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Multi-talented musician brings Caracas to the Coast

Intima coming to Gibsons Heritage Playhouse April 16
A.Susana Williams
Susana Williams will present an intimate, vigorous evening of music and flamenco on April 16.

Venezuela-born performer and producer Susana Williams will blend her cosmopolitan musical biography with a passionate mix of Latin, jazz, pop and rock during a show at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on Saturday, April 16. 

The concert is Williams’s third appearance on the Sunshine Coast in the span of a month, on top of performances at venues in Vancouver. Previous shows at the Roberts Creek Legion and Tapworks Brewing Company have spotlighted her fluency with Latin jazz in both ensemble and solo settings. 

In Intima, Williams will be backed by a four-member band and accompanied by the performance of two flamenco dancers on the Heritage Playhouse stage.  

Her relocation last year from Vancouver to ts’ukw’um (Wilson Creek) is just one step of a journey that she chronicles through original songs and soulful covers. 

“I built this show by telling the story of my life as a musician, and what I’ve done since I was 13 years old, which is when I started working as a musician professionally,” said Williams. “And I’m adding [flamenco artists] Andrea Williams and La Zarmari because flamenco is part of my heritage. I’m 50 per cent Spanish, and my wife is a flamenco dancer. All these pieces have brought me to where I am today.” 

In Caracas, Venezuela, a series of awards and scholarships paved Williams’s way to nightly club performances in which she belted vocals while also performing on drums, congas and guitar. Anticipating the ascendency of hardline president Hugo Chávez, she emigrated from Venezuela to Canada in 1998. She has since released three albums and a recent spate of singles, in addition to regular appearances at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Victoria Jazz Festival. 

Williams is also the musical director of “Raices y Alas Flamenco,” an avant-garde experimental flamenco dance company based in Vancouver. 

During the COVID lockdown, she began producing and engineering other artists’ music. She also directed a short film with cinematographer Peter Lee. “I’ve grown musically quite dramatically,” Williams said. “It’s what I would call a growth spurt.” 

Williams believes that music is meant to evolve and move in new directions by vaulting genre boundaries. She resists the idea that any type of expression, like flamenco—whose rhythms and dance style originated in the 18th century—, has reached its zenith.  

“We’re always facing people who are purists who believe that those art forms should not be changed or evolved,” she said. “I am of the belief that if the art form doesn’t evolve, it dies. I don’t think art belongs to anyone. I think art is there so that we can appreciate it and enjoy it and grow with it.” 

The approach of the two flamenco artists during Intima will demonstrate that diversity: Andrea Williams interprets the discipline by incorporating contemporary elements, while La Zarmari is more of a traditionalist. 

Once the percussive patterns of the flamenco steps have quickened her audience’s pulse, Williams plans a participatory experience. “I love hearing people singing. I love having people be a part of what I am doing,” she said. She will share lyrics in Spanish and English with her listeners, encouraging them to sing along. 

“It’s important to me that people feel embraced,” she said, “that they don’t feel like there’s a separation. I want people to feel that they are part of the show.” 

Tickets ($25) for Intima are available at Melomania in Roberts Creek and online through Eventbrite.