“When I did a short tour of New York City a couple of years ago, this guy at Verve Records told me that I’m going to die in obscurity in San Diego,” says Brazilian jazz singer Tokeli, whose debut Where Do You Start, produced by Peter Sprague, was SDMA-nominated Jazz Album of the Year in 2007. Now, however, she says it’s almost impossible to get paying work, no matter the pedigree.
“After doing so-called ‘audition gigs’ this past year, playing for people eating their chateaubriand and ignoring the music [and] dealing with drunks of every hue and with club owners who treat busboys better, or, worse yet, singing to totally empty houses, I’ve decided to go a different way.
“I’m looking for the lowest-paying gig out there. I’d prefer it if you don’t pay me at all. That’s what I tell club owners now when I go out looking for gigs. Seriously. I’ve decided this is the way to dig my career out of the pit it’s been in for the past year and actually have some leverage to make it in this godforsaken business.
“I’m not going to be a professional musician anymore. I aspire to be in a garage band. If I play in Ocean Beach for nothing but tips, the audience might actually listen. They might dance. They might get into it and actually ask to be on my email list or where I’m gigging next.”
Tokeli’s June 11 appearance at Anthology will debut her new sound, fusing acoustic funk and jazz with Brazilian electronica, creating a danceable hip-hop mix she calls Brazilian groove. “It’s super sexy, hip, funky, and urban but still beachy in its sound.”
As for her band, “I want to make them work for free, too."