Annick, Dominique and Veronique CLARISSE are a vocal jazz trio from Mauritius. The three sisters have had uninterrupted success since the early nineties, first as backing vocalists on world tours with British stars ERASURE, BASIA, INCOGNITO & MATT BIANCO, and now going solo as THE CLARISSE SISTERS. Kreol Magazine joined their manager in the Seychelles to discuss the sisters’ 25 year career.
The three Clarisse sisters have made history in Mauritius and the Indian Ocean at large, in terms of female singing achievements. They have conducted numerous world tours from 1992 to 2011 (notably with Basia, a Polish singer songwriter), playing at the Budokan in Tokyo, the Gr eek Theatre in Los Angeles, the Casino de Paris, and performing on Top of the Pop s (UK) on several occasions. They have sung for the King of Sweden, as well as on Jay Leno’s Today Show and David Letterman’s Late Show. When born on the tiny Island of Mauritius, so far away from the musical capitals of the world, this is no mean feat. However, Dominique, Annick and Veronique have always dreamed big.
From the Creole City of Beau Bassin-Rose Hill
Dominique was born in June 1965 in what was then still a British colony. Three years later, Annick and Veronique, the twins, came along in June, on music day (21st). F or their parents, now raising a family of 5 children (a son and f our daughters), they were the, “Girls of Independence”, since Mauritius became a free country, just a few weeks before, on 12th March 1968.
The Municipality of Beau Bassin-Rose Hill was then and is still to this day, the city of a thriving Creole community of professionals: teachers, writers, intellectuals and artists. The Clarisse family was no exception, since Germain, the girls’ father was working at the National Bureau of Statistics. But the family’s true passion was in music and singing. Edmond, Germain’s brother, a teacher, emigrated to Australia, even joining the Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra!
This happy family was always listening to music, from American Jazz heroes (Duke Ellington, Barbara Streisand), to British Pop (The Beatles, Pink Floyd), Disco (ABBA), Reggae (Bob Marley) and obviously French Chanson (Luis Mariano, Henri Salvador) on their francophone island. This gave the 4 Clarisse sisters (back then Geneviève, the oldest sister, was part of the band) a solid musical foundation.
After singing in church choirs and for school and family events, the girls were soon included in the neighboring national theater – le PLAZA. In August 1985, they took to the stage in their hometown theatre, for a special concert singing several covers (Mix-Up Show) and a few months later they performed in neighboring Reunion Island at Le Théâtre du Tampon, opening f or Graeme ALLWRIGHT.
Dominique, then Annick & Veronique, signed their first professional contract in December 1986, with one of the most luxurious resort hotels, as resident singers. The next 5 years saw them perform Motown Classics and Hit songs night after night, to the delight of the hotel residents. Many being celebrities from France and England and even Royalty from Sweden.
The 1990s: breakthrough and lasting success
In June 1991, Annick, Dominique and Veronique CLARISSE were celebrating their birthday in the capital city of Port Louis. They went to see a concert at La Citadelle, by a French singer who was accompanied by the famous Brazilian singers: Trio Esperanza. This was a revelation! “We want to tour around the world as backing vocalists”, they thought…
This wish sent across the Universe was heard just f our months later, when, while singing at their hotel, they were greeted off stage by Andy BELL, lead singer for British band ERASURE. The synthpop band sensation were looking for two back-up singers and dancers for their forthcoming world tour. In January 1992 contracts were exchanged and in March the twin Creole girls were on a flight to London for three months of rehearsals. This year was a memorable one for the family as their younger brother Eddy, also a talented singer and musician, won his first of three African Badminton Champion Gold Medals. Thus becoming the first Mauritian to be crowned at continental level in individual sport.
The rest of 1992 was spent touring the UK, Europe and the USA, starting with an opening concert at the Manchester Apollo, which is now legendary with ERASURE fans, as it features on the VHS/then DVD, “The Tank, the Swann and the Balloon”, released respectively in 1993 and 2004.
In 1994, Annick and Veronique followed suit with a world tour with Polish born, British star Basia. The latin jazz singer was then at the peak of her career in the USA, touring extensively and promoting her third studio album, “The Sweetest Illusion”, on all American major networks. The US tour rounded off with 3 weeks of sold out concerts on Broadway. For the girls it was a great way to end 1994. Spending winter in New York City!
