WITH ONE HAND ON her keyboard and the other on the mic, Estere Dalton makes a concocting brew of rhythms that are inspired by New Zealand, West Africa and all points inbetween – and beyond. She calls it “electric blue witch hop” …. the witch because of the magic in her music, and hop an obvious nod to hip-hop. Blue is the colour she would imagine her sounds to be.
Estere, as she known simply, performs with an MPC (music production centre) that she affectionately calls Lola.
Before she headed to Taranaki for Womad 2015 I caught up with my fellow Wellingtonian for a chat. It was an, ahem, curious conversation, that began with my young daughter grabbing the recorder from me.
Porky: Tell us about your … (encourages the bairn to give up the recorder) … music and how you approach it.
Estere: “I like to use samples from random things like a cutlery drawer opening and closing, or my afro-combs scraping against the mirror, and I record those sounds and I put them into my computer and mess around, maybe change the eq, or put some reverb in, and then I put them into Lola, and then [ten seconds missing as I grapple with the recorder with the wean, but it’s not that crucial.]
Porky: It’s basically you and [give up and let the littlie hold the recorder] Lola. How is she to work with?
Estere: “Lola has a bit of a personality, a bit like a car. If you buy a car you might call it Lucy, so she definitely has her own personality even though she is not quite human.”
Ohhhkay … moving swiftly on.
Estere also plays in a nine-piece soul-funk band called Brockaflowersaurus Rex, or just Brockaflower now because “Brockaflowersaurus Rex was just so ridiculously long and no-one could say it, including ourselves.”
Porky: So you’re solo much of the time, and then in a big band which must be quite a contrast?
Estere; “It is the polar opposite of what I do with Lola, where I have complete creative control, whereas with the band it’s like a complete collaboration and there’s a lot of compromise and a lot of people all with different ideas. But we all work really well together and we’re really great friends. It’s definitely the other side of making music.”
Estere was born and brought up in New Zealand, with her Cameroonian father living in France, where she visits regularly. So, inevitably, her music contains the sounds and rhythms of various cultures and influences.
[Brief interruption as the bairn grabs the phone and begins calling someone. I then tell Estere about a song called Estere I heard on SoundCloud and she informs me that she doesn’t have a song called Estere .. damn you Sound Cloud. Anyway, I eventually ask the damn question]
Porky: This particular track did sound a bit African, so you clearly draw on a lot of different influences.
Estere: “African music is awesome and it makes its way into my music. There are elements of Cameroonian or Senegalese rhythms in my music. Much of the ‘world’ music I love is through searching for stuff, or people introducing me to these sounds, and also what my mum would play in the car. And I have a strong interest in music from Cameroon and other parts of West Africa through my heritage, and my father has introduced me to different types of African music, like Miriam Makeba and Manu Dibango.”
Porky: What kind of subjects do you write about? [repeated as the sprog tries to say hello and get Estere to sing]
Estere: “I like to write about all different sorts of subjects, but I do like to sing about definitive contexts, so I talk about lizards and one of my songs Reptilian Journey is about reptiles and how they’ve been on the planet for 320 million years. And also about being a child of culture clash [in the song of the same name], having parents with completely different cultural backgrounds, and another song is about a fake ex-boyfriend, who I completely made up.”
I caught Estere at Womad, performing on the quaint Dell stage which is hidden to the side of the main stage. This was one of two performances over the weekend. Estere is an all-singing, all-dancing, all rounder who is bound for a long and productive career. But let’s hope that the media drop their tired and lazy comparisons to Erykah Badu and Kimbra and let her develop by herself. I also wonder if it would help to relieve the pressure on Lola by having a band member or two join her onstage.