With Venitia you get much more than a unique voice. Her writing is poetry. The guitar transports you to the club atmosphere that immerses you in the moment. If you want to feel music centered on you, the listener, you need to hear Venitia.
Venitia Sekema: Reviews
LAKE MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 2008
The New Buffalo Farmers’ Market opened early Sunday morning. Vendors were selling tomatoes, berries, freshly-baked bread – the usual fare. But one woman was singing and playing guitar out of the back of her SUV: Venitia Sekema. “It’s an exciting year for the political process,” says Venitia, a ripe songstress and skilled songwriter. “This song is called ‘Now is the Time.’” In the spirit of folk singers like Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, Sekema launches into her own song of the times with right-on lyrics any old folkie can appreciate. Her set includes a versatile mix of musical styles – folk, jazz and blues – and she handles them all with finesse. She scats like a jazz singer and sings blues better than any white girl should. “I like to put humor in there,” she says about her vocal style. “I think that’s the way to connect with people. This is a blues (song) called ‘Sugar Daddy.’ It’s about the perils of dating a rich man.” Sekema’s lyrics tell stories, a characteristic of only the best songwriters. But what’s best about Venitia? She lives in Galien, Mich., and liberally sprinkles her gigs throughout the LAKE region. Catch her Monday nights at the Livery in Benton Harbor, Mich., where she hosts an open mic at 8 p.m.
Combining jazz, blues and folk elements with her own soulful lyrics, Venitia Sekema is a vocal treat for fans of all three genres. –Gail Isaacson
South Bend Tribune Correspondent
2:32 p.m. EST, December 19, 2012
Some people have alleged that the Mayan calendar predicts the world will end Friday, so the members of the Luna Madre Band are throwing a party at The Livery in Benton Harbor to celebrate.
On the chance the proposed doomsday scenario doesn’t occur, the group is also recording the show for a later release.
“Just in case everybody is still here the next day, we’ll have a record out,” Luna Madre singer Venitia Sekema says. “I’m an optimist.”
Although observing the end of the world would be enough of a reason to throw a party, Sekema adds that the show coincides with the end of Art Hop, where the Benton Harbor Arts District is open for special holiday sales, food and art.
“It is a last-minute shopping excursion in the arts district,” she says. “Everybody ends up at The Livery.”
Plus, befitting the band’s name — Luna Madre translates to Moon Mother in Spanish and Italian — the concert happens to fall on the winter solstice. By happenstance, the band tends to gravitate toward celestial happenings.
“We have done a Transit of Venus party, and we have done a couple other things that have to do with the planets,” Sekema says. “I guess it is our thing.”
The Luna Madre Band was formed about 10 months ago, and Sekema says the name was chosen because the members felt it described the band’s sound, a blending of rock, roots, blues and soul.
“We just thought it was a cool sounding name,” she says. “We were throwing around different ones and we just came out with that. We are a band that is pretty eclectic. We play a lot of different styles of music. We wanted something that encompasses the universal language of music.”
Although the Luna Madre Band is less than a year old, all of the members are seasoned musicians. Sekema has performed in the past with guitarists Danny Dine and Mike Caron, but met drummer Lonny Hunt and bassist Kevin Leazenby for the first time when they were putting the band together.
“They had never met each other before,” Sekema says of the rhythm section. “The rest of the guys in the band had never met them. We got together to just see how it goes and it sounded great. Two weeks later, we were onstage together.”
In its short time together, the Luna Madre Band has played such shows as its September appearance at First Friday in downtown South Bend, as well as all over Michigan, in such cities as Traverse City, Muskegon, Grand Haven, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.
At a benefit concert held in November at The Livery for the Benton Harbor Food Bank, the group and the venue’s sound man, Ted Lowis, hatched the plan to record a live album.
“We did it just before the Thanksgiving holiday because we wanted to help them replenish,” Sekema says. “Ted was running sound for us that night. I have known him for a while, but he approached me that night and said he had been thinking about doing remote recording. He has his own home studio and it is something he wants to branch into. He asked me if we would want to do it. Of course, we were ecstatic about it.”
