We catch up with House & Garage songstress extraordinaire, Kele Le Roc, who discusses the magic of musical nostalgia, being a part of a golden era of black British female singers and natural hair tips.
How did you get involved in the recent The House & Garage Orchestra tour, which toured the country recently?
I’ve known Shy (Cookie) for years just being out on the circuit. He sent me some tracks to work on years ago and we’ve been collaborating in the studio. When this idea for the tour came about he hit me up as we’d already been in contact. We did a similar show around a year ago in Camden and it went really well, which really propelled the idea for this particular tour.
Do you feel there’s a bit of nostalgia for House & Garage now, and if so, what do you attribute to the sudden interest?
Because Garage music is mostly what I do as a performance artist, and I perform PAs most weekends, to me it has always been popular. However, whereas in the past I’d be booked for one performance at the weekend, I’m now being booked for three so there has been a noticeable difference. But after the mainstream success of Garage it went back underground and the demand for the music continued. Then a few years ago when Craig David made his re-introduction it marked the time when this resurgence really took flight. It’s such feel good music. When I sing my track ‘My Love’ it’s like a time machine. Music and smells are time machines which transport you back to the time when you had no worries: no bills, first holidays, no kids etc. House and garage is the ultimate bubbly, feel good music.
In 1999 you scored two chart hits and won two MOBO Awards, what is your most enduring memories from that period?
As a kid I loved Top of The Pops, and there were three things I wanted to achieve when I dreamt of being a singer: one was to perform on Top of the Pops, one was to perform at Wembley, and lastly, I wanted to appear at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party. So when I got the opportunity to perform twice on Top of The Pops it was a dream come true. I recall being a real Eastenders fan too, and it was filmed at the same studio where we would see members of the cast during lunchbreaks. That was a really special time for me.
During the 90s/early noughties there was a plethora of black female acts such as yourself, Shola Ama, Beverley Knight, The Honeys, Mis-Teeq, Eternal, Terri Walker, Truce to name a few. Black women seem to be notably absent from from the mainstream/pop music industry at the moment, what are your thoughts on this?
I feel everything has its time, and back when I was signed to a label that was the thing: female black R&B singers, that’s what everybody wanted. Right now Grime is en vogue. So I feel like everything has it’s time and when that window of opportunity opens you just have to seize it and do what you can to create some longevity in your career.
You were/are known to be quite the hair chameleon, what is your hair like currently?
One of my favourite looks from back in the day was a Mohican. It was styled using my own hair, I didn’t even use extensions. I loved that look as I felt it was quite unique. I do my own hair now. My hair is natural – I have a nice healthy fro. I do a lot of protective styling; I don’t wear weaves anymore but I wear a variety of wigs, which allows me to switch it up: short, long, various colours. I’d love eventually to design my own range of wigs.
Name your favourite hair products
Crème of Nature has a sulphate-free range which is absolutely amazing, the name escapes me right now. I can’t products with too much protein in it as it makes my hair really dry, I have low porosity hair. I tend to make my own products as well, but recently discovered a lady who lives locally who sells quality natural hair products made from shea butter and other natural ingredients. I love to do treatments using Rhassoul Clay and bentonite clay with a little bit of apple cider vinegar. It’s quite time consuming but it makes my hair so soft and my curls pop, it really is worth the time.
Kele Le Roc appears on the new album The House & Garage Orchestra Present Garage Classics and appeared at the The House & Garage Orchestra tour which returns to the UK in 2019. Visit here for details.