‘Not your grandma’s blues’: Carolyn Fe releases ‘Jerusalem’s Thorns: Civilian Remix’
When it came time to choose her new single, artist Carolyn Fe had to make a tough decision: how does one choose between two different versions of the same song: the album version or the remix?
“‘Jerusalem’s Thorns: Civilian Remix’ is closer to my heart than the version released on the album,” she said candidly.
The performance is aggressive with a military tone that accompanies tribal sounds alluding to a battle cry stemming from her deepest wounds, she explained. “It’s like a purging of poisons and toxins from (my) soul to rebuild a new normal.”
Originally from the album Sugat Ko — “My Wound” in her native Tagalog — “Jerusalem’s Thorns” was the collective choice of Carolyn’s bandmates. “They liked the organic and not-so aggressive vibe of the tune, which was a cry and scream of frustration as (my) wounds healed,” she said.
In both versions of the song, the tribal percussion introduces the listener — and brings Carolyn closer — to her Filipino roots as she continues to further her version of the Blues genre.
Following a four-year silence to re-frame, re-energize and re-prioritize, she came back stronger than ever with the release of Sugat Ko in 2018.
“I dropped my malong to reveal my truest self and to heal the wounds of the past,” she said. (A malong is a traditional tube skirt or dress made from woven, multi-coloured cotton.)
While familiarizing listeners with Carolyn’s Filipino heritage, the album ventures into new blues territory with masterful twists on the familiar forms of the genre. Infused with Filipino rhythms and sounds, and combined with timely lyrics, Sugat Ko is a poignant and unquestionably original release that is “not for the blues purist,” she said.
“This is a modern album and relative to the current world climate, but at once classic with hints of tradition that is not necessarily your definition of, but also undeniably not your ‘Grandma’s blues.’
“It’s me daring you to step out of your comfort zone.”
A citizen of both Montreal and Toronto, Philippine-born Carolyn Fe is a true artist: curious, adaptable, an outlier, a free-spirited visionary who questions accepted standards and pushes against established rules to bravely navigate the daunting corridors of her soul, reinventing and redefining her craft. She is an innovator who has always expressed herself through the performing arts — dance, television, film, web and music — specifically the blues, where she fully embodies her talents as an insightful lyricist, evocative interpreter, and singularly authentic performer.
Her inspirations come from being a woman of colour who grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood where she was always on the fringe, even when she was literally in the spotlight performing. Being an outlier fueled her determination to create her own space and freedom to blaze her own path — on her own terms.
As an actress, Carolyn can be seen in her recurring role as Lola (Grandma) on the children’s show Blue’s Clues and You (the reboot of the classic Blue’s Clues) on the Nickelodeon channel. She can also be seen as the mother to a CIA agent in Condor on Amazon Prime and as Madame Z in the French web series Meilleur Avant on tv5unis.ca/meilleur-avant. In the theatre, she graces the stages of Toronto and Montreal’s most established houses.
Born to a family of entrepreneurs, whose enterprising spirit has clearly influenced her, it is no surprise that Carolyn will continue to widen her colleagues’ and her audiences’ boundaries. She defies age and challenges our stereotyped thinking about theatre, music and the performing arts in general.