Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

January/February 2012: Robert Glasper

Joanna Majoko

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You may have heard Joanna Majoko by now—she sang this summer with the Jazz on Wheels band, she’s a regular at the Cool Wednesday Night Hang, and she performs all over town with her soul/R&B band, SoulStation. It’s hard to catch her voice in words. It’s silky and warm, with a touch of gospel and a four-octave range that can raise the roof. She can whisper a secret and sing you the blues, all in the same tune. She’s a big talent, definitely one to watch…

What got you into singing in the first place?

As a kid, I was in every play and musical, but I never really thought about singing professionally until three years ago when I was studying at Brandon University. I took a few elective courses in the music department, and I can only explain it as a light bulb going on. I realized how much I love music and how much I want to be a part of the process. The rush I get from performing is unexplainable—it’s just thrilling.

When I moved to Winnipeg in 2009, a friend introduced me to the Jazz Studies program at the U of M and, well, here I am today, enjoying every moment in this world-class program.

What singers really inspire you?

Sarah Vaughan is a big inspiration for me. I admire her confidence, her talent, and her musicianship. She wasn’t just a vocalist—she could hang with all those cats on the bandstand. My present-day idol is Gretchen Parlato. Her sense of rhythm and feel is beautiful and intricate, and it complements the simplicity in her voice.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

Currently, I’m obsessed with the Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley album and with Gretchen Parlato’s latest record, The Lost and Found. I’m also listening to Kaiso by Etienne Charles, and Erykah Badhu’s album, Mamma’s Gun.

What is the hardest part on the road to becoming a jazz singer?

I would have to say the discipline required for truly honing the jazz craft. It requires attention to detail, and one needs a lot of patience—it takes a long time to truly master the understanding and playing of jazz.

What is the best part?

So far two things stand out for me. The first is that I fall in love with the jazz form more and more—every day brings me more of a realization that jazz is free from any limitations. The second is the growth I see in myself as a jazz singer—I surprise myself sometimes!

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