Friday, 08 November 2019 10:00
Estonian Life No. 45 2019
Laila Biali - photo by Rockie Nolan
Latitude 44 and Estonian Music Week are quickly approaching and will be taking place from November 14 to the 17th along with two concerts at the end of the month! Estonian Music Week Culture Club is presenting two shows on November 29th and November 30th where Laila Biali, a fantastic homegrown jazz vocalist, will be performing along with Kadri Voorand, famed Estonian jazz vocalist for nights filled with top tier musicianship and talent. These concerts will be taking place at the Westdale Theatre in Hamilton and at the Royal Cinema in Toronto respectively. Laila was very kind to sit down with me for a short interview to introduce herself to the reader. Did you grow up with music around your home? When did you first know that you wanted to be a musician?
I grew up in North Vancouver, British Columbia. We had a piano in our home which my mom would play casually – church hymns, Christmas carols, and that sort of thing. She was a busy housewife with four daughters to manage, and I remember well the feeling I would get when she would occasionally go to the piano to play. It filled our home with peace, and I was drawn to the warmth of it. As the age of three and a half, my mom tells me I went up to the piano myself, crawled up onto the bench and started to figure out the theme from Sesame Street, the popular children’s TV show. She knew then that I had an ear for music, and shortly thereafter they enrolled me in piano lessons. What do you listen to yourself? Who are some of your favourite artists/bands?
I have broad and eclectic taste when it comes to music – everything from Anton Rubenstein’s interpretations of Chopin to Radiohead, Joni Mitchell and Björk. Who would you say are your inspirations, both musically and just in general?
I love the contemporary singer, bassist and composer Esperanza Spalding. She is creatively fearless. She goes in many different directions, but there is always a cohesion and concept to her music. She’s sophisticated, playful and exciting to listen to. For lyrics, Joni Mitchell is the best. She spins the most incredible stories and narratives, and she has a marvelous turn of phrase – so many rich images and detailed descriptions of life.Have you ever had the chance to work with Estonians, in any sort of context, before Estonian Music Week? Have you ever been to Estonia?
This will be my first experience working alongside an Estonian musician, and I am very excited it will be Kadri Voorand! I hear she has a unique and contemporary approach to Jazz, which I think will work well with what I do. Someday, I dream of performing in Estonia myself!What’s your song writing process like? Where do you take inspiration from for your songs?
As a songwriter, I find inspiration in many places – my own experiences, what my friends and family go through, stories I hear in the news. Life is rich and filled with both pain and beauty. I’m fascinated by the way we experience both, and I believe that, even in the shadows, light and hope can be found. In that sense, there is always a spirit of optimism in my writing.What have been some of your favourite places to perform, both nationally and internationally?
I can’t think of anywhere in the world I’ve been that I haven’t enjoyed, but I have especially loved touring across Europe and in Japan. You’ve toured with other great artists such as Chris Botti, Paula Cole, and Sting. What has that been like? Do you have a favourite experience or memory from one of those tours?
Sting was always a hero of mine, so working with him has been the fulfillment of a dream. Even though he’s an international superstar, his work ethic and love of music are still so evident. At rehearsals in Tuscany and Durham, he was always the first to show up and the last to leave. He’s also a kind and thoughtful human being, a wonderful example of grace amidst fame.What’s the greatest thing about being a musician?
My favourite thing about being a musician is touring the world and sharing music with people of all cultural backgrounds. Music is an international language that transcends borders, and it’s an extraordinary privilege to participate in the exchange of music and culture all around the globe.What are you looking forward to most while performing within the framework of Estonian Music Week?
I’m especially looking forward to hearing Kadri Voorand perform live, and collaborating with her for a song on stage. I also hear that Estonian listeners are passionate and intelligent. It will be a great treat to share my music with the Estonian community in Toronto!If you had to give one piece of advice to a young, aspiring musician, what would it be?
My advice to young musicians is to find their own voice. It’s a useful tool to copy and emulate the musicians you admire, but at the end of the day, I believe the world wants to hear whatever it is that makes you unique. Find the qualities that distinguish you from other artists, dream big, and follow your heart!Kati Kiilaspea