Singer/songwriter Ola Onabule performs in Surrey Nov. 25.

‘Magnetic’ stage presence returns to Surrey

Soul artist Ola Onabule performing at Bell Centre for Performing Arts

Seeing – and hearing – is believing with soul and jazz artist Ola Onabule.

A White Rock audience that had only local sound tech/musician/impresario Phil Davey’s word for Onabule’s talent came away from his show last year at Coast Capital Playhouse with a smile on its collective face.

The British-born singer and songwriter had the crowd – young and old – laughing, clapping and singing along to tunes they’d scarcely heard and dancing in the aisles.

It wasn’t just his smooth-as-silk delivery and wide vocal range – or even his artistic projection of his own poetic lyrics – as impressive as these were.

The magnetism of his stage presence and his dry humour sealed the deal, marking the difference between a promising performer and one who has well and truly arrived.

Onabule is back in B.C. until Wednesday for a series of concerts presented by Davey, including a Nov. 25, 8 p.m. date at the Bell Centre for Performing Arts (6250 144 St.).

Raised in Britain by Nigerian parents, he’s paid plenty of dues; performing for years as a back-up artist with such greats as Gladys Knight, Diane Reeves, Patti LaBelle,  Roberta Flack, Natalie Cole and Roy Hargrove, while marketing his own self-produced albums.

That experience is paying dividends at the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals and concert halls, while his debut at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2009 has opened the door for more North American touring.

He has a relaxed attitude to the business, preferring to have his manager handle most of the strategy of cracking the North American market.

“That’s a difficult one,” he admitted in a phone interview from London. “I just kind of turn up and do the date. I’m very ill-equipped to set goals and meet targets.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a serious side to his music, or an awareness in his songs, however upbeat, about clear and obvious injustices in the world – such as racism, sexism and the gulf in living conditions between industrialized and Third World nations.

That side of Onabule was brought into focus in a recent  documentary about his career, aired on CNN’s African Voices, which has inspired a new project, a PBS special to be filmed in the U.S. next spring.

“When the songs are being written, I try to plumb the depths to find the truth within,” he said.

“It’s a view of the world through my eyes. I try to present myself honestly, my flaws and faults and misconceptions, so that people are seeing something of themselves. I like to discover something people can identify with – a fully-rounded sort of song.

“The things that concern me are the same things that concern all of us. I have a voice and a  platform.

“The role of a singer is to be a troubadour, to sing about the issues of the day. Maybe it’s the African in me.”

The concert, in which he will be joined by pianist Ugo Delmirani, guitarist Nial Tompkins, bassist Jonathan Harvey, drummer Louis Palmer and saxophonist Duncan Eagles, will feature material from his new album, Seven Shades Darker, which will be released internationally in early 2012.

Onabule chuckles when it’s remarked that he seems to be having as much fun on stage as his audience in the auditorium.

“I do enjoy doing it,” he said.

“I like casting my mind back five, 10, 15 years ago,  thinking about how far I’ve come, how many places I’ve been and how many concert halls I’ve played. If I can keep on doing that, and doing more of it, it’ll be great.

“I look at Tony Bennett, who’s still out and about at the age of 84. That guy is living my life. That’s what I want to do when I’m his age and I’ll be happy doing it.”

For tickets to Friday’s show at the Bell Centre ($45), call 604-617-8453, 604-507-6355, or visit www.bellperformingartscentre.com

 

Just Posted

McCallum’s canal pitch took Surrey councillors by surprise

City government has more important issues pressing than building a canal, councillors say

South Surrey senior ‘irate’ over policing-transition venue change

Pat Anderson says she disagrees with the transition plan – but never got a chance to say so

White Rock water testing well within Health Canada guidelines

Drinking water more than measuring up to current standards, Dr. Saad Jasim tells council

Cloverdale Toastmasters celebrate 25 years of learning and laughter

Cloverdale club is a high achieving, yet laid-back Toastmasters group

Surrey RCMP conducting drug-related search warrant

Traffic closed in both directions on 128th Street, between 64th and 66th Avenue

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

Most Read

l -->