She has been called many things from “London’s soulful songbird” to the “one to watch” but Cameroonian born UK based singer/songwriter Debra Debs is a down to earth, unassuming, sharp and fast talking diva with a message.
“If you are looking for Riyana, Beyonce type of music, you will not find it in my album. If you are looking for matured music, you will find that in my album” she tells me with her infectious smile.
Her music is a mix of RNB, Soul and jazz and she sings about everything from love to the myriad of avoidable challenges that the African continent with abundant resources, still face today
She is now promoting her new album Lifecycles and recently performed during 50th anniversary celebrations to mark the reunification of the two Cameroons in London.
Tanteh Vitalis (The Don) caught up with Debra Debs for a brief chat after her concert.
Q I am talking to you during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the reunification of French and English speaking Cameroon in London. Why did you decide o be part of the celebrations?
I am here because I was invited to come and play. I have never been to this kind of Cameroonian gatherings before so I thought i was good to come.
I also thought it will be a good place to showcase my music because I was born in Cameroon and it will be nice for Cameroonians to know me as well and support me.
Q Who is Debra Debs?
Debra Debs is a singer/songwriter and I am into soul and Jazz music. I was born and bred in Cameroon but now live in the UK.
Q Talk about Africa Higher Higher, one of your best known songs
It is a track that promotes Africa as a continent that can do better. It is a song that talks about the plight of us Africans in the continent and outside the continent. I don’t like how we are being represented across the globe but on top of that, we need to develop ourselves internally. We need our leaders to take a bit more responsibility and look after us much better to put it lightly. I wrote the song because I wanted to speak on behalf of a lot of people who are thinking the same way like me.
Q That sounds to me like criticism of African leaders whom you think have not been doing enough for the people of African
It is not criticism, it is a note because when I start to sing the song, I said we have everything it takes; diamond, gold, silver, timber cocoa and coffee. We can be self-sufficient and we don’t need anything else from anybody. We seem to depend on the rest of the world for handouts and I think this has to stop
Q Why do you think this is still the case across Africa more than 50 years after independence?
If I say what I am thinking, I might get into trouble. Anyway, I think that after colonialisation, we were taken advantage of. We have a lot of former colonial masters who still control what our leaders do today and make it look as if we should and must still depend on them. Our leaders however need to stand up for us and tell these colonial masters that we have what it takes to make us independent. The song does explain a lot of that so listen to it carefully
Q You now have a new album you are promoting. Can we talk about that?
My album is called Lifecycles. it is available on itunes Amazon and Cdbaby. I released the album in November 2013. It contains matured music, it has real stories and is a great album. I recommend anyone who likes soul/jazz music to get the album. You can also get physical copies from my website www.debradebs.com. On itues it is called Lifecycles while you can also just add me on facebook.
Q Why should anyone buy the album?
I am a singer who promotes a lot of social conscious messages in my music. On top of that, I sing soul music and remember soul music is food for the heart. If you are looking for Riyana, Beyonce type of music, you will not find it in my album. If you are looking for matured music, you will find that in my album. You can always try the songs out on itunes and if you like it, you buy it. I am not forcing anyone to buy my music. It is a good album; there are no doubts about that.
The album has 13 tracks including the African track .(Africa Higher Higher) Basically, it has all the stories that anyone will encounter in life which is why it is called lifecycles. As far as I am concerned, Life is a cycle. It has 360 degrees motion and you get to have all types of experiences from love, hate politics, poverty, all those themes that I have personally experienced and my friends have experienced, I put it in an album and named it Lifecycles.
Q Because you have personally experienced most of the emotions you talk about in the album, what will you say you have learnt about life then?
I have learnt a lot as a result. I have grown a lot, I have become more tolerant, I have become more patient and I have become more positive as well. I don’t like to have people who have a negative attitude around me. Negative energy brings me down physically. I think I have become a better person even by writing the album.
Q Where will you want to be in your music career, ten or twenty years down the line?
Hopefully, I would have released more albums and will be touring the world. I am more interested in touring because the more you get to tour, the more people get to know about you and your music and then they will like to buy your songs. The more you tour, the more you also have a platform to express yourself whether it is about politics or love or education. Whatever message you have, you can easily transmit that through music.
Q Lets get under your skin. Who is the woman behind the name Debra Debs?
I am mysterious but I am really just a singer/songwriter. I am easy going, I don’t like stress, I am friendly and I am adventurous. I am also very spontaneous so if I have the urge to do anything today, I just go ahead and get it done.
Q You were born in Cameroon and you are now practicing your craft in the UK. Why do you think Nigerian musicians Like Flavour Nabania, P Square are more successful internationally than Cameroonian musicians?
Because Nigerians support their artists. You need to know that Nigeria has a bigger market than Cameroon. Culturally, I also think we are just starting to learn how to support our own in Cameroon. We have a big musical icon like Richard Bona who is big out of Cameroon but very few people support the kind of music he plays at home. He is super talented.
Q What should Cameroonians/Africans start doing to promote uprising musicians like yourself?
They should just promote us. They need to start promoting home grown talent because in the end, music is global but you need a home base to get international. You cannot discriminate when it comes to music. They should play our music on TV, radio, invite him to shows. You have to be on he ground to get support though
I live in a different realm and personally, I will like to work with NGOs, politicians or anyone who has an interest in developing Cameroon or Africa. I can contribute through things like talks in universities, sitting in panels, working on TV etc. I am an African and show that in my music but because I am out of the continent, I have different avenues to express myself
Q What does Africa mean to you?
Africa means love, It is home and it is the future.
Debra Debs in 9 short lines
Dream Destination. Chile
Favourite Drink. Pina colada
Perfect Date. At home watching a movie and eating cheesecake
Qualities you like in a friend. Honest, caring, mentally mature
Most annoying habit in a man. Poor hygiene and controlling
Favourite Colour. White
Favourite Dish. I have a palette of many heritages
My kind of Music. Gospel, Soul, RNB and Jazz
Best Vidéos. Non-fiction and documentaries
PA and Bookings