Izaline Calister talks to Bernd Ihno Eilts/60Minuten.net!

The Groningen Report

The charismatic singer Izaline Calister from Curacao is also called the queen of Antillian music. Izaline is able to change a concerts atmosphere of a concert with her voice and can create the warmth of the Carribean islands. Earlier she won the Edison Jazz Award and the World Music Award. On her recent album Rayo di Lus (Ray of Light) she turned back towards her Afro-Antillean roots with songs in her own mother-tongue, Papiamento (a Creole language containing elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, as well as Arawkan and African languages). During her theatre tour “Latin Diva” in 2016, I had the time and chance to meet Izaline personally for a very open interview, in the Theatre in Hoogeveen, a small town in the north of The Netherlands.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Welcome dear Izaline! I’m very happy you could fit this meeting in your busy schedule during your tour. When I started to interview musicians, at first I focused on those bands, that came to Groningen for a concert. But of course, we always have a lot of live music here in town. So I also got in contact with musicians from the Prins Claus Conservatorium (PCC) and even their teachers, especially those from the United States. Now meeting you today is a kind of a family meeting. You also studied at the PCC in Groningen years ago. On the cover of your last CD Rayo Di Lus you thank the PCC very much, apart from others of course. Actually this is why we meet today, because I want to know all about your musically growth!

Izaline Calister: Nice!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: This is why I understand our meeting as a family meeting. Everyone involved in my talks especially, but also in general has something in common with each other and is, in that way, strongly connected with other musicians. In the period you studied at the PCC, I remember that I saw you many times performing in small jazz clubs in town, in De Spieghel for example, mostly in duo’s with you, as a singer and another guitar player. Then I lost you out of my sight but realized, you started a very successful career. So, you always stayed in my mind.

Izaline Calister: The times I spent in De Spieghel were my university actually. That was the place, where everything I learned in school became alive. We played sometimes twice a week and there I often played with the guitarist Rob Elfrink. We had a Brazilian band called Aquarela do Brazil and we played regularly on Thursdays in that club. If you, as a starting musician, play twice the week for one year long and you even have other gigs as well, then you play really a lot. That is a great way to try things and learn about audiences, being on stage, being a professional musician. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to play that much.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How do you remember that period?

Izaline Calister: I’m still very grateful every single day, because it was also a lot of great fun. I was playing with very good musicians and I had a really wide repertoire. The Brazilian music was very much arranged, we had a horn section, percussion, we had a lot of very nice Brazilian songs with great harmonies and melodies and everybody really loved it. It was a fantastic time to experience music.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Your music study was your second study. First you studied economy?

Izaline Calister: Yes, it was business administration. How to become a manager, the very economic way.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Now you are also a manager?

Izaline Calister: I’m glad I had this experience before, because it made me not just an artist. I was also realizing, if I want to be able to live from my art or at least make the art I want and spend enough time on it, I need to earn some money with it. I was very aware of that fact from the early beginning. Maybe this made me a bit more daring to start new projects and try to make my first CD just by myself. I realized, I had to be just more than just an artist dreaming about life and success. I had to go out and try to get it.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Then you realized you wanted to study music?

Izaline Calister: Yes. When I started to finish my first study I got a bit worried. I thought about the fact this wasn’t what I wanted to do in my life. I wanted to sing! First I thought: Maybe I give myself the gift of music for one year. One year before I will enter a serious life, I just go to the conservatory and try to learn there as much as possible. My idea was to stop after the first year and start to work in a normal job. But when I was there, I couldn’t stop anymore. It was so right for me being there and having everything evolve around music.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: So you followed your intuition!

Izaline Calister. Photography by Hester Doove.

Izaline Calister: Yes, it was a very impulsive thing. I remember the moment I decided to call the conservatory. That time I was doing my last internship and I was sitting there, looking around and started to realize, that this can’t become my life! So I just oicked up the phone, checked the number in the phone book – at that time you still had a phone book, and I just called the conservatory, which wasn’t even called PCC that time. I called them for some information about how to enter for the study. They told me, they finish with the entering exams the next week. The woman on the phone told me, if I would come today with a picture and a short description about myself, then I could enter the exam the week after. Then I asked the people from my work to give me some free hours and I went to the city by bike, took some pictures and organized everything, that was nessecary. I got the idea, it was the best decision I ever made. I had a week to prepare myself, which was of course not enough. But still I passed the test! Even though they told me they didn’t know why they were accepting me. They said: “We are not even sure if you can speak proper English!” The songs I was singing there were all in Portuguese and Spanish. But they told me, they had the idea I had something special and they wanted to keep me around.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: They felt it already, your huge talent and quality, for sure!

