Singer/songwriter Luanda Jones never imagined she’d leave Brazil. She was born in Ipanema, she lived one block from the world-famous beach, the rhythms of Rio bubble in her veins. And yet here she is as the snow threatens to fly for what will be her sixth winter in Toronto.
Much to her surprise, the singer fell in love with her adopted city, and even though the relationship that brought her to Canada has since ended, Jones chooses to remain in the Great White North. She plays the Uma Nota Festival at Lula Lounge this weekend, sharing the stage with musicians from around the globe in a celebration of Latin, Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian funk, soul and jazz.
“Toronto is so cool,” she says. “Everybody is from someplace else, we’re mostly immigrants who bring our music with us and we play it together. It’s amazing. In Toronto, if you want to do a song with tabla you can phone someone who plays tabla REALLY well because he’s been doing it his whole life. My musicians, my friends here, they are my second family.”
And Lula Lounge, where Uma Note will be percolating all weekend, is Jones’s home away from home, the stage where she feels most at ease. “I love Lula so much,” she enthuses. “They opened the door for me from the first month I was here. The owners are amazing! It’s hard to have a house with great music week after week, year after year and they’ve been doing that for eight years. It’s the best house for me in Toronto.”
Jones’s debut album, Aquarela, is now two years old and she’s sitting on a wealth of new songs that she’d love to record but she’s forcing herself to be patient. “I’m not in a rush,” she tells me. “I want to have a well-done record. I have a lot of new influences, sometimes I’m more jazzy, sometimes I’m more funky and I don’t know yet how I’m going to pull it all together.”
For the moment, the singer/guitarist is happy working a “cozy” groove, just herself on voice and guitar with keys player Tiago Souza, a talented young man whose chops belie his age (just 22).
“He has a lot of swing,” confirms Jones, “and I have as well. It’s a good mix, for sure.”
As winter looms, Jones is making plans for another trip to Europe, which is where she spent the dark months last year. “I came to Toronto because of love and I stay because I love it,” she says. “It’s cold here, we know that, but I can travel. My career is about travel so I can go somewhere else when it snows and then come back.”
Photos: Top and bottom pic by Bia Shmidt, middle photo by Michael Zender