“I don’t like sausage, I like sauerkraut”
These words, bouncing powerfully off the lips of Giselle Numba One, were just one example of many gut-busting utterances of sheer prowess and joy perking my ears during Tuesday night’s edition of Festival Voix d’Amériques. The fifth installment of the aptly named Body and Soul night, the goal of its organizers was to break away from the limited amount of space and sexiness normally allowed women performers and aimed instead to showcase the kind of grrrls who simply can’t help but trample all over normative conventions of beauty and behaviour. As explained by artistic director D. Kimm, female artists can become so boxed in by criticisms concerning their bodies that it has the unfortunate effect of detracting attention from the recognition they deserve as artists. Having staged successful revolutions of roaring femininity for the past four years, the latest edition boasted a one-two punch beginning with the brazen bootyliciousness and slick tongues of Giselle Numba One and Donzelle and culminated with a special appearance by esoteric musician and artist Baby Dee.
Skipping up to the mic with a sly, don’t-mess-with-me pigeon-toed walk, Giselle Numba One immediately told the crowd that for her first number it was their decision, “beat or no beat?” Seemingly nervous upon the return of a “no beat” verdict, Giselle reluctantly left her red laptop/beat box aside but within seconds it became clear she had been feigning modesty as rhymes spat flawlessly from her lips. Sometimes sweet, sometimes teasing, she was always commanding. Backed by her own smooth, unselfconscious dance moves, Giselle fired the first of what round after round of fresh hip hop. Seamlessly blending her beats with subject matter ranging from Wicca to seducing straight girls while their boyfriends are on tour, this energetic lady captivated all of Sala Rossa with her humility, fierce presence and even fiercer sound.
Up next, sharing the set with Giselle, was the Portuguese-Quebecois powerhouse Donzelle. Reigning over the crowd in her gold spandex leggings and flashy bling, this bilingual temptress took to the mic with as much sass, dirt and sexual agency as Khia and peaches combined, only to add a whole new level of groove to the mix. Flocked by one equally decked-out back up dancer, Donzelle’s smooth rhymes were accompanied by seductive dips which only served to further the mesmerizing quality of her performance. Her face full of expression, she smiled as those in the audience gleefully caught on to her filthy innuendo. Sharing the stage with grace and authority Giselle Numba One and Donzelle captured an energy that filled the whole room with soul and real ingenuity.
Switching gears for Act II, festival goers were privileged to witness Baby Dee, a truly talented musician whose history as a MTF transsexual performer in a Coney Island freak-show had already created a tone of mystery before she even took to the stage. A classically trained piano and harp player, Baby Dee dove into her first song with the kind of gusto which conjured up images of pirates preparing to face their fates on the high seas. Backed by cello, bass and guitar, she cackled and threw her head back at every turn of her musical expedition, clearly taking delight in some audience member’s uneasy reactions to her zany and sometimes controversial song lyrics. Claiming that she can sometimes get a big head when reporters compliment her on having written some of the most offensive songs of all time, Baby Dee explained her humility comes from always remembering she “only stands on the shoulders of tasteless giants.” Sometimes appearing as a ghostly apparition or trickster, the murky strength, sorrow and joy conjured up by Baby Dee’s haunting melodies were coupled with tender emotion which spoke to the diverse experiences of this unique performer. An unpredictable combination of female artists, Body and Soul 5 allowed a lucky audience to glimpse performances featuring fearless stage presence, commanding creativity and self-defined hottttness.