Izaline Calister: That’s what they said and I was surprised, but actually very happy, they accepted me like this. To have a talent wasn’t important for me. Of course, to start there was very hard. To be there without the knowledge you are supposed to have. I had to work really hard to get to the good level. There was a lot I didn’t know. I grew up in Latin America, in the Carribeans and I knew everything about Latin music.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You had this knowledge about this particular music in your blood.

Izaline Calister: Also, yes, for sure. But I grew up without any American touch. In our house you couldn’t hear English music. I grew up with Carribean music, music from Curacao, from Cuba, from Mexico. For me that was natural. I knew a lot about those singers and their songs. But I knew nothing about jazz or pop music. I had never heard about Stevie Wonder and I had no idea who Ella Fitzgerald was. Then it was really weird to be at a music school, where everyone was acting as if I knew nothing. Of course, I had a knowledge, it was just a different kind of music. This for me was a really strange time. I thought these people here have no idea about what else exists in the musically world. Everybody there was acting like knowing it all. Of course, they knew all about jazz and pop and even rock music. But of course, the world is so much bigger than that.
I always had a little bit of scepticism about the way, things there at the conservatory were presented to me. I thought, I might just have to find my own way. Then I first started there with Brazilian music, which I knew a little, but not that well. Brazilian music had at least the same level as jazz at this school. To me, this choice felt much more like being home than American jazz. And I was open to see, where this would lead me. It was very nice to explore Brazilian music and after I finished with the conservatory, I developed a huge love for American jazz. But then I already knew, you have to find the songs, that fits you the best. Songs you like. Not everything is for everybody. You’ve got to find the singers you like, you have to know, which singer can teach you which special way. That makes it much easier, to explore this knowledge yourself.
It was a very interesting time for me to be a student at the conservatory. Especially, because I was surrounded by all information I needed. It wasn’t necessarily all you needed all the time but it was available all the time. For me this fact became a little bit of a struggle. Sometimes it was too early. I had a singing teacher, who started with all those jazz standards and I felt nothing about this kind of music. I had to learn them but I just didn’t, even with a lot of laughter. That was just too early for me. For me it felt like sometimes students have to find their own order of discovering material and ways. That is, what I learned from my time on the conservatory. And that is what I try now myself. I teach now at the conservatory in the dutch city Arnhem and I really try to find out what my students are ready for. Some of them are totally ready for jazz, like in their third year for example. Or they are open for jazz or maybe they never are! But I really try to find out what they are up to. Even I think, there are certain things you have to know when you study music. For sure. You know, they learn all what is important. But everybody has a different way, a different road to travel.
My road was really different from most of the students at that time. I was playing a huge diversity of music in a way that was really strange that time. I had big concerts with big and already very well-known and famous bands, like with Jasper van’t Hof’s Pili Pili (1995 – 1999).

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How did you get in contact with Pili Pili?

Izaline Calister: It was very funny. I was walking around at the conservatory and I saw Jasper van’t Hof. He was sitting there, waiting. I don’t know exactly, what he was doing there. It was just one of the first days at school and we sat down in the canteen and started talking, I had a coffee and two months later he called me and asked: “Are you the girl I was talking with at the conservatory that day?” I said: “Yes, I think so.” He: “Do you have a demo or something, because I am looking for a singer.” And, believe it or not, I just made a demo, it was a live recording of a concert I did with Rob Elfrink. That one I sent to Jasper. Then he called me and said: “In two weeks I have a big concert in Germany and then after that we will have a three weeks tour. Do you think, you’re up to it, to learn all those songs and come with us? We will do one rehearsal and then we’re gonna tour!”

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Then you were in!

Izaline Calister: I was in! I remember, I translated some of the songs to Papiamento to make it easier for me to remember all these lyrics.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: It was okay for Jasper you did that?

