Name It, She Sings It

29 Jul

Angelita Li performing at Groove Junction, Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur.
Angelita Li performing at Groove Junction, Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur.

DENNIS CHUA spends an evening listening to one of Hong Kong’s most versatile and accomplished singers.

THE name Angelita Li may not ring a bell when the topic of successful Hong Kong recording artistes is mentioned.

While she may not be a high-profile artiste like household names George Lam, Beyond, Eason Chan, Coco Lee and The Wynners, the 38-year-old Li has performed with all of them and has come up with three solo albums in her three-decade singing career.

Of Hong Kong and Malaysian Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and Sri Lankan ancestry, she excels in Brazilian jazz, fusion funk, soul and R&B.

The diving enthusiast also speaks English, Mandarin, Cantonese and a little Portuguese and has performed in Malaysia almost annually since 2003.

Li recently performed for four evenings (July 23 to 26) at Groove Junction Bistro in Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur, accompanied by the nightspot’s regular musicians, which included guitarist Jose Thomas and his son, drummer John Thomas.

In her two-hour mightly shows, Li performed 16 songs made popular by European jazz group Bossa Electrica, Portugal’s Maria Joao, The Beatles, Sergio Mendes and Tania Maria, George Gershwin, Fertile Ground, George Duke, Boney M, Chaka Khan and Pat Metheney and Japan’s Yutaka.

Her suave vocals and interplays of improvisatory rhythm, best demonstrated in The Beatles’ Come Together and Yutaka’s Brazasia, showed Malaysians why she is described as one of Hong Kong’s best kept musical secrets.

Li gave every song her very own interpretation, and was best when she delivered Chaka Khan’s monster hit, Ain’t Nobody, in a soulful Latin manner reminiscent of a Brazilian crooner.

Likewise her interpretation of Boney M’s hit Sunny, which she executed in flawless and sensual Portuguese.

Li started her singing career in 1979,at age nine. Back then she performed jingles on television commercials.

She later spent five years in Bangkok beginning 1990, honing her musical skills with various jazz groups. She was also invited by top Thai fusion group Infinity to guest on their 1993 album Together Again.

The following year, her talent was spotted by leading Thai recording label Grammy Entertainment which signed her up for her debut English album The Eyes Of Love.

In 1995, Li moved to Los Angeles where she studied music in Pasadena City College and also worked as a computer graphics artist. She also explored her musical boundaries at the renowned samba school Unidos De Los Angeles.

In 1996, Li returned to Hong Kong and recorded her debut Chinese jazz album Mystery, backed by the territory’s top jazz luminaries such as Eugene Pao and Dave Packer.

For the past five years, Li has worked with musicians on music projects and jazz festivals throughout Asia which have included the 2006 Jakarta Jazz Festival in Indonesia and the 2003 Sunrise Jazz Festival in Kuala Lumpur.

In 2002, she was invited by European jazz label Stunt to record her international solo album Caminhos Cruzados.

She has also given lectures, written articles on jazz and hosted jazz programmes on Radio Television Hong Kong.

Li aims to compose and write her own materials soon.

Among the Malaysian-based artistes she has collaborated with are Lewis Pragasam, Michael Veerapen, Pete Teo, Steve Thornton and Greg Lyons.

Li said: “I’d love to write music and record an album with them in the near future.”

“The audiences are much more open-minded and receptive. No matter what we play, they are really supportive and pay close attention to the music,” said Li on the local jazz scene.

Li said she was passionate about Brazilian music as it “made her move” and was melodically heavy.

“Jazz music is a culture, a freedom to improvise and express oneself. This is why I identify with it strongly,” she said.

The nightspot’s co-founder, Jennifer Thomas, said Li “added a new groove” to the local music scene and they were glad to combine credible local artistes with one of international calibre.


New Straits Times

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