In all industries, women have always been great movers and shakers and its been amazing to see how young women these days have wiggled and given themselves more room to express their feelings more freely than in previous generations. The way young women these days approach music with a boldness that is so profound is honestly refreshing.
These women have contributed much to a genre of music that has been known to bring people together and break racial and cultural barriers and I will always advocate for them to be recognized just like their male colleagues.
So how is it being a woman in jazz? This year, Safaricom Jazz Festival opened the 2019 with a tantalizing line up of artists and two particular performers caught my eye: 30 year old Nottingham-based soul-jazz vocalist Yazmin Lacey and 50 year old Viviane from Portugal. Coming from 2 very different generations, I was curious to know more about how their experiences in this industry have been:
Born in Nice – France in 1968, Viviane grew up listening to all kinds of music – French, American, Portuguese. Before she went back to Portugal when she was 13, she experienced her first Fado concert by the famous Carlos da Camo. This experience showed her that music was her calling.
She initiated her musical career in the 1990s as she tasted different genres from rock/pop, Fado to her own style that brought a new sound to Portuguese music.
Viviane has a very mature voice, able to sound sometimes strong and sometimes like velvety and is undoubtedly of one of the most charismatic and interesting voices of the new Portuguese music.
Yazmin Lacey says she didn’t exactly jostle her way into music as the soulful musician she is today; she had to be enticed by one of her friends – and even then she didn’t feel like she belonged. Yes she had a strong singing voice but she felt intimidated in the presence of people who had EPs, albums and were doing tours while she just had some words on pieces of paper.
She did eventually break out thanks to the mentorship of Future Bubblers, a talent discovery and mentor program, which she compares to Ghetto Classics,
and she was accepted on to the year-long development programme in 2015. It connected her with like-minded musicians and set her up to release an assured, richly melodic EP called Black Moon.
For her, being Yazmin Lacey is a gift. She feels that even in the few years she’s been in the industry, she represents a fraction of young black creatives who should actually believe more in themselves.
“I think there’s an undercurrent of everybody speaking their truth now,” she says, “and for me that’s what jazz means. It’s rebellion music, there are no rules. You sing from the heart, tell the stories that are real, say what you see, what’s going on in society. There’s a strength in that. Also, as Marcus Miller just said at the meet and greet, music is magic. You have to let it do it’s magic and that only comes when you let yourself be free.
Despite the varying generational differences, both Viviane and Yazmine have become artists with their own forte. Artists with their own music and style. They have also faced fridfric when it comes to putting out their music but none has deteered them from being the women in Jazz they are now 💜