Izaline Calister: Yes it was. And then this was my first tour. It was a huge three weeks tour, playing every day. We stayed in nice hotels, we traveled in big touring busses, we were a big group of people. All this was so weird for me, because I did this huge tour and then I just went back to school again and nobody knew about my activity and experience. And even nobody ever did things like that. Then in the summer we did more big festivals and after a while I started to work with the German world-music group Dissidenten. With that sextet we travelled a lot, also to international festivals. We went to Turkey, to Austria, we played on the Stuttgart Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazzfestival, the Glastonbury Festival in England and the Roskilde Festival for example. And then I came back and again, nobody knew that I did this amazing work! It was a very weird and almost schizophrenic situation, but I learned so much. I learned for example how to organize your energy during a three weeks tour, how to stay healthy, how to keep your voice good while playing on this high level with so many concerts. We really played every day! Because one free day during a tour is very expensive.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: The music of Pili Pili that time was very good for you?

Izaline Calister: Yes! It was a great combination. I could write lyrics in Papiamento and the group was half African and all the harmonies were coming from jazz. We had a big horn section featuring Tony Lakatos and Annie Whitehead. We had very nice horn arrangements and sometimes I was the third voice in the horn arrangement. Then I sang the horn arrangement with everybody, I just loved it! It was great and perfect! Jasper always gave his band members freedom to interprete the songs, what they wanted to do with it. He never told me to do anything like: This singer sings like this, you should sing it like that.

No, he never asked me something like that. Even when I would sing differently, the whole band was able and allowed to react to me. It was a really great time, I loved the band, the people, it was really fun. And of course, it was also a great important learning experience.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: It was a gift for you!

Izaline Calister. Photography: Hester Doove.

Izaline Calister: It was such a gift! There was no one else having an experience like I had. It was pure study being able to do such professional big concerts every day. And it was a great way to make some money for paying my studies. I already had one study and I didn’t had a scholarship with this second study, so I had to pay everything myself and by then I knew I will never ever stop again with music! This whole manager career was never going to happen for me.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You discovered your genetic roots in a way!

Izaline Calister: Yes! And on the other hand I was wondering, what I should do if I would become a solo artist? Because it is very easy to be a sideman/woman of someone elses concept and responsibility and you just fill in with your own talent and how you see music and life. But what, if you become the solo artist? What would you tell the world then? From the beginning on, when I started with the conservatory, I asked myself this question to myself very often. For a long time I didn’t know the answer. But doing all these different projects helped me. I was talking a lot with Marlon Klein, the drummer of Pili Pili. He was doing many different projects, he was a producer, he played with the Dissidenten, he collaborated with Charlie Mariano and the South Indian Karnataka College of Percussion, he worked with Gary Wright, Sven Väth, Angelique Kidjo, just to name a few. He knew a lot of musicians and we talked really a lot during all these hours in the bus while touring. We talked about finding my voice, I wanted to have his feedback if I should concentrate more on Brazilian songs. And then suddenly I thought through all these talks with him, that I was looking so far into an unknown future. Instead I had to concentrate on what I already had! I had Papiamento, I knew all about the traditions of Curacao, I had already so many great stories to tell from my perspective as someone from a small island, who has been given the chance to study in Europe and have access to the best information and connections of the musically world! It was like karma, because in those days I met Eric Kalmes, who is a bass player from Curacao and living in Amsterdam. He got very well known in the Dutch jazz scene. He was doing a project with music from Curacao but totally transformed it into jazz. The grooves still came from Curacao, but the harmonies and melodies and arrangements were totally jazzy. He asked me to join him as a singer and again, I started writing lyrics for his songs and it was like coming home! I felt like totally getting in my place. This music came so close to my own idea about working with music, but of course, with him I still had to deal with his melodies and his ideas of the band sound.

Inside of this project I had my voice and my words and I started to understand that my material had some impact. Even for people, who didn’t understand what I was singing about. I knew, I had entered the road, finally, but still had to find my own way. But at least I was already very sure about the musicians.

One year after I finished my study I decided to go straight towards the direction of my own ideas. I knew very clearly with whom I wanted to work. I started writing a little bit, some melodies, but not yet chords so much. I knew, I needed help for composing well. But in general, I had a really clear idea of what and how to say it. Then I started with an old song from Curacao, a song my mother used to sing. For this song we made a new arrangement, wrote new chords and starting from there I was asking around for assistance with my composing, I asked around to write songs for me. That’s how I started my project.

