British DJ and pop-star Sonique, (born Sonia Clarke in North London), is something of an oddity in the music world; being one of the few credible and successful singing DJs out there. As a young child her ambitions lay in professional athletics, but music also made an early impact on her life and she remembers Donna Summer’s I Feel Love being the first record she ever bought.
At 17, a youth-worker told Sonique she had a beautiful voice, but before she could put her vocal prowess to use, the teen spent a few months on the streets. “That made me realise life wasn’t a joke – I could have died on the street,” she said. Inspired to take life by the horns she began to seriously pursue a music career and joined a reggae band. A crash-course on song-writing followed as did her first solo release Let Me Hold You in 1985, which charted on the UK Dance Chart.
Sonique moved on to become the singer and a songwriter for Mark Moore’s famous S’Express in the early nineties. Hanging out and working with DJs on the dance scene inspired Sonique to give spinning a whirl and after three years of training she emerged in 1994 as a talented and confident DJ.
Signing on to Serious Records, Sonique released the anthemic feel-good smash It Feels So Good, which went on to became the third best-selling single in the UK in 2000. She was well on her way to international stardom. Other hits with Sky and I Put a Spell on You followed, as did touring around the world as a DJ and singer and winning a BRIT Award for best British female solo artist.
In 2009 Sonique was diagnosed with breast cancer for which she underwent surgery and chemotherapy. She was given the all-clear and marked the good news by singing on a cover version release of the Cyndi Lauper song Girls Just Want To Have Fun to raise money for cancer research in the UK.
Today, Sonique remains highly sought after on the European club scene and is working on a new album. She recently played at Bristol Pride and will perform with Enrique Iglesias in Budapest on 29 September before heading to Joburg to perform as a singer and DJ at the Joburg Pride Official After-party on October 2nd. Mambaonline caught up with her ahead of her arrival…
You’ve visited South Africa a couple of times – what stands out for you about the country?
I love the warmness of the people and the fact that South Africans love their music and really enjoy themselves when they go out. South Africans seriously know how to party!
You’re both a singer-songwriter and a DJ – do you have a preference? Which is the primary focus in your career today?
I love both and I love what I do. Right now I am making music, performing on stages all over the world and also DJ’ing. I am a very lucky lady.
Why do you think you connected to dance music and electronica as your musical genres – rather than say rock music?
Because I have always loved dance music and dance is a musical genre which can be influenced by many different things. You can combine dance music with rock guitar for instance. In fact I’ve done a track which has a rock influence; it’s called Why.
Do you have a particular style of music that you play as a DJ – or does it depend on the context or your mood?
Depends on my mood and where I am. I love trance music, not many people know that about me.
You planned to be an athlete when growing up. Is sport still something you pursue?
There’s nothing like jumping around on stage in front of thousands of people to keep a girl fit!
How important is dancing in your performance?
I love to dance, to feel the music through my body, and dancing for me is an extension of my vocals and is an inherent part of my live shows.
You clearly have a strong connection to a gay audience – why do you think that is?
Because gay boys and girls really know how to party and they know a good song when they hear one.
You’re probably aware that this year’s Joburg Pride theme is “We’re all African” which seeks to highlight growing human rights abuses against lesbians and gays in Africa. Is this dreadful situation something you were aware of?
Of course I know that there are terrible atrocities being committed all over the world. That makes me sad. So I make music in an attempt to bring everyone together and get along. That’s what I do.
Do you have a message about this that you’d like to share with your gay and lesbian fans?
Love thy neighbour. And have faith.
You’re a breast cancer survivor. What has been the most dramatic change in your life that followed from that experience?
My new appreciation of life and all the wonderful experiences out there still to be discovered.
Has it impacted your music and the material you’ve been working on?
Of course. How could surviving cancer not have an effect on oneself. It manifests itself daily in many different ways.
You’ve been involved in breast cancer awareness campaigns…
It is incredibly important to me to give something back to the community. Very important. And raising awareness of breast cancer is something I am able to do and I am very happy to do.
Tell us about your new album. What can we expect musically and when will it be released?
I am still putting the finishing touches in the studio to it. It’s called Sweet Vibrations. Meanwhile I’ve been working with UK DJ Paul Morrell on a new single Only You which recently came out and went to number 2 in the UK dance charts which I was very pleased about. Only You is one of six of my tracks on a limited edition Joburg Pride 2010 Sonique Sampler CD being given to VIP ticket holders.
What can we expect from your performance and set at the Joburg Pride After-party?
I am VERY excited to be performing in Johannesburg and honoured to be headlining the official after party. I think it’s really cool that the city has come together to put on one big non-profit event which everyone can afford to attend. That’s what gay Pride is all about in my book. Coming together in one place to sing, dance and have fun. I am gonna put on a wicked show for you guys.
The Joburg Pride Official After-party, featuring Sonique and a line up of leading gay DJs, takes place on Saturday October 2nd at the Standard Bank Arena. Tickets are R56 and can be booked at Computicket. VIP Tickets are R100 and can be bought by calling 082 567 8894. Click here for more details.