Pop-quiz – what do A Clockwork Orange, The Golden Child, Coming to America, The Sandlot and The Witches of Eastwick have in common? These are all movies that Canadian soul singer Tanika Charles can say with confidence that she has watched each at least 10 times.
If this collection sounds like a strange mix of favourite movies, Charles, who will play at Sidney’s Mary Winspear on Oct. 12 as part of the Seaside Sessions highlighting emerging and underrepresented artists, has specific reasons for loving each of them.
Charles said Stanley Kubrick’s adoption of Anthony Burgess’ surrealistic, dystopian novel about a nihilistic gang of thugs fascinates her because of its thematic exploration of individual rehabilitation. She first watched it when she was a teenager.
“It’s just a really crazy flick and the music is fantastic,” said Charles of a movie featuring a most unusual combination and use of pioneering snythpop, classical music from German, English and Italian masters of the genre, and a standard of the American songbook popularized by Gene Kelly, radically re-used by Kubrick in a most horrific scene.
The Sandlot, on the other hand, is a cute, heart-warming film about baseball playing kids overcoming the odds of their background. Charles’ love of the African-American comedian and actor Eddie Murphy easily explains The Golden Child and Coming to America. As for her absolute, The Witches of Eastwick, she loves its trio of female stars, (Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer) and its feminist plot.
“I think I love the idea of three women that come together to put this man, who has done them wrong, in his place and anybody else, who tried to hurt them,” she said.
Charles’ current pop-culture obsession is Ted Lasso, the story of an American Football coach hired to coach a mediocre Association Football — read: soccer — team in England. Hiding behind a moustache that would make Ned Flanders proud, Lasso ends up changing a cynical culture, while dealing with his own personal demons.
These emotional attachments also colour Charles’ music, which has earned her two nominations to the long-list of Polaris Music Prize (2016, 2019) recognizing artistic merit independent of factors such as sales and two Juno nominations in the category of R&B/Soul Recording of the Year (2017, 2020).
“A lot of my writing with my music is (about) interactions and experiences,” she said. “It’s the way I write — experiencing life.”
By her own admission, life was not always easy for Charles in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also coincided with ground-breaking political developments across North America.
“I couldn’t write at that time,” she said. “I was crying most of the time because I was so upset about the state of the world and I am still upset. So trying to even create in that headspace was not easy.”
After performing remotely, Charles has not only returned to the studio, but also to the stage with the addendum that she is still trying to get comfortable.
“I would have to say, the pandemic definitely changed me and I still don’t know yet if it is positive,” she said. “I’m listening back to the music I have created thus far and I feel like I am stronger. I feel like I am a little bit more confident. But I don’t know for sure.”
This said, Charles looks forward to completing her yet-to-be-titled album and spending more time on the road.
“I’m happy to be there,” she said. “I’m happy to be invited and to perform. I’m just happy to sing.”
For more information, see marywinspear.ca/event/tanika-charles.
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