NAOMI NSOMBI as part of ELEVATION with the GROOVE INSTITUTE Friday (August 24), 10 pm, at Una Mas (422 Adelaide West) $10. groo email@example.com. Rating: NNNNN
Naomi Nsombi as part of Elevation with the Groove Institute Friday (August 24), 10 pm, at Una Mas (422 Adelaide West), $10. firstname.lastname@example.org.
toronto house vocalist naomi Nsombi has definitely got her ego under control."It drives me nuts when people put me up on a stage with lots of lighting," she says prior to her set at Elevation. "I'm not really a diva, and I'm not going to be doing dance moves up there."
Her low-key glamour defines what her music has been about, the soundtrack of a maturing scene that's placing more and more value on rootsiness and restraint.
"What I'm into right now are things like Zero Seven, 4 Hero -- maybe not so drum 'n' bass and triphop, but I do like very moody electronic music with live elements. I like the crossover of sounds."
This laid-back approach hasn't kept her from becoming an in-demand house vocalist. She's appeared on tracks by Abacus (aka A:xus), Ron Trent, Aquanote and a soon-to-be-released song recorded with Ibadan Records' Jerome Sydenham and Play Records' Peter Jarvis.
"Jerome was in town and Peter was acting as executive producer, bringing in musicians for Jerome to finish a bonus track for a Japanese label. The deal was that Peter could use the track for his own label, so he called me in. I had a song that Rose from LAL had written that sort of fit the music -- I added a few lines and changed the melodies a bit."
One of Nsombi's collaborations with Abacus, a remake of Calling You/Baghdad Cafe, surprised many in the house scene by being put in rotation on MuchMusic and eventually receiving two nominations for MuchMusic awards.
Her charismatic, relaxed confidence gives an image and attitude to the music without compromising the integrity of the song. Not just a session singer for hire, she takes time off from her acting career to perform out of a genuine love of house.
"The first time I went out to a house club was at the Twilight Zone. I was 16, and from that point I was, like, "Oh, my god, I've found it -- this is why I was born.'
"Before I worked with Abacus I was in a band called Microgroove, a live jazzy drum 'n' bass thing with some of the guys from Do Make Say Think, but house has always been a love for me.
"I want to keep on doing house, but very song-based stuff, something that could be played on the radio -- not pop, but real songs. I write most of the songs I perform, except Calling You."
Saturday will see her singing some of her past hits as well as some covers of older songs. "I'm just going to do it really casual and free-flow, because it's a live PA -- as a big show it wouldn't really be interesting. The more casual it is, the more comfortable it makes people feel."