Celeste: ‘Black women singing soul, blues and jazz aren’t being heard in the mainstream’

Celeste: ‘Black women singing soul, blues and jazz aren’t being heard in the mainstream’

January 29, 2021

She was supposed to be the sound of 2020 until the pandemic stalled her progress. But with a relationship giving her fresh perspective for her debut album, she’s made up for lost time

Critics may adore the new school of British jazz – acts such as Moses Boyd, Sons of Kemet and Nubya Garcia – but it can still be difficult for the genre to nab mainstream listeners. Enter the 26-year-old singer-songwriter Celeste Epiphany Waite. Recording under her first name, her work harks back to soul and jazz clubs with smoke low in the air, singing poignant tales of love and loss in a lilting, wistful voice that echoes Amy Winehouse’s tone, or even Sarah Vaughan’s.

“It’s a bit of an anomaly,” she says from her flat in north-west London, pondering why her music has been embraced by the mainstream – she won the rising star award at the Brits last year, whose previous winners include Adele and Sam Smith, and is generally anointed as a major new British talent. “I do feel really lucky. When DJs play my songs on say, Radio 1, they stick out. But they play them anyway; it’s really nice of them!”

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