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Papiamentu goes global

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA
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INTERVIEW Izaline Calister, sings many kinds of music, but all in her own language, Papaiamentu

I f music is food for the soul, then Izaline Calister can be considered its masterchef. Hailing from the sunny Caribbean island of Curaçao, and tempered by Dutch technicality, Izaline can touch your soul and also have you dancing.

She is probably one of the few singers who has taken her native language Papiamentu to the world with her eclectic music, a mixture of Afro-Antilles, Caribbean, jazz and folk influences.

“Our culture has African and Latino influences. I studied jazz and I love jazz harmony. So my music has a blend of tradition, Afro-Carribean, jazz and a little bit of all the music that I have heard ,” says Izaline.

Though she was singing in a famous children's choir in Curaçao by the time she was seven, Izaline only began to take her music seriously when she was studying in the Netherlands. Izaline came out with her first album twelve years ago. Since then, she has released more than 15 albums including “Krioyo”, “Kanta Helene” and “Speransa”, winning the Dutch Edison music award in 2009.

Izaline is known to sing only in Papamentu, one of the most widely spoken languages in some of the Caribbean islands like Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. It is considered to be a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, with some Dutch and English influences.

“I think there aren't enough songs in Curaçao, so I decided to make some songs. I love the language and I think I can express myself well in that language. I can write lyrics that are more special. It's great to travel around the world and talking about my country and my language. People are also really interested, because it sounds like Portuguese, but it's not Portuguese.”

“A lot of my music is written from my life as a woman of today. At my age, living my life. I write about the problems in my country, about love and pain. I also talk about things that are fun and normal and of everyday life with its joys and sorrows. I take my own life as an example, so it's quite easy. We all live in different places, but experience the same things,” explains Izaline.

Listen to her singing and you can almost feel the quiver of her emotions.

“In the beginning it was hard because I needed to learn the technique. I was a better writer than a singer. But through the years, all my experience and the lessons that I learnt made it easier to fit my voice to the song. Now I feel no limits as a singer,” says the singer who names her influences among the likes of Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson and Cuban Boleros.

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA

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