Cécile Doo-Kingué at the Arts Station. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

New York musician shares meaningful music with Fernie

Cécile Doo-Kingué has been challenging the odds since she picked up a guitar at a young age, but never let opposition get in the way of fulfilling her dream as a musician.

When she started getting good at rhythm guitar, her brother gave her two records: Freddy King and T-Bone Walker.

“They just spoke to me, and that was it. I was hooked, there was nothing else for a while,” she said.

Growing up in Manhattan, and living in Brooklyn later on, she found that anything she wanted, she could find.

City life was all she knew for half her life. When she went north for the first time to Canada, she could not believe how slow Toronto and Vancouver were.

That being said, she finds New York too fast. She admits it will always be home, but cannot foresee herself living there any time soon. She currently resides in Montreal.

Doo-Kingué was far from home when she stopped in Fernie last Wednesday, to play at the Wednesday Night Social, hosted by The Arts Station.

Starting out as a musician, one of the biggest challenges she had to get over was a direct result of being a woman.

“Still now, you still have the hurdle of being a woman playing a ‘mans’ instrument,” she said.

“People still assume you might not know how to plug in your gear, or that you might not be a player.

“Every time I step on the stage, I’m proving myself, as a woman, playing guitar.”

Doo-Kingué admitted racial stereotypes also still exist.

“A lot of people assume that if you’re a black woman, you’re going to sound like Aretha (Franklin)… or that you come from the church, and I’m none of that.

Ninety-nine per cent of the shows Doo-Kingué plays, someone comes up to her afterwards and says, ‘I’ve never heard a woman play this way’.

Through the blues, Doo-Kingué challenges societal norms, breaks the stereotypes, and questions many things which in turn, make the listener think.

Her new album, Anybody Listening: Monologues, Pt II, published in 2016, contains many songs including Bloodstained Vodka which speaks to the LGBTQ community.

“I want to be able to contribute to the change I want to see,” she said.

Doo-Kingué knows that you can contribute to this change in your everyday life, by being involved in your community, and being accepting of other people. However, as an artist, she believes that people listen to her in a different way than they do authority figures or politicians.

“It’s important for me to be able to contribute to whatever struggle through my art,” she said.

“Not exclusively, necessarily, but I definitely want to be able to do my part, through music, through lyrics and through song.”

The New Yorker doesn’t believe that a blues player has to be an expert in love, loss, and societal struggles in order to be a blues player, but she does believe you have to be honest with your emotions, and honest with your music.

To her, blues is one of the most authentic styles of music out there, because of where it comes from; suffering, and coping.

“When they say blues is a feeling, well, that’s what it is,” said Doo-Kingué. “You can’t fake that s**t.”

During her set on Wednesday night, many kids were playing in front of the stage. Doo-Kingué said between songs, that she was thankful to the parents there for exposing their children to live music.

Asked why she thinks this is important, Doo-Kingué said, “When you listen to the radio, it’s a lot of tin can. There’s a lot of machines making music now.”

She explained she has nothing against technology, auto-tune, or anything other technique to make the music as perfect as possible. She said it’s not for her, but said it’s a part of the modern-day music industry.

“But there’s just something about musicians playing music live, and the exchange of musicians and audience that you just can’t recreate,” she said.

Doo-Kingué appreciates this time as one of the few moments we as a society gather together, without knowing each other, open and ready to learn, be together, and celebrate a common ground.

“I think it’s very important for kids to see that, because they need to understand that they’re part of something bigger than just themselves,” she said.

“Through this, we’re at our best.”

Doo-Kingué would like to acknowledge The Arts Station for presenting a variety of free live music to the community, something she believes is a great gift.