On a cold Sunday night in Colours, a trendy music venue in Hoxton, we were treated to a very special performance from Katerine Duska, a young, sophisticated soul singer from Athens (via Canada) who performed a number of original songs and cover versions to an amalgamated crowd of assorted hipsters, Hellenes, and Hellenic hipsters.
Katerine has a quite extraordinary voice. The closest comparison has to be with Amy Winehouse; but while there are some obvious similarities in timbre, Katerine has a sound of her own that is quite distinct. That’s not to say that she isn’t obviously flattered by the comparisons that have been thrust upon her.
Born and bred in Montréal, Canada, she moved to her parents’ country of Greece in her teens and has been making a name there for herself ever since. Back in 2015, she released her only album to date, “Embodiment”, with tracks written by her. After a couple of major concerts in 2018, she sang a beautiful jazzy cover version of the Feist/Chilly Gonzales track “Limit to your Love”, with Greek jazz drum maestro Billy Pod, which appeared in February 2019 as a track on his wonderful album “Drums to Heal Society”. UK readers will probably remember the James Blake version more, to which this cover owes a considerable nod:
Later that same month, and quite out of the blue, it was announced that she had been internally selected to represent Greece with “Better Love” at the Eurovision Song Contest. With so many countries now taking part and the overall music quality increasing considerably in recent years, qualifying for the final was no longer a given for Greece, and they had only succeeded in making it through to the Saturday night show once in the previous three years. No pressure, then!
In Tel-Aviv, Katerine brought utter class to the show and qualified easily, coming fifth in the semifinal. She would probably have done better in the final had she not been allocated the spot to sing straight after Duncan Laurence’s eventual winner from the Netherlands. A heart-tugging song about losing a loved-one that easily brought anyone who listened to the lyrics to tears was always going to be a hard act to follow, and no amount of floating pink veils or giant bouncing balls were going to be enough.
As it happens, in spite of all the Amy Winehouse references Katerine had been hearing over the years, she appeared to be channelling a lot of Annie Lennox in “Better Love”. Perhaps that was thanks to the influence from another Scot, David Sneddon, who joined Katerine and her current songsmith Leon of Athens in the composition and creation of these three minutes of magic.
However, on stage in Hoxton, she was very Amy. She was sassy, occasionally sinking to her knees, toying constantly with the hemline of her dress, showing more and more of her fishnet-clad legs. Accompanied by her three bandmembers on-stage, she performed most of the tracks from “Embodiment”, all sung along to by her adoring crowd, which had created a perfect semicircle in front of her. Everyone seemed to know the words to “Slow” and “One in a Million” from that album. At one point she was joined on stage by Leon of Athens, with whom she sang two songs that lacked the classiness of the rest of her repertoire but would have appealed more to the younger audience members.
One of the highlights, however, was when she sang “Sanctuary”, a new and as yet unreleased song that she originally teased on her Instagram account many months ago. What is she waiting for to release this haunting song? The live version on stage was fantastic and got a huge cheer.
She also regaled us with quite a lot of cover versions of songs, in her own inimitable style. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was, well, fun. But it was her stripped-down version of the Britney Spears song “Toxic” that was most impressive. Whatever you want to say about Britney, she has an outstanding team of songwriters around her. Most readers should be aware of the fantastic cover Travis once did of “…Baby One More Time” (and if you haven’t, Google it!) Well, as Britney covers go, this was on a similar level. If I were Katerine’s manager, I would be trying to release this cover as soon as possible. It is unbelievably sexy.
And then, Katerine announced she was finishing up, and everyone knew that it had to be time for the thus far unperformed “Better Love”, a song for which many people had been waiting with the greatest anticipation. For many of those gathered, said song had actually been their introduction to her burgeoning back catalogue. We filmed the performance and uploaded it here (with apologies for missing the opening few seconds, we had to fight our way through a lot of sweaty bodies to get prime position):
Following the inevitable rapturous applause, she performed another cover as an encore; this time of “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, a version closer to Perry Como’s than the original by Roberta Flack or indeed the later one by the Fugees. And then it was all over. It had been a fantastic night, and far more songs than we were expecting to hear, given the fact that she only has that one album to her name. Album number two must surely not be far off!
Will she ever be up there with the greats? She certainly deserves to be, and she clearly has wonderful management lately who have clearly got her in the right places at the right times. But there is something so very humble and down-to-earth about Katerine Duska. As we sat outside the Hoxton venue finishing our pints and cigarettes, Katerine was going around table-to-table asking whether anybody had lost a camera lens cap, which she had found on the floor after they had cleared up. We have lost plenty of lens caps in the past, and know what a pain in the backside that can be. But how charming that, following a long and sweaty gig, she had the time and the inclination to try to reunite the lens cap with its owner. I don’t believe the owner was found, so it is probably still in her possession. Therefore, if you lost a lens cap, you know it is in very good hands.
If she ever does make it big, let’s hope that she never loses that personal touch and that loving concern for her fans.