Even while handling a move to Manhattan, a monumental task in itself, Kaissa, a Cameroonian singer, songwriter and dancer, will always find the time to perform in the city where she has lived for 14 years.
“African music is such a part of life. It’s something that we do, that everybody does,” Kaissa said in an interview Tuesday. Which is why, amidst the flurry of a move and the release of a new album, performing next Sunday afternoon at the Jamaica Library is a natural way to spend her time.
“I grew up with this kind of tapestry, where everyone’s performing,”she continued. Of her upcoming show she said: “I just want to fill the room with music.”
This simple and soulful goal is reflected in her songs. Often described as African fusion, her sound draws from elements of jazz, ska and folk, and her ballads are a delicate version of blues.
She sings in Doula, one of the languages of Cameroon, and her band is composed of musicians from around the world. However, most of all, she said her music is a delivery system for “joy and messages of hope,” a sentiment most evident in her dance songs.
Kaissa has been performing all her life, and has been touring professionally for more than 20 years. New York in particular has become a wellspring of opportunities for Kaissa, who has toured worldwide with David Byrne and shared the bill with Diana Ross.
In 2008, she was invited to perform with Paul Simon in his month-long career retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Though she has experience on stage at large festivals worldwide, she said the size of the space does not matter as much as the music and the message. “It’s not just performing, its the connection with the crowds,” she said. “I always want to do that; I always want to interact.”
Kaissa’s focus on the world and its events gives her songs both their sorrow and their joy. “I think about the things that are happening in the world around me,” Kaissa said, citing the political turmoil in the Ivory Coast that recently claimed more than 170 lives. “I was really moved by that, I never thought I would see that in my life.” Refugees have fled the country for Liberia.
“It’s not only as an entertainer that I sing,” she said. Kaissa sits on the advisory council of Action Against Hunger, a global nonprofit that works to prevent malnutrition and improve water, sanitation and hygiene programs for the world’s most impoverished people. She is also active in the fight against female genital mutilation, a practice prevalent in some African countries.
Kaissa is a member of Artists for Freedom, a global alliance working to end human trafficking, and said the issues that move her are as much a part of her music as anything else.
In her performances, she hopes to move listeners by sharing the texture of her international life with them.
When: Sunday, Jan 9. at 3 p.m.
Where: Queens Central LibraryAuditorium, 89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica