Volume 96, Issue 77
Friday, February 14, 2003

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Red-hot Siona sings the blues

By Zach Peterson
Gazette Staff

What do the Bahai faith and blues music have in common? Both help define the singing of Siona Neale.

Neale's Bahai upbringing gave her plenty of opportunities to perform at a young age. "Music is about giving and expressing culture – [expressing] who you are," she says.

The Hamilton native has been bringing her music to audiences around the world for over five years. Since graduating from Western in 1995, Neale has put her musical arts degree into practice. She has performed in various theatrical groups, in Opera Hamilton and on various recordings for radio and television.

In 1999, Neale toured North America, South America and Europe, singing jazz, blues, soul and gospel music. The tour introduced Neale to a Polish financier, who is now her husband. After relocating to Warsaw, Poland two years ago, Neale connected with Polish guitarist Krys Barcik and his band. This initial world tour truly captured the spirit of what Neale wants to achieve with her music.

"I want to practice the art of storytelling through music," Neale says.

Furthermore, Neale says she wants to be a cultural ambassador. "I have the ability to travel and to make connections," she notes. "By sharing my music, people can draw from my experiences."

The term "culture" has a unique meaning for Neale. Her parents were originally from Trinidad-Tobago, she grew up in Canada and now lives in Poland.

"I think of myself as a global citizen," Neale says.

For Neale, the biggest difference between the typical North American audience and the European audience is the language barrier.

"I try to establish clarity, especially between the perception of feeling – 'keeping it real' – and what you hear. [With the non-English speaking audiences], it is really important that they understand what you are saying," Neale says.

Currently, Neale is in Canada for a brief promotional tour. She played various Ontario blues clubs throughout January and is still performing through February, including a stop at The Honest Lawyer in London on Feb. 14. The purpose of the tour is to gain attention for Neale's act before she returns to Canada in the summer to play, along with the Krys Barcik Blues Band, at blues festivals from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.

Moreover, Neale recently released her second solo recording, A Blue Bite, which features music in the blues/rock vein. Another record, Red, Hot and Blues, is set for release either later this year or in early 2004.

Despite a busy club schedule, Neale still finds time for other musical ventures. In honour of Black History Month, Neale organized Brother Mine, a 35-minute, two-person show, which features a series of songs in various black musical styles.

"Brother Mine asks, 'What does it mean to create unity?' [The production] is my contribution to the development of community spirit," Neale says.

Brother Mine will be performed in London on Feb. 15 at the Unitarian Fellowship Hall and Feb. 16 at the Congregation of Christ Gospel Church.

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2002 THE GAZETTE