The Luna Madre Band will perform songs from Sekema’s three solo albums — “Boomland,” released in January, is her most recent — as well as songs written by Dine, new original songs that haven’t been recorded yet, and obscure, but familiar covers of songs from Blind Faith, The Staple Singers and “some funky stuff that really gets people moving.”
Although it is still a relatively new band, Sekema thinks a live recording will give the best representation of the Luna Madre Band.
“We are looking forward to having a recording of what we sound like now,” she says. “We can put that out there to some of the venues so they can see what they can get if they hire us. Also, it is a nice way to mark where we are now and what is to come.”
And, as with any live album, a loud, enthusiastic audience is important to the recording.
“It will be a really happening time in Benton Harbor that night, a lot of things going on,” Sekema says. “What better place to hang out with your friends and have a good time. Hopefully, everyone will show up and make some noise for us.”
The Luna Madre Band performs at 8 p.m. Friday at The Livery, 190 Fifth St., Benton Harbor. Admission is free. For more information, call 269-925-8760 or visit the website liverybrew.com.
By JEREMY D. BONFIGLIO - H-P Features Writer The Herald-Palladium | 0 comments
BENTON HARBOR — Venitia Sekema was playing a night-before-Thanksgiving gig with The Luna Madre Band when Ted Lowis, who was running sound that night, approached her.
“He said, ‘Hey, I would love to record you guys sometime,’” Sekema says. “He’s a recording engineer out of Kalamazoo with his own home studio who’s just breaking out doing a few live remote recordings. I said ‘Why not?’ and told him that we had a gig on (Dec.) 21st.”
When Sekema & The Luna Madre Band return to The Livery stage Friday night, Lowis will record the first two sets for what will become the band’s first live album. The fact that the band’s name means Mother Moon in both Spanish and Italian and Friday just happens to be the winter solstice seems to be more than a happy coincidence.
“I guess you can say the stars just aligned,” Sekema says, laughing. “Since we have this name we seem to end up playing these events. We did a gig during the Transit of Venus, and of course with this being the winter solstice (and the prophecy of the Mayan apocalypse) with the whole end of the world party going on, we’ve been joking about getting all these cool celestial gigs.”
Sekema, who released “Boomland,” her third solo CD, in March, has been fronting The Luna Madre Band for about 10 months. The five-piece, which plays a mix of rock, roots, blues and soul, also features Sekema’s longtime guitarist and fellow singer-songwriter Danny Dine; guitarist Mike Caron, who also played on “Boomland”; drummer Lonny Hunt; and bassist Kevin Leazenby. It was Leazenby, the Niles bass player best known for his stint with the Whistle Pigs, who first contacted Sekema about forming the band.
“Kevin was looking to do something different and emailed me out of the blue,” Sekema says. “Then a couple of months later Lonny emailed me because he heard through a mutual friend that I was looking for a drummer. So Danny and I met them at our friend Jack Gregory’s place in Paw Paw and we just had a jam session to see what it would sound like. After the first song I was like, ‘Wow, we have something here.’ Since I had a gig coming up I asked them if they felt like flying by the seat of their pants and they said ‘Yep. We’re in.’ Two weeks later all five of us were doing a show and we’ve been together ever since.”
What makes The Luna Madre Band different from Sekema’s past backing bands, she says, is the instrumentation and musical flexibility.
“Our rhythm section is so tight and with two lead guitar players in the band we’re really flexible,” Sekema says. “Kevin can play either electric or stand-up bass so we mix a lot of electric and acoustic instruments. We can all play acoustic, bring it way down and keep it really rootsy, or we can play electric, and then watch out.”
The 45-year-old Sekema, who grew up in the small town of Hebron, Ind., about 40 minutes southwest of Michigan City, has long been part of the local music scene. She picked up the guitar at age 13 to accompany her own voice, and after playing in front of friends and family for years, she took her act public in 1990. It wasn’t until 2004, however, that Sekema quit the last in a se ries of day jobs to pursue music full time.
