SINGER Meschiya Lake has a background as colourful as her life — or her many tattoos.
Originally from South Dakota, Meschiya (pronounced Ma-shee-ya) was a circus performer, mud wrestler and busker on the street of New Orleans before fronting Dixieland combo The Little Big Horns and putting a modern spin on the music of the Depression-era US.
Winner of the Best Female Performer in her adopted city’s Big Easy Awards in both 2011 and 2012 — an accolade which speaks for itself it one of America’s great music cities — she visited Scotland earlier this year where she and The Little Big Horns proved to be one of the stand out acts at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival, performing songs from her critically-acclaimed debut album, "Lucky Devil" and covers by Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington.
For the band’s visit to Eden Court on Wednesday 5th September, Meschiya Lake and The Big Horns will be joined by Chance Bushman and Amy Johnston, two of the world’s top Lindy Hop dancers.
What is Lindy Hop? That is just one of the questions Meschiya Lake answers for us.
It has been said of you that you were born in the wrong State at the wrong time — true?
While I sometimes fantasize about being born in turn of the century New Orleans, so I could’ve witnessed the birth of jazz, or been in my 20s in 1930’s France, or Berlin, I believe there are no mistakes, and I’m thrilled to be in the here and now, witnessing, and taking part in the renaissance of Traditional Jazz Music and Dance.
New Orleans today is more than living up to it’s legendary musical reputation post-Katrina. Music was a major force in the reconstruction of the city.
Music is the spirit, pride, and defiance of the people here. Music brought tourists to build back our economy.
Music is the corner stone of our thriving culture.
You toured with a circus when you were younger. Any chance of repeating some of the circus tricks you learned in Inverness?
I won’t be eating any lightbulbs, but if the venue allows, you may see some fire!
You have just appeared in Brazil and are now heading off to Norway and Scotland, which seems to be going from one extreme to the other. What have the reactions been like in such differing places and do you have a favourite place to play?
My favourite place to play is everywhere we go! The reactions of people all over the world have been very enthusiastic and heart warming. It makes life more than worth living!
Recently you were introducing those unlikely television chefs, the Hairy Bikers, to New Orleans cuisine. Are you a fan of the food as well as the music?
The Hairy Bikers are wonderful guys! Very easy to get along with, intelligent, light hearted, and full of life. The shoot was a great experience-more like a party than work, really. And yes, I am a big fan of New Orleans cuisine. Nothing compares to a good bowl of red beans and rice, or a crawfish boil! I count the days till next season.
For the benefit of us Scots, could you explain what a Lindy Hop is?
The Lindy Hop is a form of jazz dance that developed in Harlem dance halls in the 1920s and ’30s. A man named Frankie Manning was the first to innovate this particular dance from the popular ones of the time. It mixes African dance movements with the traditional European eight count steps, much like traditional jazz mixes African music with European instrumentation. The Lindy Hop and other dances clearly illustrate what this music Looks like. It is characterized by the "Swingout" — a dance couple goes from a closed position embrace, to spinning around and swinging out, connected hand to hand.
Any one you would dearly love to perform alongside? (for the benefit of the question, a time-machine will be provided!)
Oh my gosh. The list could be quite long. Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Edith Piaf, Paul Robeson, Kid Ory, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong...Willie Nelson!
You are also known for your tattoos. Any favourites you can tell us about and what design might you choose to commemorate your latest trip to Scotland?
My favourite tattoo is always my latest one. For a while though, it’s been the large, colourful piece on my upper left arm. It’s a portrait of a 1930’s French actress named Sarah Bernhardt by Czech artist and father of the Art Nouveau movement, Alphonse Mucha. As for a Scottish tattoo, I have nothing in mind as of yet, but I’m sure the travels will tell me!
• Meschiya Lake and The Little Big Horns appear in the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness at 8pm on Wednesday 5th September,