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: Where did you learn to arrange songs and to compose?

Izaline Calister: I didn’t learn this specific skill during my study on the conservatory. I learned it actually by doing and also by asking other people and by simply trying things myself. Making a lot of mistakes of course too. First I composed melodies and I always needed someone else to write the good chords. Then I thought: “Maybe if I take some extra time, I can find the good chords myself”.

But it really took a lot of time. Slowly I got more into all this and it became more clear. It is about the decision, to sit behind the piano until it’s done! It’s also that! Not being afraid that you can’t do it. You just have to do it!
Then I started to write more full songs, thinking about the groove, thinking about horns and if so, how I wanted them to sound. I made demos and was singing them and started to make everything myself. Before that moment I often went to someone else asking for help with doing the finishing touch or put all on paper for me and so on. Even I was able to do this work already, even I learned all these skills, I realized, this all would take so much extra time. This is why in my early period I skipped this important own activity, my own process. Luckily I was surrounded by people who could do this in only five seconds and even much better than myself. Of course I was able to deliver a very complete idea about how and with which kind of energy I wanted to have a song. That was how I have been developing in the first fifteen years. But from that moment on I did all these things myself.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Then you had a period of time you continued with your own music and suddenly became successful!

Izaline Calister: Yes!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Very successful professionally. How did that happen?

Izaline Calister: It was really unexpected. To begin with this story I will tell you I wanted to make my first CD. I remember, we recorded in a very small studio and my bass player Eric called me and said: „You know, I think what you are doing right now can be something really really special. But the way these recordings sound now is, like a demo. If you wanna be that person, who really means and does something, you just should invest a little bit more money and re-record some material in a bigger studio. Because I think, what you are doing right now is really special“.
Actually, I had the same feeling and with his feedback it helped to act in a better way. I had this feeling but I thought, maybe I can’t do it well, so I had some doubts. But when he mentioned the same idea, it made me stronger and I knew very much I just had to act stronger. Then we went back to the studio, a bigger and more expensive one and we did all very professionally. Then I had also a little bit of luck. The same Eric, my bass player asked the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, that very prestigious jazz podium, he asked, if we could do a CD presentation in their place. But they thought, it would be his CD. Then they booked us! They didn’t know, it was my project, my CD. But when they found out, it was already too late for them to react differently. They couldn’t cancel it anymore. They would never ever have done it, if I had asked them. Because I was totally unknown to them. Then I sent the CD to all the newspapers and I also wrote a letter, a short introduction. In this letter I said: „Listen to this CD. If you don’t like it, don’t come to the concert (laughing). But if you like it, please come and have a look, how we do this music in a live concert“.
In the end, there was only one journalist, who really liked the letter. He thought, she’s good and he came to the concert. It was a really great concert! We had such a great atmosphere and he wrote a very enthusiastic review. He wrote, „Izaline Calister write’s history in the Bimhuis„. It was a big article in the NRC Handelsblad (a daily evening newspaper published in The Netherlands) and in those times we had no internet.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: People still used to read articles!

Izaline Calister: Yes! They did! The other newspapers also read this article and suddenly they all started calling me: „Why don’t we have your CD, how come we don’t know about you?“ I said: „You have the CD, go check your inbox, because I sent it to everybody“. Then they wrote about my CD, they wrote, it was one of the most beautiful vocal productions of the year“. This was in 2001.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: 15 years ago!

Izaline Calister: Yes. After that I didn’t need to do anything anymore. It was like everybody got a little bit crazy and everybody started calling me. Then I already had my own band and I was just excellent prepared to just go. I had press pictures, I had everything and I did not know what could happen, but I was excellent prepared. After a while I found a great manager and she brought everything to the next level. Then we played on the NorthSea Jazz Festival, we played in Capetown, we played just everywhere.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: So you started touring a lot from that moment on?

Izaline Calister: Yes. We went everywhere. I worked a lot and I never said no, I accepted all invitations for concerts. I never was too tired and I never was too sick. I was just doing this all. I also realized, this all could be something for just a while, you never know how long this can stay in your life. I was always very aware to build a reputation on something that could last. When the first craziness is gone, you only have your reputation of what is left, you have your reputation of being a professional musician, always being there and doing great performances.

