Pamela Fernandez and What a Song Can Be
Pamela Fernandez is known as a singer, all around the world, even though almost none of the uncounted people who have danced, moved and who-knows-what-else to her tracks have any real idea who she is. A lot of people even know her name, especially the DJs, producers and labels who have played, remixed, resampled and rereleased her legendary vocals; they all know that Pamela Fernandez’ voice can make a track and pack a dancefloor, but they probably know something else about her too. Most of the people who sampled and rereleased that legendary vocal probably know that Pamela Fernandez never got paid. She’s been called “one of the most sampled voices in electronic music since 1992, although never credited in any of the releases”, but almost none of the many thousands of clubgoers who have danced to her voice all over the world are likely to know that. What they do know is that she’s a soulful, powerful, make-you-move singer.
She’s more than a singer now; she’s a songwriter, producer, band leader and even a manager, but she’s still, most of all, a singer, and as powerful and driving as she can be when that’s what the song needs, she covers a lot more artistic ground than just that. Her latest release is with the soulful Latin Jazz band PowerPlay FYI, and she really lights up three of the tracks on their debut album A Normal Life.
It’s an impressive display of both the precision and the breadth of her artistry. On “Power of Love”, she fronts a large-scale production ballad, full of horn and background arrangement, and paints a minutely intricate portrait of urgent emotion, while on “Voodoo”, her vocal glows with understated power as it quietly illuminates the track’s darkly-lit groove. On “Truth”, she trades verses with Peter Frank in a showcase of yet another of her seemingly endless abilities to find exactly what’s inside a song.
All of that’s just an introduction to the jazz side of Pamela Fernandez. “My style is heavy with variety,” she says, talking about her own writing, and that may be why she’s able to work so successfully with other writers. “Jazz and House genres both have alot of feeling in the music,” she observes, adding, “they both make you feel something strong.”
“Strong” is something that shows up just everywhere that Pamela Fernandez does. It’s one of the defining features of her very successful live project, Rhythm City. “One thing we’re very proud of is that the players in Rhythm City really love the band and change very rarely,” she says, explaining one aspect of the group’s power. “Most orchestras have a leader and maybe a core rhythm section, but every time you see them there will be new faces reading scores as they play. This is not a bad thing, but to us it just doesn’t have the life and energy of musicians who only have to focus on entertaining and playing the music they love.”
Fernandez loves a lot of music, and her latest project is an exploration of some very new ways to do exactly that. It’s an imaginative, adventurous undertaking called Pamela’s Dreams which she’s put together with Thomas Gunther, the talented composer, producer and jazz pianist. “In Pamela’s Dreams, we perform our own unique interpretation of old, new and original songs about life, and about the laughter, love, loss, hopes and dreams that come with it,” she says. Besides being an extravagantly rich adventure in new musical choices, it also brings Fernandez into the practical realms of booking, planning and managing.
Fernandez can take care of all of it, but she never, ever gets too far from the creative side; she’s in the studio finishing several new house tracks, and she performs regularly with Pamela’s Dreams, Rhythm City, and Powerplay FYI. “At first, years ago, I liked to do everything,” she says, talking about the day-to-day realities of making so many projects work and keep working. “But I’m so much better at the creative, production, choreography, writing side of the music business coin.”
Actually, she may be even better at it than she knows. Pamela Fernandez moves so easily across such a broad landscape of song and soul that she’s probably never really noticed everything she can do. Whether she’s driving a house track through the walls or finding a brand new way to melt the inside of a sweet jazz vocal, even Pamela Fernandez probably doesn’t know how many people she’s shown what a song can really be.
Pamela Fernandez appears with the Powerplay FYI Ensemble at Cafe Laguardia on Wednesday, April 17 from 8 to 11PM.