Music Interview: Belinda Davids – Of Davids’ Line, Or Houston, We Have No Problem

February 7, 2015

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

Singer and actress Belinda Davids has the sort of problem most performers only hope to deal with. As the title character and focal point of the tribute production The Greatest Love Of All – The Whitney Houston Show, she has become so strongly identified with the late pop star, whom Davids resembles physically and vocally, that her own personality and skills may be overlooked by observers.

Davids shrugs.

“For me to release something original under my own name will take a long time now. I sing R&B, while Whitney was pop, then urban pop, and then, I suppose, hip hop pop. R&B in the old-fashioned sense is more or less non-existent in South Africa.

“And definitions are problematic: Rihanna is not R&B; she’s urban pop. So I’ll need to work really hard to overcome all of that.”

That’s not the only part of Davids’ life that has been heavily influenced by her role and the constant, worldwide touring that comes with it. Singing for a living requires certain considerations in terms of maintaining good health. Singing Whitney Houston songs, in Whitney Houston keys, requires a little more than usual.

“I need to keep my voice clear and strong and avoid things like laryngitis,” Davids agrees.

“You need to know what foods to eat. I love spicy stuff, but I can’t eat it – it dries you out, leaving no lubrication for vocals. Other things I love that I can’t have are onions, coffee, lemon, dairy, bread and certain teas. It’s all about discipline.

“The show is set up in such a way that it starts high and stays high – you can’t expect an audience to wait around until you hit a peak. So I do lots of warm-ups. People look at me strangely – there are some odd noises – but it works.”

And behind the scenes? Davids is a wife and a mother, other full-time roles that conflict with what she’s doing on stage.

“My family understands and supports me,” she says.

“They love me and they love what I do. My eldest son is looking into becoming a producer and joining the industry. And they know that I do it to try and ensure a better future for them and their children. But it’s not easy”

Davids doesn’t appear to notice that she’s echoed the famous opening line from Whitney’s hit The Greatest Love Of All: “I believe the children are our future”. Life imitates art and all that…

“People only want to see the perfection up front, once everything is rehearsed and polished,” she adds.

“They’re not interested in what it takes to get there. I’m okay with that; it’s what I signed up for.”

Whitney fans can be like soap opera audiences – unable to fully separate fiction from fact when it comes to relating to Davids outside of the show.

“They get Whitney on stage,” insists Davids.

“But we have a meet and greet after every show, and that time is so important. There they can see that I’m just a normal coloured girl from Port Elizabeth. It’s often an amazing time, where I really get to connect with people.”

Tribute shows are usually set up in such a way that everything is precisely planned. Does Davids have any scope as a singer to adapt her performance according to fatigue, health issues or the response from the audience?

“Right now, no, but we’ll see how things change as I get older,” reflects Davids.

“We’ll have to deal with what my voice can and can’t do when we get to a point when it starts to change, but for now all I can do is the best I can, in each show. And if there’s something that stops that happening, then that’s reality and I’ll have to face it.”

She pauses.

“I often think about when and where I will lose the ability to do this. And the show is one thing, but one day I won’t be able to sing to my youngest son anymore, and that’s his favourite thing – it soothes him.”

Like Whitney, Davids’ musical background includes singing in church and the impact of that time manifests in The Greatest Love Of All – The Whitney Houston Show in a stirring rendition of The Battle Hymn Of The Republic that Davids announces in the show as a “thank you to God, who has allowed me to do this”.

“When I was young, my grandmother was the pastor of our local congregation,” she recalls.

“It was a very strict set-up, but so important – that teaching is what has always kept me humble. It reminds me that at the end of the day I go home, after the lights and the costumes and the music and the cameras – as just another mom, housewife and simple, uncomplicated person.”

 

The Greatest Love Of All – The Whitney Houston Show runs at the Joburg Theatre until February 18. 

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