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: What were and still are your strongest influences, inspirations? I saw in your biography, you love music from Mercedes Soza, Astrud Gilberto, you also have a love for Richard Bona, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves and Elis Regina. But do you also have other connections that gives you some special energy like art or books?

Izaline Calister: I like to read and I also think if you write you have to feed your soul with words. But next to this I also love to have conversations with people around. I read newspapers, I love reading the newspapers for finding stories and situations and I also need to know, what’s happening in the world around us. Reading is and was always a big influence for me and music of course. But I am someone who, if I love something, can continue playing this for a month or even longer and then only that one piece of music. I am not someone, who needs to listen all the time to all kind of different genres and types of music, I am not a Spotify person, who listens to everything that exists. I always concentrate on something I really like and stay with it for a while, even for ever.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: It seems, you are that old-fashioned, from that period of time, when there was no internet, when there was no overkill of information. That period of time you used to play one record for a very long time until you digest it really.

Izaline Calister: Yes. And then you leave it for a while and after you realize, it was so wonderful! And you just need to hear it again (laughing). Now I’m listening to a record from Leila Pinheiro, she is a Brazilian singer. We used to play a lot of her songs with my early band Aquarela do Brasil. I played that CD for one month long. A few months ago I found it again (laughing) but it was broken. Then I went to Marktplaats, that Dutch second hand online market, because I couldn’t find the CD new anymore. I think she has a problem with her record company. I just couldn’t find it. Then on Marktplaats I found it and I was very happy! There I bought it again and now I can listen as much as I want again (laughing). And I do listen to it now every single day.
I do not listen to everything. The album „Quiet after the storm“ from Dianne Reeves I really love so much and I play it, of course, a lot too.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: There is even a CD she made with Chico Pinheiro, this Brazilian guitar player, called “There’s a storm inside”, with Bob Mintzer. I met Chico Pinheiro’s music for the first time when I went to Brazil some years ago and I directly fell in love with his sound.

Izaline Calister: I don’t know him! I never ever went to Brazil! That’s something I still have to do.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: I thought you had been there because your music has also Brazilian roots.

Izaline Calister: Well, there are a lot of Brazilian influences in my music but I’ve never been to Brazil. I always say: I have to go, I have to go. But I think, I have to make a real plan first and then go, otherwise it will never happen. You always have all these things you want to do later, but I think I have to start doing these things.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: I have friends in Santos, they organize a Jazz Festival there every year (www.riosantosjazzfest.com.br). I will tell them about you.

Izaline Calister: Yes! I would love to! That would be really great! I have some fans in Brazil actually. They like and share all my music and video clips, that’s very funny.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: I saw on the cover of your last CD that you always wear really beautiful clothes. I thought I have to ask you if you have a special link with fashion? Do you maybe even create your own fashion line?

Izaline Calister: Not really. I just know what suits me well. I’m not into fashion at all but I know, when you are on stage, you have to look good and for pictures too. I have a few places where I know I can find nice clothes but actually I’m not into fashion. I have no idea what’s happening now, I wear just very classic clothes.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Okay! I will leave it at that.

Izaline Calister: Yes! (Laughing)!

Izaline Calister. Photography: Zoltan Acs.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How do you compose? Do you need some kind of ritual to get in the right mood? Do you use a piano or any other instrument or your phone while you’re traveling? Or maybe even during shopping? How is it?

Izaline Calister: Since I live in Groningen, I have to drive a lot.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: I heard about that. We are neigbours!

Izaline Calister: I drive like 50.000 kilometers a year but I don’t mind. I really like being in a car. Sometimes during driving I hear melodies and then I record them on my phone. I forget them and then they come back. And when a melody comes back I know, it’s a good one. I always have a moment where I have to sit behind the piano because I cannot finish something without a piano. I write very melody driven and many times the melodies are mostly finished, at least for a big part. Sometimes I just need a bridge or maybe I have a really clear idea about a chorus, melodically, and then I go and sit behind the piano and find good chords and I think about the form. The last thing I compose are lyrics. People might think, I am very much driven by lyrics. I am but I also believe that songs want something. I think, songs want to have a say about what they’re about. I like to give them a chance to show me what they want. So I make a song and then I’m singing under the shower or I sing in the car and then automatically some words start to develop and I just try to keep these words and sometimes this says, what it should be about. At least it shows me, where some words are or should supposed to be and I just have to find the other parts that fits.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: It seems, you have a natural blessing!

