Q&A: Meet jazz artist Leena Salim

Published 3:00pm 19 June 2022

Q&A: Meet jazz artist Leena Salim
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

Jazz artist Leena Salim can often be found playing at various venues both in around Moreton Bay and Brisbane, bringing her unique sound to jazz lovers of all ages.

Here, she talks with Moreton Daily to share more about her life, her passion for music, and where you can catch her next. 

Hi Leena, thanks so much for having a chat with me today. I would love to know more about your musical background. Have you always had a passion for singing and music?

I was born in Singapore. My love for singing and music stemmed from the understanding at a very young age that it allowed me to express what mere words cannot do.

But I was a late arrival into the musical and performing scene. Being a girl, I wasn't allowed to pursue these passions.

What drew you to jazz and make you want to pursue this genre of music further?

I’ve always been interested and curious with the 'interpretation' side of things; how can we take one sentence and express it different ways? In music I found that in jazz.

There is no right or wrong way to express your interpretation - because it's yours. It's how you 'see' this song.

That's the magic of jazz.

Jazz is such a great style of music because there are many different types and sounds. How would you best describe your sound?

I grew up with the greats and the standards such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra etc, so playing standards from the Great American Songbook is a big love. They're so classy and never run out of style.

These days I mix them up with essy- listening pop jazz sounds. Just good, smooth jazz vibes.

Do you write your own songs?

I write lyrics.

What does through your head when you’re performing on stage? What kind of experience do you want to give your audiences?

Oh my goodness - so many things go through my head!

I have learned to have an awareness of the venue before I play. I make a mental note of who's paying attention, who's at the very end of the room - am I audible there, cables on the floor - don't trip, lyrics - is my iPad working, music charts - are they in the right key, are the musicians in a good place, are they happy and well, are the lights bright enough, are there kids running around, where are the emergency exits, deep long breaths, speak slowly and clearly, don't burp, don't panic- it's a very long list!

The kind of experience I want the audience to have depends on where I play.

If I'm playing at the Laneway stage of Eat Street Northshore, I play with an understanding that music is not necessarily the main focus but a part of what makes it a great experience - food, music, ambience - makes it a great vibe.

If I'm playing at The Brisbane Jazz Club where folks specifically go there for the music, then my presentation and engagement with the audience increases. It becomes more intimate. I want them to go on a musical journey with me.

Q&A: Meet jazz artist Leena Salim

What strengths do you have that you believe make you a great musician?

The strength of a good musician is to play well, of course.

But I believe the strength of a great musician is having an awareness - your role in the band, of how a song is presented each time, of the sound you produce, interaction with other members of the band, reaction from the audience. These are the things I've learned and I apply. It’s still an ongoing learning process.

What's the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?

You may have heard a song played by a zillion times, and by a gazillion artistes. It doesn't matter who's version you heard.

What matters is when you play it, make it your version, make it come from you. Be an original you. Not a copy of what you heard.

What would be your advice to other musicians who would like to follow their dreams of performing for others?

Absolutely go for it. But check your intentions. Are you after fame or do you genuinely love playing music?

Where can we see you perform?

These days I do a lot of private and corporate gigs.

Otherwise, you can find me at Eat Street Northshore, Boardwalk Cafe at North Lakes Hotel and Bitter Suite in New Farm, to name a few.

You can catch my next ongoing jazz performance at Cafe Lagarto's Jazz Night. It's on every last Saturday night of the month. I alternate with the brilliant Danny Mose.

The theme for my night in July is Jazz and The Movies. Expect a night of familiar and favourite smooth jazz tunes under a canopy of fairy lights with servings of cheese platters and cocktails.

Live music, good food and company - what's not to love!

The show will be held on Saturday, July 30 from 6.30-9.30pm at Café Lagarto in Samford.


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