SWEET THING: The School of Music alumna, aka Candy, is at work on her debut album.
ALL great singers have at least one thing in common – they know how to use the voice as an instrument. In the case of Kimiela Issacs, the voice is a mellifluous, finely tuned instrument that stops you in your tracks. With a multi-octave range, the 30-plus year-old songstress can swoop and soar like the best of ’em in genres that run the gamut from classical to jazz and blues. But gospel is her forte, and when she opens her mouth she makes you a believer. With a voice like that, they don’t call her “Candy” for nothing.
Witness her bring-the-house-down solo at the recent 38th renewal of the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, where she earned resounding applause for her powerful rendition of Shirley Caesar’s “I Am God,” making the song entirely her own. Isaacs is used to that kind of response to her performances. She’s won tonnes of gold medals and trophies in the annual JCDC Music Festival, as well as other competitions that have introduced audiences to her luminous talent and warm personality.
The most fascinating thing about Kimiela? She is visually impaired. In fact, in 2012 she became the first visually impaired student to graduate with honours from the Edna Manley College’s School of Music. Today, she’s one of Jamaica’s few professional musicians with a disability to have a degree to her credit. Since then, she’s been honing her craft and using the instrument to minister to Jamaicans from all walks. “I enjoy tickling the ears of audiences with my voice,” she says with her signature high-pitched diction. “I’s been a great experience so far, and I’m really looking forward to travelling the globe.”
Usually chaperoned by her aunt, the in-demand songbird (who credits June Thompson Lawson as one of her first teachers) uses her professional gigs to reimagine some of her all-time favourite songs (appropriate for the occasion) and to sample her own original material. Having released the 2013 EP, Hello, she’s currently at work on tracks for an album she hopes to drop sometime this year. “I’m hoping for a busy and successful year,” she says of her 2018 plans. “I’m gonna be doing a concert in June as well. It’s my own show that I’m calling ‘Gospel with a Difference’.”
As with all great singers, caring for the instrument requires a discipline Isaacs pushes herself to adhere to. “When I was working with Lawson, she always stressed the importance of vocal health, and that includes avoiding dairy,” says Isaacs, who loves her milky treats. “Dairy is hard to resists,” she admits, giggling. “So it isn’t always easy to avoid the temptation.”