The Three Oaks resident released her debut CD, the eclectic, enjoyable folk offering “Lucky Num bers,” in 2005, and its soul ful, bluesy follow-up “Hell On High Heels” in 2007. The 13 tracks on “Boomland,” her long-awaited follow up, blends Sekema’s myriad styles – from Delta blues (“Workin’ Woman Blues”) and uptown jazz (“Cry On”) to down-home country (“Down By The Old Willow Tree”) and modern folk (“Bird In A Cage”). The track “Trying Not To Love You Too Much” even ventures into acoustic pop territory.
Friday’s set list will feature songs off all three of Sekema’s albums, as well as three or four originals from Dine and a selection of reworked covers from Canned Heat to Bonnie Rait. The band also will play Sekema’s original blues ballad “Take It Like A Woman,” which she hasn’t recorded before and rarely plays on stage.
“It’s like a brand-new song,” she says. “We have a couple of songs like that with a lot of great sound coming off that stage. You really get to hear my music and Danny’s music full on. That’s what we hope to capture on a recording – the energy we have together on stage.”
Sekema says that they’ll record about 24 songs to choose from for the live album, which could be available as soon as February.
“And if there’s still time left before the end of the world we’ll just keep playing,” she adds. “We’ve got plenty more songs we can rock out to.”
-- WHAT: Venitia Sekema & The Luna Madre Band
-- WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: The Livery, 190 Fifth St., Benton Harbor
-- HOW MUCH: $5 suggested donation
-- CONTACT: 925-8760 or www.liverybrew.com
-- ARTIST INFO: venitiasekema.com; dannydine.wordpress.com
Reviews for "HELL ON HIGH HEELS"
THE IAIRA REPORT
DAILY CHART POSITION UPDATE - TOP 10 Notice
The International Association of Independent Recording Artists, IAIRA, recognizes and honors artistic achievement, technical proficiency, and overall excellence in sound recording by monitoring chart activity as published in various reporting charts from around the world. According to our research, on 07/27/2010 Hell On High Heels, by Venitia Sekema, had attained The Number 7 Position on at least one of the charts monitored and verified by IAIRA. On the basis of that research, IAIRA has qualified the aforementioned release as eligible for Certification as an International 'Top 10'.
IAIRA Research Team
By Dan MacIntosh
Venitia Sekema is one saucy, sexy singer/songwriter. That came out a little strange, didn't it? After all, aren’t singer/songwriters mostly like emo singers, albeit without all the amplification and rock connotations? Well, Sekema may just stretch your expectations.
There are a couple of big clues, before you even queue up the music, that Sekema is not your average songstress. For instance, one of the CD photos is simply a pair of high heel shoes on a hardwood floor. This image suggests that Sekema is relaxing with her shoes off. The opposite photo shows Sekema sitting and playing her guitar and revealing a lot of leg. But the cover photo is the kicker, as it finds her leaning against a mic stand, eyes closed with a come-hither expression on her face.
I get the feeling Sekema has a strong torch singer side to her personality. This side comes through on Hell On High Heels (Remember the spiked footwear referred to earlier?). This recording is colored beautifully by jazzy vibe playing. And this must be Sekema adding such ambience herself, as none of her additional musicians are credited with the vibe part. Also, there is a note that states: “All vocals, instruments, except where noted, performed by Venitia.” You go, girl!
The lyrics to the title track must give most men reason for pause. It’s the most frightening foot apparel tune since Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'."
It goes, in part:
Can’t always keep it on the straight and narrow
gotta go by feel
But I’m careful not to fall into a dirty deal
Let me love you baby, show you how to keep it real
I’m comin’ your way and I’m hell on high heels ...
But as cool as she can look and sound, Sekema is nevertheless an excellent songwriter. “Mile Long Days” is especially potent as it details the story of a young couple that got together in ’84. But it ends sadly with the girl leaving her guy, Jimmy. “Packs the truck and grabs the money jar, daughter’s blanket, one last look & leaves.” This is the sort of character study that wouldn’t be out of place on a Springsteen CD.
