Ndidi Onukwulu fights the blues of the music industry with fundamental songs

Ndidi Onukwulu in April will drop a collaboration with Be Good Tanyas’ Trish Klein and perform at the Shadbolt Center on March 31.

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Or: Shadbolt Center Studio Theatre, 6450 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby

Tickets: $35/$30/$15 ($15 live stream) at tickets.shadboltcentre.com and 604-205-3000

Ndidi Onukwulu, who was born and raised in British Columbia, divides her time between Los Angeles and Vancouver. She returns for a show on March 31 with her band consisting of Mike Kenny, Brad Ferguson and Flavio Cirillo. The 2019 Western Canadian Music Awards Blues Artist of the Year and two-time Juno-nominated singer-songwriter released her most recent album, These Days, in 2018. In April, she will drop a collaboration with Trish Klein from Be Good Tanyas. . We spoke to Onukwulu from LA, about the new record and his upcoming Shadbolt show.

Q: You are in Los Angeles right now. Is living there better for your career?

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A: No. It’s better for life. Winter sucks. Originally I came here for musical stuff. I recorded my last two albums here and I have a few connections. It’s good to be here. I built a bit of community. It’s a good place to write. Nothing is close, so it’s easy to isolate yourself and work on your art without distraction.

Q: What can you tell us about the new album with Trish Klein?

A: We met in Paris many years ago. We have always talked about working together. Then the pandemic hit and Trish approached me about this project. These are our reinterpretations of traditional blues/folk songs from the early 20th century by female artists, mostly African American women – people like Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Elizabeth Cotten. All of these women played a fundamental role in creating the music we make today. They don’t get the credit they deserve. We are called Le Bleu et l’Or. The album is out April 30.

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Q: What is the format of the Shadbolt show?

A: The first half is songs from my catalog, then Trish will come and we’ll do a teaser set, some songs from the album. I’ll be closing the show with some of my old classics, then she and I will be broadcasting a live album release show at the end of April.

Q: Your last record was released in 2018. Are you looking forward to releasing an album of new songs?

A: It’s going slowly. I’m going to release a new album next year. I am still writing it. My inspiration meter hasn’t reached an all-time high.

Q: Maybe life is too sweet for you in California.

A: No. It’s slower. This next album may be my last. I turn to other forms of writing that fascinate me, such as television and film scripts. As much as I love music and performing, the music landscape sucks today. I’m older and tired and don’t have the energy to constantly do things online. I am not a brand. I don’t really want to be. Streaming services have almost reduced music to toilet paper. Most of my income from music comes from placing songs on TV and in movies, and that’s a different kind of music writing.

Q: Did the recording of all these songs by these pioneering women make you rethink your place in the music industry?

A: I feel like it’s channeling and honoring those women who have come before. It was hard for them. They did it even though they didn’t have a ton of recognition. They may have had five or 10 other jobs, but they kept going, they kept playing, they kept using that form of sound to praise the Earth. It was so powerful and spiritual and powerful. Singing it, I feel more uplifted. But that doesn’t change my view of the music industry today.

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