Izaline Calister: Yes, that’s why I’m here in this life. I really like to compose and I love the effect, those songs and lyrics have on people. This I really enjoy. When people sing my music and tell me they cried while listening, because I just composed their situation. I know I speak a language not everybody understands. I always write about a feeling most of all. A feeling everybody understands. I always can refer to a feeling and then people will know exactly what I mean because I’m not different from anyone. So they know immediately, about what kind of feeling I sing. Then it’s very easy for them to have their own association with what I’m singing about. I think, this really works when people do understand exactly what a song is about.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You also use an English translation.

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Izaline Calister: Yes. I try to do it almost all the time. I like to do all the translations.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: The themes you are singing are about slavery, women’s rights, about love and your culture-related stories. Can you please explain why you choose these themes? Then I want to ask, if you see yourself as a protest singer?

Izaline Calister: No, I’m not a protest singer.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: But you fight for something better, right?

Izaline Calister: I try not to judge. I only describe situations without pointing a finger. Sometimes this way works much better than telling people what to do. I come from a society that has known slavery and I tell these stories because I think, a lot of people just don’t know about this. Or maybe even don’t care. Even in Curacao there are a lot of people who close their eyes for this. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for our culture, it just makes a great story. But still slavery was part of our roots and it was a black page (in history). I hope, we all learned about it and I know, we shouldn’t forget. This is why I’m singing about this chapter. Like I said earlier I try to sing about feelings, about things that happened on a small island, things that happened to women and stories and feelings related to love. These are things that happen to almost everyone and people recognize them. I am someone who likes to call the things by their name and this is why my language and my music sounds like it does. This is why Curacao has this relationship with Holland. This is why I can come here and study, it is all connected and it would be wrong to act like it’s not there.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You are singing about feelings and you bring this message to the people to make them realize they are existing, in connection with all these old stories and even stories from today.

Izaline Calister: Yes, that is correct. One of the great things of music is, you can inform or soften things and situations and make people aware, at least make them think about it. Go home and think about it. Sometimes I write really happy songs too, with a lot of chords. One of them became a huge hit in Curacao and I had to laugh because I thought, if these people knew how many chords were in this song, they would be surprised maybe, but still it sounds like pop music. And I like that.

My song Reina di pordon is now a very big success in Curacao and Aruba. It’s about something that happens a lot, not only in Curacao but everywhere. The story is about women, who got cheated on by their husbands with other women. The woman says: “I’m fed up with forgiving all the time, I am the queen of forgiveness.”

Now I see so many women who totally love, when I sing this song. It is a happy song, people dance to it a lot, people think about the story, some people feel as it is their own voice – a song can have so many functions in life.

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: What does this success do with you?

Izaline Calister: It makes me work even harder. I know, it is not easy for musicians in general these times and it’s also not easy for me. You always have to work very hard, you constantly have to think about new material, new people to work with. You can’t afford being lazy as a musician. I also have to understand all these kinds of streaming business, also because I’m from a different time. I come from a time, where people sold a lot of CDs if you did it right. Now all these things change and I’m young enough to be able to continue even on this new road, but I still have a little bit of trouble accepting this change. I really try to understand all these new media, like streaming and youtube, the social media, what is the best way to work with it.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: But you are also very active on these new media!

Izaline Calister: I am, but I have to remind myself, it’s not a natural activity. For younger musicians I know this is like a second nature. For me, I still have to think about and to learn about it. Times have changed a lot. Of course, you can’t stand still, you have to go further. For this new album I decided to learn from my students and recorded the singing myself at home. This saved a lot of time and of course a lot of money. But it also gave me a lot of stress and I made even a lot of mistakes (laughing). It was for the first time I recorded at my home studio but it was a great learning experience and I had a lot of fun. I think, I will never change this ever again. It’s so empowering, to do all this work home. Even being in charge of your time and your material and plans.
This is an example to explain how I learn in these new times. Even doing a theater tour, trying to sell my music, my pictures. I have a great manager but still I do a lot of all this work myself.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: She’s a great manager if I can say this so far. We had a lot of nice contact already to make this interview possible.

