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The sound of freedom

The sound of unmitigated freedom is how entertainer Jackie Clarke describes the gospel-charged, rock and soul music of the late Aretha Franklin.

Next month, Clarke will be joined by Annie Crummer, Bella Kalolo and Ria Hall to sock it to their Gisborne audiences in their show Respect!, the singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist’s emotional power.

Respect was Franklin’s smash hit version of Otis Redding’s 1965 original.

The decision to make the Tairawhiti Arts Festival show 100 percent Franklin was out of respect for her passing, says Clarke.

“She is a goddess among goddesses. When I hear her sing there’s no barrier between her and her soul. For a vocalist, that’s the goal — to sing so freely. Someone so at ease with her craft — that never gets tired.

“The other thing that holds me is when you listen to her you hear an inner sanctum of women.”

With a choir as the wind beneath her wings Aretha Franklin built solidarity and connection, a feature of live performance that resonates with Clarke.

“I hate singing on my own,” says the former Gisborne woman.

“It’s so boring. Singing, to me, is a communal activity. People love to make beautiful noise together.”

The beautiful noise Clarke, Crummer, Kalolo and Hall bring to their powerhouse concert will now be part of the Tairawhiti Arts Festival.

A seasoned performer who has mastered the art of longevity in New Zealand’s performing arts industry, Clarke is also a member of The Lady Killers. Co-founded by Suzanne Lynch (of 1960s duo The Chicks), Tina Cross and Clarke, the trio perform in genres that range from pop, R&B, jazz, gospel and country to rock.

“We’re all seasoned singers,” says Clarke.

“We perform killer versions of songs that all resound with harmonies and a connection through our tastes in music.”

Originally from Gisborne, Clarke explored diversity in the music scene in the 1980s with Marching Orders. The band’s techno style broke out of the blue-rock tradition that held sway here for so long.

“That’s the great thing about being in a small city. You can be pioneers. In the arts you play the long game.” Respect.

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME: Former Gisborne musician Jackie Clarke (top left), Annie Crummer (top right), Ria Hall (bottom left) and Bella Kalolo (bottom right) pay tribute in song to the late Aretha Franklin in their concert next month, Respect! Picture supplied