courtesy Showtune Production
Raised in Portugual, Lura has made her home in Cape Verde—a series of islands off the coast of Senegal. Christine Anu, more familiar to most of the audience, is a Torres Strait Islander whose rendition of “My Island Home” is played on any available, celebratory occasion in Australia. Both women are utterly gorgeous and magnetic—ticks one and two in the list of how to be a diva. With front row seats for Lura (a single name is also a diva trademark), I was transfixed by her face, her amazing crop of fine curls and gorgeous smiling face atop a tiny frame clad in traditional African skirt and top. There was a sense of knowing and control about each of her moves and an effortlessness in her earthy voice. From my seat at the back of the room, Christine Anu also glowed like a mermaid in her shimmering dress. Her oiled, long curls magnificent, her smile wide. From the first moment, she captured our gaze. Going well so far.
photo Deborah Metsch
Anu’s program was more mixed. In the first half she worked alternatively with originals and blues standards. Songs were introduced with delightful stories about her Islander upbringing and her identification with the feeling and form of the blues. I particularly liked the way she sang the negro spiritual Wade in the Water after telling a story about making her way to her village church via the beach, then went on to a beautiful song about her grandmother’s hands. Taking a lengthy break which was covered by her band, Anu re-emerged wearing an enormous, red, afro wig and proceeded to complete her program with a solid block of blues standards. She lost me at this point and I found myself withdrawing from the show, crossing my arms and sitting back in my chair. Why? She can crank out immaculate versions of these tunes – Natural Woman, Georgia on My Mind, Fever – and has the most beautiful hair, so why the wig? Deduct a tick for distancing.
I guess the final tick on the diva checklist is crowd response and for this Lura and Anu came up trumps. Lura’s audience responded to her sexiness, her rhythms, her engagement. When she commanded the entire group to “get up” to dance at the end of the show, there were no arguments. Christine Anu’s audience were feverish. I heard a woman behind me say “Did she touch you?” after Anu had just done a lap of the room handing out touches like an evangelist. There was much hooting and stamping of feet to bring each of the singers back for an encore.
There is no doubt that each of these singers is a diva. Lura and Anu matched each other on beauty and magnetism and the ability to fill the room with their voices. But Lura won the diva contest for me with her emotional connection with the music. Her contagious smile and long pauses, eyes closed, at the end of particular songs were compelling. Diva or not, I was left wondering about Christine Anu. I feel that she lost her footing when she took on a wigged persona. I wished that she’d been comfortable enough to make the blues standards her own and know that she could do so without somebody else’s hair.
Lura, March 25-26, Christine Anu, March 28-29, The Pacific Crystal Palace, Hobart, Ten Days on the Island
Judith is a Hobart based Graduate Architect and Sculptor who is developing a hybrid practice working between these fields. She writes about art and design for a number of national magazines.
© Judith Abell; for permission to reproduce apply to email@example.com