Izaline Calister: Yes, she’s great but the artist himself has to do a lot, even more today than in the past. I think, this is what success does, you learn to appreciate it and you want to keep it and that means, you have to work really hard. It is not a glamorous life in Holland (laughing), especially in my genre. I am not a pop musician, I’m doing a mixture of world music and jazz. I have a good life but it is a life with hard work.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Just recently I saw on Facebook a short video you presented on your profile. It shows moments while you were on tour in Aruba and there were children singing your name while you entered a location. So funny and special!

Izaline Calister: Yes! It was unbelievable and so sweet. In Aruba and in Curacao there are places where they really understand my songs and there I’m really famous. When I was there I made an arrangement for doing a workshop. That was really cool. In the beginning we agreed to have about 100 children and they would have to learn a song. But then there were 500 children at that school and when I arrived they showed me first a big painted „Welcome Izaline“ poster and all these children were standing outside and singing my name. I was almost crying! Then I told the head teacher: “Oh please, let them all come to the workshop.” Then we had this workshop with 500 children. It was a little chaotic of course, more chaotic than I would expect but it was really really nice and funny. These are the little presents of life and totally unexpected. They all knew the song and they were all singing and we had so much fun. Later I heard from many parents that the children came home totally happy and singing.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: I hope, we still have some few more minutes!

Izaline Calister: One more minute (laughing).

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You play for a longer period with the same musicians in your band. Ed Verhoeff is playing guitar for example. What is the magic for you to play with them?

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Izaline Calister: They know me really well and I know them very well. When I write songs, I know almost always, what kind of sound I can expect and ask for. They are really professional and really good. That’s already a great gift. And they are very flexible. I cannot promise all the time that everything is perfect. Sometimes you come somewhere and enter situations where you have to adapt a little. These musicians I really like a lot. We can go on tour to India and I know, I will have fun and it’s gonna be nice and professional.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: So you don’t fight with each other?

Izaline Calister: No, never. Of course, sometimes we have disagreements, but then you just talk about it and get over it. I don’t have time nor energy for bad vibes. I am much too busy, I work very hard and cannot loose time with bad things. For example, for this CD Rayo Di Lus I worked with a producer for the first time and he played a lot of instruments himself. So basically I made this album with three people. With the producer, with my brother and myself. My brother is a percussion player and he owns his own studio. I sent him the demo and he went totally crazy, recording all kind of stuff and sent all back to me. It was really fun to work like that. Then I went with the demo to the producer and asked his opinion. Well, he plays bass and the Moog synthesizer, he plays the guitar and banjo, he plays ukulele and we had really a good time. But this was a totally different way of working, different from all the times before and it was amazing to do. It was even new for the producer. He used to work with a lot of singers that write mostly lyrics and he was always in charge of the music. When he heard my demos first he thought all was already clear, but we still had to find the good grooves and so on. For all of us it was a totally new way of working together. Right now I decided to work with my brother for the next album as well. My brother loved the process and we even wrote some songs together for the first time.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Thank you very much dear Izaline!

We took some more pictures and still had some time for talking further.

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: So, you have plans for a new CD for 2017?

Izaline Calister: I’m planning to start in January and I will take my time for this, maybe all the year.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: And of course I need to know, who you are in private, when there is no music around!

Izaline Calister: I am the same person. You make music the way you are. I can work very hard and this is even very boring, but I am really aware of all my work. Then I have a daughter, so I am a mom, and I just have a normal life as well.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Be happy!

Izaline Calister: Yes! That costs a lot sometimes, a lot of time and a lot of energy to have a normal life as well. But I try and just do it. Because otherwise everybody just goes crazy in my house.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Thank you very much Izaline!

Izaline Calister: You too!! I had a lot of fun!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Van harte bedankt!

Izaline Calister: Graag gedaan!


For more information please visit: www.izalinecalister.com


Tour dates with Jasper van’t Hof’s Pili Pili Reunion Tour from august on in Germany:

august 3rd: Bensheim – Rex

august 4th: Karlsruhe – Zeltival

august 5th: Detmold – Sommerbühne

Further Tour dates:

Izaline Calister and friends: august 26th: Curacao

Izaline Calister Quartet: september 10th: Summer Breeze Festival, Amsterdam, Vondelpark

Interview: Bernd Ihno Eilts

Photography: Zoltan Acs and Hester Doove.