Yilian – pronounced Gillian, she insists – Canizares is unmissable. Right from her frilly, polka-dotted outfit, to big hair and neon shades, Canizares has an unapologetic sense of style. But, beyond her appearance, what's truly unmissable about her is the control she can have over her audience.
Canizares' music has the power to make one cry one moment and stand up and jump the next. She lays bare her personal journey, her history, her roots, through her music. A big believer of the oral tradition, Canizares carries on the message of her ancestors through her Afro-Cuban brand of music.
She sings in a host of languages, the most remarkable of which is Yoruba. The Yorubas are an ethnic group from West Africa, where Canizares' ancestors come from. She sings for her grandfather's grandmother, a strong woman who was “born a slave and died a free woman”.
Since this was her first performance in India, Yilian Canizares admitted she was “rather nervous”. Anyone who saw her on the stage though wouldn't be able to tell.
With a stage presence as good as any veteran's, Canizares had the audience sing a whole song along with her. Successfully.
At one point, she rather honestly admitted into the mic, “I really didn't expect you guys to pull it off!”
In this interview with Catch, she talks about her music, the fabled death of jazz, and what makes her sing in Yoruba.