A tuneful peek into the inner workings of a gentle soul.
By Jaco Lotriet
Stepping out of one’s comfort zone to embrace a larger view of the world, can be a daunting experience. Songstress and musician Stella, did just that, by immersing herself in the world of solo artistry. Having been a member of Duis:Lig, the Ghoema and Tempo awarded gospel band, she fearlessly braved the unknown with her first solo attempt, Nuwe Môre. Backed by a talented team of musicians, which includes the infamous Jake Odendaal, co-writing, in part, as well as arranging, it came to its realisation.
Centurion Theatre recently hosted the launch event that saw a warm gathering of loved ones, close friends and media on a chilly autumn night, showcasing what could best be described as an intimate portrait of Stella’s very essence. She managed to pull it off in a style that resonates her easy going, placid demeanour, received well by one and all present.
The evening kicked off with the track ‘Deur die Liefde en die Seer’- a punchy, yet tender glimpse into the fragility of relationships, with the passage of time. Easily identifiable from an audience perspective, I got hooked from the first bar of the intro. Characterised by a repetitive quarter-measure beat on piano, this powerful song lured the audience into a foot-tapping trance. Further creating a sense of tranquillity abound, was the delicate use of a live violin throughout and balanced by the pulsating beat.
A bout of laryngitis earlier in that week did not stop Stella from translating the work on her new album through a personal execution, although it was admitted that rehearsals did prove to be somewhat challenging. This minor obstacle, however, ironically contributed to the personal connection with each song, as the apparent huskiness lent an almost mysterious air of anticipation to the first part of her repertoire, especially.
Short interludes between the tracks provided a chance to convey certain insights into the actual writing process or where an idea stemmed from. This sometimes cleverly added to the human touch, accentuating the deep, poetic connection so transparent in her music and a true reflection of her gentle soul. An occasional offbeat quip, delivered with poise, contributed to the relaxed, lounge-like atmosphere that certainly defused potentially distressing moments on stage, from time to time. Nonetheless, Stella’s professionalism stood steadfast as she soldiered on with her relentless spirit.
An interesting jaunt of artistic ingenuity on display was during a stunning performance of ‘Suid-Afrika’, utilizing a loop-pedal. In short and for the uninitiated, this is a device that, in effect, allows the artist to edit different parts of the song together – in this instance done live – enabling Stella to effectively perform a one-man-show in this instance. This requires careful planning and concentration to accomplish and was executed beautifully…
Throughout the performance, Stella effortlessly glided between piano and acoustic guitar duties, supported by a band of consummate session artists, lending a litheness to the presentation that was second to none, as one would expect. This whole experience, was the perfect appetizer for the actual recorded album.
The album, Nuwe More, as a whole, projects an air of comforting promise that is associated with the easy listening genre, from the nostalgic ‘Die Berge Blou’, through the brooding, yet upbeat ‘Limbo’, all the way to the pleading ‘Words’. Nuwe Môre is an invigorating solo attempt by a promising, vivacious artist and we trust it will be the first of many to come.
On Nuwe More, Stella’s vocal delivery becomes sharper and more nuanced, especially on ‘Carry You’ and ‘Words’, reminiscent of international singers to the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Sara Bareilles and even drawing textures from the acclaimed Adéle. While I shy away from drawing comparisons in general, this parallel however demonstrates her incredibly supple range: velvety, soothing and even soaring, but nevertheless forging her own identity…
The album, a must for the South-African Music Supporter, is currently available on iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play Music and MiTracks.