The Beat 07-’06 • Brian Dring

Island Style

At the top of tonight’s news is the new release from Curaçao’s songbird Izaline Calister entitled Kanta Hélele (Network). Her fourth album signals a change in direction away from the jazzy keyboard-dominated arrangements of previous recordings toward a more acoustic guitar sound, such as the Brazilian-flavored title track and the Antillean waltz ‘Bisami Si (SayYes)’, both of which could belong on a Toots Thielemans album with their laid-back instrumentation and melodica flourishes. There are also a few ballads such as ‘Kerido Amigu’ and the heart-aching ‘Nada den Mi Man’ written for her widowed father.

As with previous albums, there are also the dance-floor arrangements of Curaçao’s staple, the African-derived 6/8 groove known as tumba. The red-hot salsa antiyana opener ‘Mi So Den Boso’ is a classic in the style of the legendary Macario Prudencia, while the playfully upbeat Cuban-flavored salsa of ‘Dia Bo Pagami’ belies the seriousness of the lyrics, which talk of an unreliable friend who won’t pay back money.

Since her earliest albums Izaline has explored and rejuvenated the fascinating but still relatively unknown musical traditions of her homeland and writes almost all her lyrics in Papiamento, the language unique to the Dutch Caribbean islands. Already she is being hailed as Curaçao’s cultural ambassador to the world. This album is one more step in her journey.

Q & A with Izaline Calister

Brian Dring: I noticed that your sound is less jazz-oriented and more acoustic on this album and also that some members of your band (the keyboardist and bassist) have changed. Did the change in musical direction result from their departure or did you consciously change your style first?

Izaline Calister: No, it was a conscious change. I really wanted to move more toward the acoustic roots side of my cultural background. I started on that path with Krioyo. Because I had signed with the world-music label Network Medien, I thought it would be a great opportunity to start exploring the rootsy, more folk side of Curaçaoan music. I loved that experience especially because I knew I could always incorporate jazz or classical influences without people really noticing. So when Krioyo was done, I started noticing that I wanted to go deeper into the roots, more than I had been doing. This time I wanted to stay with the traditional Curaçao groove and keep the content of the songs more important than the individual capabilities of the musicians and avoid the jazzy approach. I wanted the musical part of the songs to tell more about where I come from and the lyrics to tell more about me. That’s why I think this is my most personal cd ever. I also wrote most of the 11 songs on the album by myself, so you get to know a lot about the woman on the cover.

The change in the band members was just a natural turnover I guess. Fortunately we could plan it so I had enough time to work with the new band before starting the writing and recording process.

Q: The new band sounds great. Did you already know the new musicians and where did you find them?

A: Thank you! I think so too. I already knew these musicians and had been admiring their work for a while already. We even played together on different occasions in other band situations or jam sessions around Amsterdam or in Curaçao. So I immediately knew who I wanted to work with. It felt like a blessing when they all had time in their schedules and a genuine enthusiasm to join my band.

Q: Where do you spend most of your time these days and how much time do you spend touring?

A: These days I am resting a bit from the hectic time I had during the recordings and later for the release of Kanta Hélele. We are doing some summer festivals but that is not that tiring since most are in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria and don’t involve much travel. We are playing the North Sea Jazz festival 2006 soon and I want to make a great and lasting impression there. So I am preparing some surprises. I have four gigs a week I would say and now in summertime it is less. I try to get some rest in the summertime because at the beginning of September the tumultuous life starts again. I am starting a tour in October when we go to Curaçao to present the new cd. I am also going to Austria in September where I will be opening for Tania Maria. The new cultural season promises to be full and exciting. I am really looking forward to that.