One of the things that I’ve realized about Trinis is that we are loathe to stay still. We can be found in every part of the world, fulfilling our dreams and goals. Case in point, Alicia Saldenha. We attended the same high school and years later her name entered my Twitter feed when she expressed something complimentary about this site. A clickthrough to her profile revealed that she was now living in Japan, a university lecturer by day and soulful jazz-infused singer by night! When I launched the ‘Sweet Han’ series I knew I had to ask her to sign on and I’m so thrilled that she said yes
Bio – Alicia Saldenha
Alicia Saldenha, born in the Caribbean Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, has been taking Japan by storm with her unique brand of funky soul island sugar. Her singular style defies attempts to define and categorize her. One would have to imagine the vocal sweetness of Roberta Flack, Minnie Riperton and Linda Lewis, mixed with the raw funk and stage energy of Chaka Khan and Ledisi.
Resident in Japan, an environment notoriously difficult for “foreign artists” unsigned to major labels, Saldenha has been breaking down barriers between races, cultures and languages and is performing with top Japanese and international artists. Leading her own band, she performs her original music throughout Japan. The shows are dynamic and full of energy, often featuring visiting international artists.
Her debut solo album, Dance with the Sun, showcases her talent as a vocalist and composer, as well as her determination. Without the resources of a record company or sponsor, with only a shoestring budget cobbled together from her savings, Saldenha ventured alone to New York City to record her album with some of the finest musicians and highly respected producer, Andrew Felluss of Radian Records. Grammy Award nominated pianist and composer, Barney McAll (of Groove Collective, Fred Wesley and the JB’s), noted drummer, Mark Kelley (bassist for Meshell Ndegeocello) and Kaleta, percussionist for Fela Kuti, are among the stellar musicians on the album.
Alicia Saldenha is also the featured vocalist on the indigo jam unit album, Rose, released on September 2, 2011. A successful national tour included sold-out performances at Billboard Live Osaka and JZ Brat, Tokyo. Before this she also performed with the legendary Paul Jackson of Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters.
Saldenha’s resumé includes a long list of experiences – as actress, dancer, scholar and university lecturer. Many creative plans are in the works, including a world tour, so stay tuned…
• Love & Unity – Alicia Saldenha and Artists in Japan for Haiti (Single. Shalestone/Jem Adar Music. Jan. 2013)
• Dance with the Sun – Alicia Saldenha (CD. Jem Adar Music. June 13, 2012)
• Ooh Boy – Alicia Saldenha (EP. Jem Adar Music. Digital Release February 22, 2012)
• Rose – indigo jam unit feat. Alicia Saldenha (CD. Basis Records. September 2nd, 2011)
• Sounds for Pray – Mizuho Masuda (Charity Single for Tohoku, Japan. July 2011)
Visit Alicia Online:
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH TRINIGOURMET:
TG: Do you have any particularly prized CDs in your collection? If so, what are they and why do they hold special value to you?
Alicia: Yes, I do… too many to mention. My Betty Carter and Cassandra Wilson collections are special because they showed me how original a jazz vocalist could and should be. My Rachelle Ferrell CDs are gold because she is probably the best vocalist I have ever heard. The first time I heard a recording of her I was transfixed. I went and bought all of her albums the next day. D’angelo’s Voodoo, Bilal’s 1st Born Second and Jill Scott’s debut CD are favorites which all these years later I still play over and over and love more and more. I love my Brother Resistance and 3Canal CDs because I know the artists personally and listening to them reminds me of home. Betty Davis’ Nasty Girl shocked and impressed me. I had never heard anything like that. She was so ahead of her time and remains criminally under-appreciated. She made me fall in love with funk music all over again. Her performance is so raw and brave. And she had a great influence on the music of Miles Davis. I love all the albums by The Narcicyst because he makes hip hop the way it used to be, when it actually had something important to say. He finds very clever ways to highlight the injustice and absurdity of Islamophobia, Israel’s oppressive occupation of Palestine and the common humanity of everyone desiring peace and beauty in the world. The Beatles’ White Album is also special to me since it was a present from someone I was very in love with once upon a time.
TG: What is a challenge that you have successfully overcome in life?
Alicia: Learning to take care of my natural hair on my own. Initially I always wore braids or dreadlocks because they were easy to handle. Living in Japan where there are few black women or hairdressers capable of handling my hair forced me to learn how to do it myself. When I found myself spending money to travel to Thailand to have my hair done, I knew that I had to take matters into my own hands. Thank goodness for YouTube! I found tutorials and learned how to braid my hair. Then when I chopped it all off and decided to wear an afro, I found good tips there about how to treat and manage my hair. It is easier than you would imagine. Now people are asking me to do theirs.
TG: Best cooking tip for a novice?
Alicia: I’m the last person you should ask this question. It’s only in the last year that I started cooking regularly. Before that I ate out a lot. I find your videos and blogs very inspiring so I would suggest that they subscribe to TriniGourmet.
TG: What kitchen gadget is currently on your wishlist?
Alicia: I have two on my list, actually – a food processor and an oven. Japanese apartments tend to be small so I don’t actually know where I would PUT the oven, but I would really like one.
TG: What is one piece of advice that you’d like to leave my readers with?
Do what you love. You are more likely to make and sustain the effort required to succeed doing something you are passionate about, as opposed to something you choose out of obligation or practicality.
Watch Alicia perform tonight 7p.m. EST on the 10th episode of “Sweet Han’: Caribbean Cooking with Sarina”! The live stream will be posted on my Twitter, Facebook, and G+ accounts and on www.youtube.com/TriniGourmet