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

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Surrey RCMP make multiple arrests after reports of fight in Newton

Huge police response to reports of fight, possibly a gun, in the area of 82nd Avenue east of Scott Road

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

Panorama Ridge Secondary reports third COVID-19 exposure

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Surrey youth protest throne speech as part of Global Day of Action

Group marched to Liberal MP Randeep Sarai’s constituency office

White Rock writer in running for $6,000 accolade

Joseph Kakwinokanasum to learn Oct. 1 if his story, Ray Says, wins CBC Nonfiction Prize

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Lower Mainland woman’s Halloween spirit

Langley’s Tanya Reid posted video offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read