Sekema also knows her way around more generalized songs, which is exemplified by “Now Is The Time." In it she suggests this query: “Ask yourself the question, do I take more than I give, do other people suffer for the easy life I live?" And once again, it’s the sort of sentiment you might likely hear from one of the better socially active songwriters.
Others may be singing the same kinds of songs as Sekema, but few are doing so quite so sexily.
Indie Music Magazine
A voice that conjures images of farmhouses, screendoors and steely gray days...Venitia will move you. The winners here a Mile Long Days and Sweet Temptation. Like a cooling thunder storm on a prairie-hot day her voice soothes the soul. Her sound is at once sparse and amazingly full. No more is needed: a ringing acoustic guitar and her sultry voice...that is all I needed to be a fan. As a songwriter myself I have come to appreciate the simplicity inherent in a good song. Whether she wrote them or chose them...makes no difference. The end result is pure art.
I'm moved. The way Venitia blends different styles is just so enjoyable. Blues, soul ballads, jazz, folk and a bit of pop - these are different genres but when you touch them with her voice, bonds between them become very clear. Her singing is elegant and gentle, sometimes can be romantic and sometimes very sexy. My personal favorites on the disc are the soul ballads - spectacular!
It will be my pleasure to feature her music in my shows. I'm sure my listeners will enjoy it as much as I do!
The Blues Foundation /Member
Living Blues Magazine /Contributor
On her second CD, "Hell On High Heels", talented singer-songwriter Venitia Sekema delivers a solid batch of well-crafted tunes that cover a wide range of moods. Her style melds elements of folk and blues with a straightforward approach to songwriting that serves her well. Venitia has a mature voice that effortlessly floats atop simple and deceptively stripped-down song arrangements. A variety of talented guest artists appear, adding to the depth and richness of the music without cluttering it. Indeed, the emphasis on this CD is right where it should be-on the refined voice, solid guitar playing and eclectic songwriting of Venitia.
"Hell On High Heels" covers a wide range of lyrical subjects. "Now Is The Time" explores the need to live more compassionately, while "Seems Like Monday Morning All The Time" covers the hectic pace of modern life. While there are a few lighthearted songs that lacked emotional impact, Venitia makes up for it when wrestling with affairs of the heart. "The Same" is a powerful and stark tale of a failed relationship, while "Oregon" outlines the sense of peaceful possibility one can find from serious post-relationship soul searching. "Circle" is another such success that explores the strange gravitational pull exherted in especially soulful relationships. Venitia has a lot to talk about and her range as a songwriter is obvious on this disc. Like the artist who created it, this CD is a subtly complex album with a diverse range of emotional layers that become more apparent and enjoyable with each listening.
"Hell On High Heels" is a very listenable CD from a rapidly evolving singer-songwriter, While it is not especially adventurous or creatively conceived music, it is an honest and successful effort to artfully explore the emotional roads we all walk. If you enjoy the sound of a good guitar accompanying a beautiful voice with a lot to talk about, you will probably enjoy the music of Venitia Sekema.
IN Michiana - Sean Conlon
MUSICIAN SLIDES ON A NEW PAIR OF SHOES
Article published May 20, 2007 - KAREN RIVERS
Tribune Staff Writer
SEKEMA WEARS SOUL WELL ON SECOND ALBUM
Singer-songwriter Venitia Sekema just released her second album, and from glancing at the unopened CD, one thing is immediately apparent.
Someone went and got a little sassy.
The cover for "Hell on High Heels" shows Sekema in a black fringed dress getting down on an old-fashioned microphone. Songs include "Sugar Daddy" and "Not That Kinda Girl."
Sekema has always had a little blues and soul to her sound, but this album explores and reveals that side of her music in greater depth.
The results? A solid record that's got spunk and a sense of humor.This Venitia -- the one in the little black dress -- knows how to have a good time.
In fact, Sekema should be having plenty of fun this Friday at her official CD release party at The Livery. She put together a five-piece backup band just for the occasion.
