When Kirsty Almeida steps on stage at Hebden Bridge Trades Club it will be a special moment in what, to date, has been an idiosyncratic career.
“It sounds bizarre but I’m pregnant so this is the last full show for a while,” laughs Almeida.” I think we’ll just play all our favourites and turn it into a bit of a celebration really.
“The last time we played in Hebden there was an amazing crowd as I think they are some mad ley lines there, but there was a huge spiritual feeling going in the Trades so the energy level were already raised. The last show was wild where the beautiful moments were tearful, and in the wild moments people were dancing on the tables so it’ll be all that plus more as it is the last one before I give birth.”
But Almeida is confident she won’t be giving birth on stage.
“I’m not far along enough to do it on the night but if I did I’m pretty sure there would be people in that audience who could help me out.”
Almeida was born in the UK but grew up in Gibraltar which pretty much makes her on the only working pop artist from that tiny place.
“It suited me to be able to directly see Morocco and Spain, plus the island has its own Moorish influences as well, and Gibraltar is situated in such a way I was able to access a lot of Hispanic, Latin and Arabic music which have been influences in what I do. I also played violin in the Gibraltar orchestra so there was a classic music value system instilled in at a young age. None of that would have happen if I wasn’t living in Gib.”
As well as her Gibraltarian influences, Kirsty travelled the world with her father’s work attending 19 different schools along the way.
“I’m absolutely certain that is a huge factor in the music I make and the way I write especially as my accent, the way I dress and the way I am all seems really normal to me,” notes Almeida. “All my travels have moulded my style and musically as well, plus the musicians I work with tend to have a real love and grasp of world music. When I’m doing a new song with them they will say ‘that chord there doesn’t make any sense there’ so in the grand scheme of things it does work as things from my travels have seeped into my personal culture.”
But it wasn’t all plain sailing for a young female artist on the Rock where, in her formative years, women were often seen as wives and mothers not budding rock stars.
“My father brought me up to be a go-getter and career girl but there weren’t any women in bands when I was growing up and if they were there they were just there as backing singers. I remember on National Day, where we celebrate our independence, my father who is also a singer couldn’t do it and I was asked to take his place. That was bit of a ‘oh right’ moment as I was female.
“It was the first time a female was asked to sing on National Day which was really hard because I was 16 or something and being told not to have any input but to look pretty and sing the song. I remember at the time it was something I had to struggle against, but after that it opened the gates for other women to sing.”
And the perfect preparation for the lingering sexism in our music industry?
“It gave me a strong boost for when I came into the music business as being turned down was never a problem if you’d been through rejection all through your teenage years.”
Like many people from small communities Kirsty moved to London at 17 which led to an unexpected gig in front of The Queen.
“I studied art and then music where I worked underneath an amazing woman called Geraldine Connor, who died last year, but who was this Afro Caribbean woman who was one of the first black producers to be recognised as an artist.
“She had a show called Carnival Messiah which was The Messiah done in a Creole style and she was invited to be perform it in front of The Queen on Commonwealth Day. It was a huge honour for a little girl coming from Gibraltar and I met The Queen who said: ‘did you make all these costumes?’ I said’No, Ma’am’ and wondered why me?”
By Paul Clarke
Who: Kirsty Almeida and the Troubadours
Where: Hebden Bridge Trades Club
When: January 31, 2014
More info: http://thetradesclub.com/, http://www.dejavoodu.co.uk/