Songs of Love and Protest is Sunny Koll’s love letter to history, and protest against our insistence on repeating it. Taking some of the most iconic songs from the 1960s and 70s, Sunny weaves a story of love, loss and hope as she shares her view on the world we’re in and the world we could aim for (if we allowed ourselves to hope).
Using the music from America’s Civil Rights Movement and other racially-charged moments in history is a choice fraught with the danger of cultural appropriation. Ever-aware of her position in the world, Sunny highlights the ridiculousness of a middle-class, Jewish girl from the suburbs of Melbourne singing songs made famous by African-American men and women who lived through that time.
She does so with such honesty and love of the music, and such passionate desire for us not to continue repeating our mistakes, that this is never an attempt to subvert the music for another cause, or claim the music as universal. This is Sunny’s homage to artists who used their work to make people see and hear the world around them.
Her version of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now left every audience member smiling softly with bitter-sweet tears in their eyes. Sunny said, ‘Joni Mitchell really knows how to write a song,’ but Sunny Koll and the band also really know how to deliver it.
With Jonathan Zion on bass, Steve Paix on piano, Darryn Farrugia on drums and Anton Delecca on saxophone, this gig felt, for the most part, more like a group of people talking in a lounge room than anything else. We saw the history between the five musicians, and felt the conversation between their instruments.
Sunny backs up her impressive range and beautiful tone with a humanity and genuine love for her subject, her audience and her art. She is the kind of performer that you want to watch, and probably want to stick around afterwards to have a glass of wine with.
Songs of Love and Protest lets you take time out from the world, without forcing you to ignore it. It’s a perfect Friday night.
Sunny Koll: Songs of Love and Protest
Performance: Friday 23 September 2016
Paris Cat Jazz Club, 6 Goldie Place, Melbourne
Songs of Love and Protest returns to the Paris Cat Jazz Club on Thursday 17 November 2016. For more information and bookings, visit: www.pariscat.com.au for details.
Image: Sunny Koll (supplied)
Review: Jennifer Piper