Monday, July 23, 2007
The Mellow Melua
Re-reading the last several posts on this blog, I am convinced they are a little heavy by way of content – hopefully not by way of style, which is, I hope, considerably lighter. Also I have noticed that they are weighted to describing male characters. Therefore, to restore the gender balance and indeed to lighten the subject matter I should like to turn my attention to one of my favourite singers of late, i.e., Katie Melua. The surname is pronounced Mel’ua, not Mel’lua.
Melua is a talented and beautiful singer, and by all accounts a wonderful human being. Well, I suppose we’re all the latter in theory, certainly not the former. In these days, where Ireland is a cultural melting pot, it is interesting to recount that Katie was born in Georgia in 1984 (then a part of the USSR) and that she lived for 4 years in Belfast, after which her family moved to Surrey, England. Recently I heard our very own redoubtable and venerable critic and writer, Ulick O’Connor, say that the burgeoning of our literature in English at the time of the Celtic Revival at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century is directly linked to the melding of the best in the native Irish and the almost native Anglo-Irish literatures in the personages of our four great Nobel Laureates Yeats, Joyce, Beckett and G.B. Shaw. Greatness comes from cross-fertilisation.
One can only marvel at the wonderful cross-fertilisation of cultures in Katie Melua – Katie speaks three languages – Georgian, Russian and English. The world is truly a global village with both the modern ease of movement and the instant access we have to other cultures through satellite and internet. Having attended The Brit School for the Performing Arts, Melua began to write her own songs and met her future manager, the producer Mike Batt. On the 10th august 2005 Katie became a British citizen with her parents and brother.
Her Album, Call Off The Search contained two songs she wrote: “Befast (Penguins and Cats)” and “Faraway Voice.” The first of these two contain this verse
I've got a ticket to the fast city,
where the bells don't really ring,
getting off the plane the cold air
rushes like bullets through my brain.
I presume that Penguins and Cats refer respectively to Protestants and Catholics. I love the above lines, but especially the observation “the paintings on the walls of release are colourful but they are no Matisse.”
“Faraway Voice” is about the death of the singer Eva Cassidy, one of Katie’s favourites, who died of melanoma in her native Bowie, Maryland, USA at the young age of 33. Appropriately enough, as I’m typing these words I am playing Katie Melua on iTunes. Her voice is nothing short of bewitching. It is easy to see why she was enthralled by the marvelous and wonderful Eva Cassidy. A verse of this second song goes thus:
And I will walk with you on a summer's day,
And I will talk to you,
Though you're faraway,
And we'll sing through the years,
Are you over those hills,
Do you still hum the old melodies,
Do you wish people listened,
Over here with me [x3]
Personally, one of my favourite Melua songs is “Closest Thing to Crazy” written by her manager Mike Batt. I think I connect somewhere with the sentiments of that lyric. I also admit that I also like “Nine Million Bicycles” though I’m aware that critics like John Murphy of MusicOMH.com said that it lacked passion, soul and excitement. I strongly disagree because the listener must work a little to get on Katie’s evenly balanced wavelength and realize that it’s a calmness and meditative stillness that Katie sings with, not with a lack of passion, soul or excitement. When one connects with the meditative stillness one is moved! So there, now, John Murphy, put that in your pipe and smoke it!
There are many marvelous sites on Katie Melua on the web. Go there for better stuff than this rather meager personal tribute!