The twins decided to settle in London, so as to develop their career. In 1995 they both performed alongside Billy Ray Martin and Annick also did a British tour with China Black. In 1996, Annick decided to return home and then moved to Johannesburg (South Africa) from 1997 to 1999, to join her future husband. At the same time, Veronique, was now married to a British saxophone player and settled in London. She did a UK Tour with Howard Jones, before going on a World Tour with the iconic Acid Jazz band, INCOGNITO, which was founded by her Mauritian compatriot Jean-Paul BLUEY Maunick.
During these years, Dominique had started a family and raised her two daughters while still singing at the hotel in Mauritius, alongside famous singers. These included Ireland’s Chris de Burgh (giving 2 private concerts in St Tropez – France in July 1999 and July 2000) and in February 2001, with Whitney HOUSTON, one of her biggest inspirations.
2004 to 2013: a decade of tours around the world
At the end of 2004, Annick and Veronique were called to join another world tour as backing vocalists. Matt Bianco were reuniting in their original line-up with Basia and Dany White, joining forces with Mark Riley to celebrate, with a release of a new album, 20 years since their debut world success, with “Whose side are you on?”. The twins were back on the road from January until April 2005 performing in London, Japan and the USA.
Then came a three year break, which gave time for Dominique to perform alongside Hélène SEGARA (France) in 2007, during her stay at the hotel in Mauritius.
In early 2009, Basia released her first single in 15 years, “Blame it on the summer”, extracted from her forthcoming album, “It’s that girl again”. A world tour was scheduled from May to August starting in London, and Milan, moving on to Poland, Japan and the Philippines. The following year, the twins were back in the USA in the summer and in fall of 2010, supporting Basia. Further tours and concerts continued in 2011 and 2013, when Basia played in Indonesia, at the Java Jazz Festival in Djakarta (Indonesia). This ended with a life changing performance in Japan, when the two Mauritian Backing Vocalists had to replace Basia 45 minutes before a concert in Tokyo, since the Polish star had lost her voice, and the event could not be cancelled.
Annick and Veronique dully obliged and sang the entire set, sharing the task of lead vocals and backup
2013 to 2016: launching their solo career
Back at home in May 2013, reunited, THE CLARISSE SISTERS, sang for the opening ceremony of the 63rd FIFA Congress which was held in Mauritius. But the incident in Tokyo, that had sent them centre stage, was sinking in… with all its symbolism and implications…
In June 2013, the three sisters decided to launch their solo career and start working on their first album. Recordings took place until the end of the year. By mid 2014, they had recorded 13 songs for an end of year release. The forthcoming album, KALEIDOSCOPE!, opened with the first track, PAPITOU, which was a tribute to a classic song in local Creole, by the father of Mauritian Sega music: “Ti Frère”.
The song was released in September 2014 in Mauritius and was immediately hailed as a unique rendition. It mixed sega and jazz, with previously never heard, “Close Harmony,” vocals, 40s style, which were incorporated into the original song lyrics.
In early 2015, while filming the video clip for the Papitou single, the girls decided to change the course of KALEIDOSCOPE! It morphed into a tribute album to their roots in Mauritius and became mostly a francophone album. Five songs already recorded in English were kept for a second album aimed at the international market, which should be released in 2017. However, in April 2015, Annick, Dominique and Veronique decided to record 4 additional songs to complete KALEIDOSCOPE!
Recording, mixing and mastering took a further 4 months, and on 21st September 2015 the album was finally released to an international audience, through their official website: www.theclarissesisters.com and iTunes.
Last year saw THE CLARISSE SISTERS play live in Mauritius and Reunion island, notably during the
PORLWI by Light December festival (www.porlwi.com). For 2016 the three sisters have decided to start exporting their music beyond the Indian Ocean, so we can expect to see them play live in South Africa, Australia and Europe.
One only has to listen to the beautiful vocal harmonies on their album to understand why such talent was always destined to travel far from their native island of Mauritius. This is captured in KALEIDOSCOPE! which is special in so many ways. Its 12 songs deliver the richness of the various facets of the Mauritian Creole heritage, while keeping a universal musicality that can appeal to smooth jazz lovers the world over. The sisters have embarked on this solo adventure with passion, and as their life story shows, there is no reason to believe they won’t fulfill their dreams… once more!
Clarisse Sister’s new album: KALEDISOCOPE! is available as follows:
DIGITALLY (Download) through I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/fr/album/kaleidoscope-!/id1043022788
PHYSICALLY (CD Format) through DISCOGS: https://www.discogs.com/fr/The-Clarisse-sisters- Kaleidoscope/release/8235738