When the North Coast Jazz and Heritage Festival host its major event tomorrow, powerful soprano LeAndra Head will be among the artistes delivering top entertainment at the Solomon Hochoy ground, Blanchisseusse.
Festival performers also include Dean Williams and band, Adan Hagley featuring Tony Paul, Sharon Phillips, Reuel Lynch, Freetown Collective, Michelle Sylvester, Johan Chuckaree and Mista Vibe. This festival from May 27-29 is dedicated to calypsonian Lord Nelson.
After a two-year wait, LeAndra is eagerly looking forward to performing at NCJ.
"I feel excited. I was invited to perform at the show in 2020 but unfortunately, with the onset of covid the event was cancelled so I’m really grateful to be invited to perform again this year. I’m also getting to work with an incredible group of musicians and I can’t wait to get on the stage with them," LeAndra told Newsday.
She says while the audience can expect to hear music that they are familiar with, selecting her repertoire was no easy feat.
"It was a bit challenging trying to decide on a set since I haven’t had to do that for a while. (But) They can expect a set that includes music that is well-loved and appreciated by many."
Like many other artistes she has had to find ways to keep active for the past two pandemic years.
"I started teaching voice. It is one of the things that kept me busy, it brought purpose in the times when I couldn’t perform and it also presented a new way to use the skills that I’ve developed over the years. It’s very fulfilling being able to help my students grow and develop their natural talents."
As the entertainment sector gradually opened up she was able to so some live performances.
"I recently performed in John Thomas’ concert Reflections. The performance went really well and so I was really happy to be on Queen’s Hall stage again. It was the first time I’ve been back on stage in a long time, so I was really grateful for the opportunity to be there and being able to perform with John and a full orchestra was a great experience."
She was back at Queen's Hall, St Ann's, last weekend for a performance at Stefan Roach’s The Art of Guitar: Return Of The Strings.
From her early years LeAndra's winning voice has placed her at the top of competitions. Her sophisticated vocal abilities earned her best soloist honours at the SanFest music festival for three consecutive years.
She won the St James We Beat festival’s amateur night competition in 2004, beating several adult contestants. At the San Fernando Jazz Festival that year also, she shared the stage with world-renowned South African performer Hugh Masekela and dazzled the crowd with her version of Etta James’ signature hit At Last. She has performed in Manhattan and in 2013 took part in the opera Porgy and Bess in Budapest, Hungary, where she was the youngest member of the cast.
She and her sister, Tylah, performed at the National Music Festival in 2017 and won the Anne Fridal cup for Operatic Duet, and she also won best folk choir performance with the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) choir, where she sang the solo. She graduated from the university that year with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in music with specialisation in voice.
In the ever-changing circumstances of today's entertainment industry, what are her future career plans?
"With covid still lurking around, things are still very uncertain in the performance world. I keep hearing stories of shows getting cancelled because a large number of the cast got covid. I just hope I can continue having opportunities to perform. I would also like to get into recording my own music. I’ve spent so much time in studios working on other people’s music, I feel like it’s time that I start working on my own."
Another powerful performer at the festival, who is well recognised in Europe and the Middle East, is the international jazz, soul, funk and techno artiste, Sharon Phillips, also known as Anubia Phoenix Nile. Phillips has stunned local audiences in the last few years with her performances and rocked the crowd at North Coast Jazz in 2019 with her vocals.
Phillips left Trinidad and Tobago to pursue music at an international level when she was 19, after signing to Brickhouse Records (Germany) and EMI Records (London).
Her songs, Touch Me, and Like This Like That, which she composed, went to number one in Spain and number one in most of the underground dance charts (a merge of European culture and ragga soca element).
She worked with Peppermint Records in Hanover, Germany, and Universal (Berlin, Germany) as well as took part in the James Bond tours as the Bond girl singer with several orchestras in Germany.
Phillips has also done calypso and soca recordings. She is expected to deliver another scintillating performance at the festival.
The festival which begins tonight is themed Family and will showcase Machel Montano's Bazodee for its Feature Film Friday night which is free to the public.
On Saturday some of TT's leading exponents of jazz will entertainment patrons from 3-10 pm.
For the first time, Blue Sunday is being introduced with a J'Ouvert from 2-7 am that will feature DJs and HADCO’s Phase II.