Veronika Diamant – an up-and-coming jazz singer

13-08-2008

Czech singer Veronika Diamant decided at a very early age that she wanted to be a jazz musician. She studied music at the Prague Conservatory and is currently working on her new album. If everything goes according to plan, it could be released in spring of next year. When I met with Veronika, I first asked her when she discovered the world of music.

“Very soon, because of my father. My parents were not professional musicians but they loved music. My father used to play the guitar and sing and my mom too. That’s how they got together, through music. So I grew up with music. It was playing 24 hours a day.”

What kind of music?

“My father is a blues lover - don’t ask me why. He loves blues, big beat and rock. So I grew up with John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, this kind of music.”

When did you actually decide that you wanted to study music and make a living with it?

“As a child I used to go every day to a special music school to learn to play the guitar and sing. It was really not about deciding what I wanted to do. It seemed natural. Then I established my first music group. I was a member of a Jewish choir called Mishpacha. I tried a lot of things, lot of musical styles. But when I was 15 or 16 I decided that I wanted to do jazz. I felt it really deep inside, I don’t know why. I used to sing with one jazz group and since then I fell in love with this style.”

How long did you have to study jazz music to become a jazz musician, to be able to perform?

“It’s a funny question because I think that you cannot really study jazz. You can, but it’s much better to practice with good players. That’s the best, that’s the school - studying through playing. The best school for me was playing with people like David Dorůžka, with people who are really great instrumentalists. This was the school. Not my school. I think that it took me maybe ten years. Now I can say that I know something, I can sing in jazz clubs and it has a certain quality. But I still need another ten years to get better.”

You adapt music and songs by famous musicians, such as Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits. How do you actually choose the song that you sing?

“It’s very easy. I do it by instinct, with my heart. It’s the best way, because if you are thinking too much, it’s not going to work. I don’t want to be the second Joni Mitchell or the second Leonard Cohen, so we change the songs a lot. I don’t want to destroy the songs. It’s a melody and harmony, but you can change the rest. You can play rock'n'roll as jazz. It’s not difficult. You can do it.

“But actually, this is my past, because now I am doing a different kind of music. It is my own project. I write the music and my friend is a composer. I think that I needed to spend ten years by practicing and playing jazz because now I can use it in my project. And now is the right time.”

Have you already written the lyrics or are you now in the process of writing the texts?

“I am now in the process of writing. I have got nearly 80 percent of the work done. We are practicing, rehearsing and we are trying to finish it in time. In the autumn we want to record the music in the studio and find some good record label. It’s going to be difficult, because I want to stay independent. But I am really happy with this project. I did a lot of things, but this is the first time I am totally sure that it’s something special.

However, jazz is not the only genre Veronika plays. As a young girl, she also used to sing in a Jewish choir and she still tries to stay in touch with Jewish music.

“I must say that I am at the beginning. It’s the same as with jazz. Or maybe with jazz I am in the middle but with Jewish music I am at the beginning. I made some songs with rabbi Michael Dushinsky, I had a concert in the Spanish synagogue in Prague. I love liturgical music. I don’t like klezmer that much. Liturgical music has something special for me. I try to do it but I am not in touch with this music so much. But I still want to continue.”

How did you actually get to sing in a Jewish choir?

“My grandmother was a Jew from Germany. We had really close relationship. That’s actually the reason why I changed my name to Diamant. It’s like a tribute to the history of my family. I also have to say that it’s much easier to sing in Germany or somewhere else with this name than with my original name.”

Can you actually earn your living with music alone?

“If you want to be rich, you cannot do it but if you want to be happy, you can do it. I think I am old enough to know what is important for me. I don’t need to do things just to make money.”

13-08-2008