tumba Queen of the Carnival of Curaçao. Last year’s rage has been now ended. A year later she can really enjoy the success she had. But she would not participate a second time. ‘It was so special, I want to keep it that way’

The interview has hardly started five minutes when she takes her shoes off carefully. Izaline Calister won last year’s Tumba Festival in this way and she also performs as a jazz singer that way in the Netherlands: on her bare feet. Her career can no longer be stopped now: the first CD, which was well received, a splashing debut at the North Sea Jazz Festival and performances in Europe and Central America. But the highlight of 2001 was undoubtedly carnival in Curaçao.

Carnival in Curaçao. The best time of the year to visit her island, Calister says.
‘That is the real Curaçao experience. Carnival and the Tumba Festival, it is a splendid national event. It is part of our culture, so deeply rooted in everything we are. It is also a great time. It seems like everyone is happier.’

Last year she was ‘only nervous’ when she sang her tumba the first time.
‘At the Tumba Festival the audience is hard as a rock. Every participant knows that. You do not want to be a failure for those people. Now I do not have that pressure, so I am simply going to enjoy myself; dance and listen for three days.’

‘On the last evening, the finale, I sing my tumba once more. For ten thousand people who know the song. I think it’s great!’ Just as in 2001 she participated in the Gran Marcha, but not as Tumba Queen. This year Izaline jumped ‘carefree’ in the group ‘Happy Kids’. ‘Last year I had to work hard all the way through. You walk in that heat, you sing and you want to greet everybody. Very tiresome, because the road march lasts eight hours and most of the time you have to let the song be heard. If you do not pay attention, or sing well, you will lose your voice halfway through. And I could not permit this to happen.’

No, Izaline could not return to the Netherlands without a voice. She had a tight schedule ahead as a jazz singer: performances in Nicaragua, Mexico, and Guatemala and later on in South Africa and Budapest. And of course the debut at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands.
‘That is what we have always dreamt of as students of the academy: to be able to perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival’. First in a room on the third floor where only a few people can sit and then every year a little more. ‘But, boom! I was already allowed to perform on the terrace. In front of thousands of people. They all stayed until the end.’

But the acceptance of her own people is much sweeter than the recognition in the Netherlands.
‘You often hear of artists who are successful abroad but who are finding it difficult to make it in their own country. I was allowed to spend an outrageous time in my own country. The way the people reacted to my song, the way they accepted me, I recall it as a great, warm feeling. Really fantastic.’

She will not forget 2001. The ‘rage’ is over but the people of Curaçao have not forgotten their Tumba Queen.
‘Everyone comes to greet me and ask me how things are going. But quieter, not as overwhelming as last year. I can enjoy it much better that way’

Brionplein, Awasa, has stolen her heart. ‘The characteristic places in Curaçao, and thus also of Awasa have an appeal on me. But after Much’i Otrobanda the square means very much to me.’ Last year, right after carnival, Calister was honoured in Brionplein. The emotions were too much for her. ‘Sunset, a square full of people and I also had to sing the national hymn. Really, I could not turn any more sentimental than that. It was a special moment. I will never forget it.’

Calister keeps her participation at the Tumba Festival and her career as jazz singer strictly separate from each other.
‘ln my jazz I use the tumba rhythm but I need not comply with all the requirements given for the festival. My music is based on the traditional music of Curaçao. I use this kind of music, but I feel I should know where it comes from’. In primary and high school Izaline missed that knowledge about her own culture, the dance, the music and education in art. ‘At school I used to sing "twinkling stars" and other Dutch songs.’ If she had any influence in the political arena, she would make a strong effort to introduce the subject ‘Culture’ in the classrooms. ‘0ur culture is very interesting. I think a nation should know where it came from. This knowledge contributes to your self-confidence. I believe it is important. Efforts are made for this purpose, I know, but I hope later on we will have enough money to implement this method.’

When she goes back to the Netherlands, Izaline will have a few interesting months ahead of her. A series of performances with the band, the composition of Iyrics for a stage program for children and special performances with the ‘Noord Nederland Orchestra’. One or two of her songs will be scored for a classical music orchestra.
‘Fantastic. And then all those violins. It really seems fantastic to me.’ Her new CD will be recorded in April. In Curaçao she finally had some quiet time to write the songs. ‘In the Netherlands I did not have any time, inspiration, nothing. But here I finally had some time off; I am happy and at home. The ideas are coming all of a sudden and I know what I want.’

Curaçao is too small for her ambitions. She is convinced her career has only just begun. Slowly but surely Izaline and her band are discovering the world. And they can do so much easier from Europe.
‘But I want to spend part of the year on the island.’

Her dream: a house in the Netherlands, Madrid and Curaçao.