« Composer competition for students | Main | Acoustic vocal laboratory in the works »

August 4, 2005

Coco’s Lunch offers feast for the ears

Question (Canada):

If you hunger for something a little out of the ordinary to satisfy your musical tastes, Coco's Lunch may just provide enough delicious musical traditions to sate any aural gourmet. The all-female Australian quintet brings its stunning mix of jazz, gospel and world music to Millennium Place on Friday, Aug. 5, for a smorgasbord of all-original songs performed mostly a cappella.
The five women of Coco's Lunch are all musical scholars with extensive educations and experiences in multiple styles and forms of music. Lisa Young completed her masters in music, specializing in advanced Konnokol ---– an Indian vocal percussion of the Karnatic tradition in which the voice imitates the sound of the mridangam drum.

"The group first started about 11 years ago and the current lineup has been together for about nine years," said Young. "Two of us used to play in a jazz ensemble together. "We both really wanted to be in a group that was for women's voices and we both came from an improvisational background," she said. "We met the other members of the group along the way."
Sue Johnson lectured in the improvisation department of the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) for 11 years and is known Australia-wide for her work as a
pianist/composer. Nicola Eveleigh is known as an outstanding flautist and studied both classical and improvisational music in an honours program at VCA. Gabrielle MacGregor is also an honours graduate of the VCA and has had her unique compositions featured in several Australian short films. Jacqueline Grawler is also an honours student, but from the University of Melbourne, where she received scholarships to study in Japan and Italy.

In fact, the members of Coco's Lu nch speak, or have studied five languages between them — Portuguese, English, German, Italian and Japanese. They've also studied musical styles from Africa, India, Bulgaria and Brazil. Those diverse experiences and styles converge in Coco's Lunch to create a unique musical flavour that is part Zap Mama, part Sweet Honey in the Rock, but completely original, angelic and richly-textured. "(A cappella music) is the type of genre that lets you utilize all five voices," said Young. "If you had a chordal instrument as well, some of those notes would already be covered. It's a demanding art, as well."

On the group's latest album, A Whole New Way of Getting Dressed, you can hear all those different facets of experience and study, as the quintet weaves a thoroughly mesmerizing spell of jazz and world music-influenced harmonies, accentuated by some flute and percussion. Notable on the CD is the track "Thulele Mama Ya" whose title is Zulu for "Don't Cry Mama," but is made up of a language that sounds African- inspired and is actually not a language at all.
"A lot of songs have come to Australia from Africa with those sorts of sentiments and I wanted to write a song that was inspired by that but was really our own," said Young. "I initially wrote it as a simple chant but it evolved from there."

Of course, Young admitted there wasn't always harmony in a group where improvisation and made-up languages are the order of the day. "We often have a big debate about how you write something down, phonetically," she said with a laugh. But you won't need a lyric sheet to understand the heart-felt lyrics and rhythmic vocalizations of what has already been called "a national treasure" by media back Down Under

Posted by acapnews at August 4, 2005 9:34 PM