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The street is the new stage for Costa del Sol singer

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Suzette Moncrief performs on the Carihuela promenade. / SALVADOR SALAS

  • Suzette Moncrief, for years the voice of the Free Soul Band and the Lito Blues Band, has obtained a street artist licence in Torremolinos to overcome the slump in the entertainment sector that had left her without income

It's Monday, 10.30am. Suzette Moncrief does her vocal exercises. She's about to set off for work. Today it is the promenade at Carihuela.

Like every Monday and Friday, she will take out her speaker, set up her microphone and start to sing.

The Malaga-based New Yorker, who for years has been the voice of the Free Soul Band and the Lito Blues Band, has found salvation in the street from the standstill in the entertainment sector caused by coronavirus.

Since November, Suzette Moncrief has been a licensed street artist in Torremolinos. And the experience is very rewarding. "I don’t plan to stop playing the streets," she says.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, with the exception of the summer months, her work and income have been reduced to zero. She is one of the best-known singers on the Malaga scene with around 250 concerts on her schedule in a normal year - performances on the main stages of Malaga, as well as small venues and beach clubs.

There is no soul, rhythm and blues, funk and rock lover in the province who is not familiar with her powerful voice and contagious energy on the stage. After many years being the voice of well-known bands, the time had come to create her own: Suzette & More.

Pandemic

But coronavirus stopped everything in its tracks.

She began to ask colleagues, to find out about the street performance procedures, create a repertoire and look for equipment... and, with the permission of Torremolinos town hall, she took to the streets to do what she does best.

"For me it has been pure therapy. After not being able to sing, being in lockdown, not having contact with people... seeing that I can sing every day is vital," she acknowledges. Now she even has a group of loyal fans who follow her street route on social media to hear her sing live.

She takes her street performances with the same seriousness as any 'gig' hired by a venue.

“I put on makeup, I choose the clothes I am going to wear. I have prepared a repertoire especially for the street performances and I take a speaker with a lithium battery."

Her daughter - "my saviour" - bought her one of the best on the market so the sound would be perfect. Although this will never replace a band.

"I miss them, I need them and I value them even more," she says.

She admits she was never shy about singing in the street but she was a bit scared at first.

"Being a single woman, with expensive equipment and with the money that people give you..." But in the next breath she adds that she is used to difficult situations: "I am from New York, I was born in 1968, a black woman, the daughter of a public schoolteacher."

Tears

The street has given her some lessons that she will not forget. Like when a homeless person gave her fifteen cents with a "Thank you for bringing me the music, you have made my day."

“It is the most generous of all the contributions I have received. It made me cry and that is why I will always pay tribute to the street," says the singer, who appreciates each smile that she senses behind the face masks.

She says the street allows her to make a "decent" living. That's why she is deeply grateful to Torremolinos and its people.

“It is the people who are helping me to move forward. A kiss, my respect and my admiration goes out always to the people," she says, and insists: "It is very important to put this in the article."

In Torremolinos you can listen to Suzette five or six days a week. On Mondays and Fridays, from 12noon to 2pm, opposite San Miguel ice cream shop. Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 1pm to 3pm, outside Rincón del Sol Snack Bar. And on the rest of the days, you will find her at one of the 17 points throughout the town where street music is allowed.

Her aim now is to get a licence to perform in other municipalities in the province and Malaga city to widen the radius of her "street art".

Suzette Moncrief is certain that she has come to the streets to stay. "I'll carry on with my life doing what I can, but I'm not going to stop working the streets."