For many people of colour that grew up in predominantly white communities in the 90s and early 2000s, the mention of MTV will draw out very particular feelings. For a lot of us, it was the only place where we’d regularly see other people of colour living their best lives, be that in the high-budget, glossy music videos of our favourite pop and R&B divas or those massive blockbuster-style productions that rappers tended to churn out. In past interviews, Copenhagen songwriter-producer Erika de Casier has spoken openly about the solace she found in MTV for this very reason. Born in Portugal to Belgian and Cape Verdean parents and raised in Denmark, Erika and her brother were among the only mixed-race children around. MTV provided a certain element of comfort and in early-00s R&B and artists like Destiny’s Child, Janet Jackson and Aaliyah, Erika found a natural affinity.
Tonight, as she plays her first UK tour date at Edinburgh’s small but mighty sweatbox Sneaky Pete’s, you can’t help but feel transported by her quiet yet commanding aura. That early musical education has inevitably travelled with Erika through her career, but so too has that notion of finding comfort and solace in a specific genre of music and the feelings of nostalgia and escapism that might come along with it. In the tracks from her second album ‘Sensational’, Erika wears her R&B influences on her sleeve but with added nuggets of jungle, garage and electronic gold highlighting her broad musical palette.
She begins her set with the shimmering, breakbeat-fused ‘Drama’, which sets the tone with its medley of styles. Though softly spoken, Erika is able to fully engage this packed venue by imparting a mellowness that radiates from her hushed vocals, eclectic arrangements and musical and lyrical nods to her heroes. The classical guitar accompaniment is stunning next to Erika’s breezy delivery all the way through but by the third song ‘Friendly’, there’s an added assuredness.
“I’m really nervous, actually,” she says at one point. But you wouldn’t know this from the track that follows, ‘Do My Thing’. Throughout the show, she raises the tempo and then winds it right back at varying moments, for example in the transition from the gentle ‘Insult Me’ and sumptuous ‘Polite’ to ‘Do My Thing’. There’s a confidence in her performance that really shines at this point, especially as the crowd sings back to her, “I wanna move my body, that’s why I came / And if you’re not down, get out of my way”.
The sensual and smooth, breathy R&B of ‘The Flow’ and ‘Little Bit’ come next, before she picks it up again with the UK garage-esque ‘Busy’. This ebb and flow is part of Erika’s skill and appeal as an artist; she’s captivating on stage but also offers something wholly soothing both for herself and her audience. In the encore track ‘Make My Day’, there’s genuine joy in her voice and what feels like a collective, venue-wide slow dance. The strength of Erika’s last release and its alt-R&B warmth is mirrored flawlessly in the energy of her performance tonight. The ultimate result is pure nourishment for the soul.
Erika de Casier played:
‘Better Than That’
‘Someone to Chill With’
‘Do My Thing’
‘No Butterflies, No Nothing’
‘What U Wanna Do?’
‘Make My Day’