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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 17, 2004

Singer Goapele refuses to have music pigeon-holed

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

R&B vocalist Goapele will play Pipeline Cafe Sunday night. She kicked off the millennium at Nick's Fishmarket on New Year's Eve 1999.

Lisa Keating

Goapele with Pep Love

11 p.m. Sunday

Pipeline Cafe

$16 advance, $21 at the door

18 and older

Tickets at Too Gruvz, Flipside and Cheapo Music. Information at 589-1999

San Francisco-based R&B chanteuse Goapele's music is often as much about sweet romanticism as it is social consciousness.

An odd-sounding mix without a spin? Perhaps. But blended with her smooth-as-fresh-cream vocals and genre-hopping flirtations with jazz, hip-hop, funk and old school R&B, it's more like a chill mix of warm soul goodness.

Sony came calling last year with a distribution deal. But by that time, Goapele had sold more than 60,000 copies of her 2002 debut "Even Closer" on her own label, primarily at live shows and over the Internet.

Her Sunday Pipeline Cafe show will be her first here since opening the millennium at Nick's Fishmarket on New Year's Eve 1999.

Goapele (pronounced "quah-pay-lay," it means "step forward" in the South African language Sitswana) was in Atlanta finishing work on her second CD when we spoke.

Rolling Stone magazine once called you "the spiritual love child of Sade and D'Angelo." Are you?

(Laughs.) Well, it's kind of funny because I'm a big fan of both of them. ... I saw (the article) the night after I (performed) at a live album concert with (former Tony Toni Tone frontman) Raphael Saadiq at the L.A. House of Blues ... where D'Angelo also actually sang a song. I had been wanting to do a show with him for the longest time. So it was kind of funny that there was that distant connection with him the night after I did the show.

What are your real parents like?

My family coming from other countries has given me a different world perspective. My music has been influenced by somewhat of an international sound. My dad was from South Africa so we grew up listening to a lot of South African jazz and soul music. A lot of the subject matter was about social issues. So it was a natural blend for me to sometimes talk about social issues in my music without it having to be political, but just another subject.

What are some artists you grooved to growing up that still influence you?

I grew up listening to Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Roberta Flack. As I got older, there was Prince and Bjork and a hell of a lot of people in hip-hop. I continue to be inspired by other artists; I go back to those old albums. And I just try to create something that's my own. I write my own lyrics and I like to work closely with producers. We try and create something together that's definitely unique. But I definitely like somewhat of an old sound at the same time.

Not everything one listens to growing up is cool. Own up, girl.

When I was in elementary school, I liked The Jets. (Laughs.) I listened to them like crazy. ... And honestly, I listened to that first Bobby Brown album a lot, too. It's interesting that that '80s sound is coming back. There's even a little flavor of it in some of the stuff I'm doing now. I'm just freaked (by it) in a different way.

Do you grimace when music writers pin you — and artists like Sade, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu — with the neo-soul label?

I don't mind when I'm associated with those artists. I have a lot of their albums, and I enjoy them. I don't really like the title "neo-soul." I just feel like it's too limiting. It makes people think of a certain thing, and I just don't think it can define me. Some of the music that I do can fit into that category. But then there are also songs that could just be called R&B. Some of it is over hip-hop tracks. Some of it can be called jazz. But it can't all be neo-soul.

Describe your music in one line.

It's music that I feel that I hope you feel. (Laughs.)

Reach Derek Paiva at 525-8005 or dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com.