On hearing her voice you’ll be transported to the banks of the Mississippi, to the streets of Clarksdale or Memphis, in the company of the great singers of blues, soul, folk, funk, rhythm ‘n blues… all rooted in the fervor of the gospel choirs. And yet, Kaz Hawkins was born in Northern Ireland and learnt her trade in the bars of Belfast where her father took her, amidst the chaos of a country plagued by segregation and civil war.
Unknown in France, Kaz decided to settle here. “I fell in love with your culture. Here, no one labels me. I am free to write a new chapter in my life.” It was a shared declaration of love based on the welcome she received from the different festival audiences, ‘Blues autour du Zinc’ at Beauvais and ‘Cognac Blues Passion’.
And so, a new chapter begins….with a release, on the 8th April, of a ‘Best of’ entitled ‘My Life and I’ (to be released as a double vinyl at the end of May) by her henceforth producers, Dixiefrog. To understand such emotion with all the imperfections that create the intensity of her singing, you need to head back in time. To that of a small girl, who secretly wrote poetry in an attempt to forget the pain of a tainted innocence. It was also when she entered her first talent show interpreting Doris Day’s ‘Secret Love’. The much impressed artistic director of the show led her towards another repertoire: that of Etta James. Such advice was to overwhelm the young girl of twelve. On hearing the cassette of ‘Saint-Louis Blues’, that her grandmother brought back from the market, Kaz parted with her pretty meringue dress and her sheet music for ‘No, no Nanette’ and ‘Tea for Two’, to wholly embrace this soothing music. “I could hear the sadness and identified with it. I wanted to sing like her, but without imitating her”, she recalls. A symbolic legacy that would lead her to adopt the name of the lady that had always inspired her ( Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins).