Born in New York, living around the U.S. and France with her parents born and raised in Cameroon, Cécile Doo-Kingué was born into a cultural mosaic.
She eventually made her way to Montreal, which she now calls home.
“French and English were a steady and constant reality to my upbringing. The idea of landing in a city where I could continue that partnership was very appealing to me,” Doo-Kingué said.
The depth and variety she finds blending afro-roots, blues and soul are reflective of the many cultures she was exposed to growing up. She cut her musical teeth on the sometimes-harsh streets of New York where she started playing gigs with her first guitar her brother, J.C. Doo-Kingué (better known as JC Dook) gave her. He would sneak her into bars where she got her first taste of the music scene.
“It was great. New York, there’s no lack of talent. You can go into any neighborhood bar and hear someone you could imagine on a festival stage or headlining some kind of huge room,” Doo-Kingué said. “It was great for that because you literally have music from all over the world being played by stellar players. But you also have the cutthroat side too because everyone wants to be top dog.”
She gravitated towards music since she was young, but the desire to make it her career came when she was a teenager. It was something she had to fight for.
“My parents were the generation that fought for Cameroon’s independence and the right for Cameroonians to have the right to higher education, jobs, professional jobs as opposed to being just seen as labour,” Doo-Kingué said. “The idea of bright kids turning down the opportunity to be a doctor or lawyer or well-seen professional by society to do sports or music or any of the alternate professions wasn’t really an option.”
Her parents eventually realized she was committed, talented and making a concerted effort and they rallied behind her.
Doo-Kingué is currently in the midst of a trilogy of albums, with her third solo album Anybody Listening Pt. 1: Monologues in 2015 and Pt. 2 Dialogues released in January.
The trilogy is an exploration of different takes on some of the same sounds, with part one exploring her solo sets, part two, recorded in Kelowna, brings in the trio members (including her brother J.C. and Montreal guitarist Daniel ‘DJ’ Joseph with a guest spot) and Pt. 3 Communion, which is still in the works, featuring live recordings.
“Enough people mentioned it to me, the difference between seeing me alone or with a rhythm section and how they missed either one or the other,” Doo-Kingué said. “So I thought how about we explore what that does. Let’s actually make it a conscious exercise.”
She wanted to see how the songs changed through the different formats, as well as how she changed as a performer.
“It’s really just to see the different lives that the tunes can have and that I can have as a performer as well. So far it has been very neat. I keep a batch of tunes I keep revisiting and keep adding new tunes.”
Doo-Kingué comes to the Dream Café Aug. 12 with opening act Tessa Frey. Tickets are $18. Reserve a table online at www.thedreamcafe.ca or call 250-490-9012.