A resident of Galien, Sekema has been a full-time musician since quitting her day job back in 2005. She now hosts The Livery's Monday open mic night, and often hits the road to tour the Great Lakes area and beyond. Her first album was the eclectic, enjoyable folk offering "Lucky Numbers."
Some of that sound hangs around on this record. "Now Is the Time," for instance, is a kind-of '60s-throwback socially conscious folk tune. "Oregon" is a soft, sweet one about being on the road.
The more soulful stuff, however, clearly drives the album.The opening track is a playful lament called "Monday Morning All the Time," and that light-hearted blues vibe continues on a number of songs.
The title track is a fun, funky number, as are the aforementioned "Sugar Daddy" and "Not That Kinda Girl." "Someone Like You," the album's official "you're not all that" track, also is in that vein -- and it's a standout.
Woven in with these more playful tunes are some good old sad love songs, including the pretty, urgent album-closer, "Been Lonely Too Long."
Part of what makes the album a success is that Sekema is not just experimenting with a different emphasis, but really embracing it and having fun. Those who've seen her perform know that she can do blues, but with "Hell on High Heels" she takes that side of her sound and runs with it.
Like many singer-songwriters, Sekema says she doesn't subscribe to any one style. As for this more soulful vibe, it's a hat -- or rather, a pair of high heels -- that she wears well.
Staff Writer Karen Rivers:
Review of Lucky Numbers
October 23, 2005
Singer took hint, quit her day job
INTERMISSION: CLUBS & GIGS
By KAREN RIVERS
Tribune Staff Writer
Venitia Sekema gets down and gets folky at The Beanery in Mishawaka.
Tribune Photo/KOHL THRELKHELD
"Lucky Numbers" by Venitia Sekema is available online at www.venitiasekema.com or www.tower.com. List price of $15.99 is discounted at both sites.
Years ago, Venitia Sekema opened a fortune cookie and read this message: "There is still time yet for you to take a different path."
The scrap of paper spoke to her. She hung it on her fridge, carried it around in her purse, let it settle in the back of her mind.
Six months go, she cracked open a cookie and got the message again.
Not afraid to take a cue from fate, Sekema quit her job as a dental assistant in New Buffalo. She is now a full-time musician.
"I just thought, 'OK, it's now or never. I'm 39. I've gotta do this,' " Sekema says during a recent gig at The Beanery in Mishawaka.
The Galien resident looks right at home strumming her guitar in the corner of the coffee shop. Her voice is smooth and sweet as she bounces from originals to covers, touching on everyone from Johnny Lang to Eric Clapton to Radiohead.
Although she seems to be folky at heart, Sekema perks right up when singing something with a dark blues rhythm.
"I've been a fan of everything -- rock, Motown, soul, pop, funk. ... Sort of the buzzword now is singer-songwriter, and that's the term I like. It doesn't limit you," she says.
As a folk singer, Sekema says, its easy to get into a rut where you always sing about love. It's a trap that Sekema avoids on her recently released first album, "Lucky Numbers."
The 13 tracks include songs about being a natural redhead, about an injured soldier back from the war, about a preacher going fishing.
There are, of course, at least a couple of songs about love.
Sekema recorded the album with Bruce Bartlett of Bartlett Recording in Elkhart. It's currently getting play on WVPE-FM (88.1).
The cover of the CD booklet aptly shows a fortune cookie, her providential message tucked inside.
Sekema first picked up a guitar when she was 14 and has been writing songs ever since. After playing in front of friends and family for years, she finally took her act public in 1990.
She now plays about three nights a week. And The Beanery is one of her favorite spots.
"The audience here is so appreciative, it really boosts you up," she says.
During her set, Sekema sings about falling for a heartbreaker. She jams out to the empowered tune "Queen Bee." Confidently, she strums through a song that she learned just that morning.
For Sekema, playing a brand-new tune is all in a day's work. In fact, it doesn't faze her a bit.
With a smile, she says, "I like to take chances."
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