Krystle Dos Santos: shows for Black History Month

Krystle Dos Santos, a two-time Western Canadian Music Award (WCMA)-winning musician based in Vancouver, has a busy schedule ahead with three virtual shows in the coming weeks in honour of Black History Month in February.

Dos Santos will showcase songs from her latest album Bloom|Burn and other original songs online at the Surrey Civic Theatre from Jan. 19 to Mar. 12, 2021. The album was nominated for R&B Recording of the Year at WMCA 2020 and she won the WMCA’s R&B Artist of the Year.

A multi-talented performer

Krystle Dos Santos | Photo by Andrea Sunderland

Dos Santos, whose parents are originally from Guyana, grew up in a house full of joyous music.

“When I was little, my dad had this really cool record collection. He was always a jazz and blues fan, and my parents always encouraged my creativity,” she recalls.

Citing Stevie Wonder as her biggest childhood inspiration, Dos Santos says she was reading his song lyrics when she was four years old. She started taking vocal lessons at age 17 and has been hooked ever since.

“With music, you want people to feel the joy and feel the soul – you might not know if it is the best song, but you always know you feel good,” she says.

Also interested in acting, dancing and other performances, Dos Santos studied at the Canadian College of Performing Arts (Victoria) and then spent some time in England where she was exposed to musical theatre.

She co-wrote the musical Hey Viola! with Tracey Power based on the life story of Viola Desmond, the famed Canadian civil rights trailblazer, shown at New West’s Anvil Theatre last October.

The artist also does regular performances at schools to teach children about the history of Motown music.

As an advocate of Black Canadian women, Dos Santos has been involved in a number of projects, past and present, that help raise awareness of the contribution and legacy of the Black community.

“I am working on a project that is slowly coming to life where we pay tributes to people such as Portia White and Viola Desmond. I just want to highlight these people and give Coles Notes version of their bios when I sing songs that they sang or songs about them,” she says.

The labours of Bloom|Burn

Having a deep love affair with blues and old soul music, Dos Santos says she keeps referring back to the 60s and 70s’ soul music and it significantly influences her own style.

The artist released her first album in 2008 on which she wrote a majority of the songs, and it won WCMA’s R&B Recording of the Year in 2009. She then did a more experimental album in 2011 incorporating more hip-hop elements and it was also nominated at WCMA.

She had planned to release the third album back in 2014, but unexpected setbacks delayed the process.

“Fast forward to 2019, I got the grant from Creative B.C., so I started making the album. I also got pregnant at the end of 2018, so I was making the album while I was growing this little baby inside of me,” says Dos Santos. “I came up with the concept of Bloom/Burn because I wasn’t finding consistency in how I was feeling – on the one hand, I was feeling so happy, but there was also this other dark side that I wanted to express. I feel the dichotomy.”

Dos Santos says her favourite tracks on the album are Worthy and Buried Alive.

“They both are saying in your darkest hour, you are worthy; when you are being buried alive, you can fight your way out of it. I think those are the things that I needed to tell myself in order to get through things and make this album happen,” Dos Santos explains.

The painstaking labours of love have borne fruits. The musician is a proud mother now and her latest album also made her a second-time winner at the WCMA awards last year.

Dos Santos will also perform at the Shadbolt Theatre on Feb. 4, 2021, paying tribute to some Black Canadian figureheads and recounting a history of Black women in music.

She will have another Motown music performance at the Western Vancouver Memorial Library on Feb. 12.

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