“When I did a short tour of New York City a couple of years ago, this guy at Verve Records told me that I’m going to die in obscurity in San Diego,” says Brazilian jazz singer Tokeli, whose debut Where Do You Start, produced by Peter Sprague, was SDMA-nominated Jazz Album of the Year in 2007. Now, however, she says it’s almost impossible to get paying work, no matter the pedigree.

“After doing so-called ‘audition gigs’ this past year, playing for people eating their chateaubriand and ignoring the music [and] dealing with drunks of every hue and with club owners who treat busboys better, or, worse yet, singing to totally empty houses, I’ve decided to go a different way.

“I’m looking for the lowest-paying gig out there. I’d prefer it if you don’t pay me at all. That’s what I tell club owners now when I go out looking for gigs. Seriously. I’ve decided this is the way to dig my career out of the pit it’s been in for the past year and actually have some leverage to make it in this godforsaken business.

“I’m not going to be a professional musician anymore. I aspire to be in a garage band. If I play in Ocean Beach for nothing but tips, the audience might actually listen. They might dance. They might get into it and actually ask to be on my email list or where I’m gigging next.”

Tokeli’s June 11 appearance at Anthology will debut her new sound, fusing acoustic funk and jazz with Brazilian electronica, creating a danceable hip-hop mix she calls Brazilian groove. “It’s super sexy, hip, funky, and urban but still beachy in its sound.”

As for her band, “I want to make them work for free, too."

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It is a tough business for sure. Glad Anthology was a success. sorry I didnt make it but I had a gig.

Tokeli, always a fan, and the Anthology gig was a big success. I loved every minute of it.


I love your tongue-in-cheek rhetoric.

San Diego will always have this kind of vibe happening to it- If you want to know where the "paying" gigs are, look no further than the tourist industry. Convention gigs, busking, etc. Are reallly the only way to make a (real) buck here.

I've been here for over 20 years and can attest that San Diego, as pretty as it is and as much potential as it contains, will never be a place to truly "make it" in the music industry. You stand a far better chance making a living doing the midwest club circuit.

The problems that I see that caters to the situation is the transient nature of this town (tourists + military) and the usual "over-saturation apathy" that pervades. San Diego is a very conservative town as opposed to LA, so any "scene" that develops usually fades in a season, or is shut down by the cops. :)

I play in Europe pretty frequently and the perception of musicians over there is that of utmost respect, as opposed to the usual "load in through the kitchen, don't disturb the busboys" mentality that many here embody. Not all clubowners are like that but some are. Or, they are just plain apathetic and don't care either way.

PS- I just deleted my Facebook account, due to the apathy I feel that it provokes.

Somehow it all came toa head last night at Anthology: the place was PACKED, the music was kickin' and everyone had a great time! It was such an event, a night to experience. SO much better than watching the box.

I went to see Tokeli and her Brazilian band last night at Anthology and I was blown away. There was magic in the air. Not only was it packed, but there was jubilant vibe in the air. Foots were tapping and shoulders bopping to the rhythm, and everyone was smiling. Tokeli had a good repartee with her fellow band members, a confident stage presence and an excellent play list. The best part for me was when she sang some of her softer, more romantic songs and the whole room quieted down to listen. Kudos to Tokeli and the entire band.

by Dianna Ippolito

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