The unlikely sensual funk of a silicone soul

Malta’s top burlesque babe Undine La Verve speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about her ‘year of branching out’, which has just yielded a musical collaboration with DJ Mykill: Silicone Soul, a freshly released song now available online

Undine La Verve
Undine La Verve

How did the opportunity to collaborate with Mykill come about, and what was it that excited you about it?

I’ve known Mykill for years. I can’t exactly remember how we met, but we have been working events together and collaborating in that way for a while. One Christmas, possibly jokingly, Mykill mentioned working on a song together, and when he found out I could sing, he took the initiative to make the idea a reality, which I am grateful for.

The plan was conceived a year and a half ago and has now finally come to fruition. I didn’t quite know how it was going to pan out, but I did know that I liked Mykill’s work.

When we sat down to write the song and it started taking shape, I was immediately taken by the process because it ended up being a mix of all the things I wanted to create. It’s funky, sensual, and the lyrics communicate a message I’m happy to stand by.
Neither of us imagined it working out so well but we are both happy with what we have managed to produce. I hope the audience will be as taken by Silicone Soul as I was.

What was it like to transition from notable local burlesque performer to singer... or rather, adding singer to your repertoire of skills? And why did you opt for this song to be the vehicle for that opportunity?

I love burlesque, I know for sure that it will always be my forte and my signature… but this year has been all about branching out.

I had a bigger acting role in the Sinderella Adult Panto [written and directed by Steve Hili and staged at Spazju Kreattiv this June], wrote a blog for Fashion week and now this – a song. I’ve been singing since I was a child.

I wanted to create a song with meaning and a message: sexy yet resonant.

The lyrics are a collaboration, as well as the melody, and come from different places – some from hurt, some from frustration at how today’s world is changing, some from my love for descriptive writing. I have always been seen as a burlesque performer, and while I love that, I think it’s time to show that I can do a lot more than just that!

How does your experience as a burlesque performer inform your foray into music? Does it mainly serve a visual and performative function, or would you say it has an impact on the sound itself too?

When Mykill and I set out on this project, we knew that we wanted it to be weird, to be different but to be catchy and relevant, as well as a summer tune! I think it’s definitely still on-brand and has a burlesque touch, which certainly shows in the video. I love creating.

As a performer I cut my own music, make my costumes, build my characters for each act, do the choreography...working on the song was a little bit similar. Creating a character and theme for Silicone Soul was fun.

It’s a little bit like preparing for a debut but unlike an act, you know that this will be out there as long as the internet is around. It’s a different medium of communicating with the audience: burlesque is definitely visually very much present and some of my students/mentees participated in the filming, as for the song itself,

I think I naturally managed to inject some burlesque into it, without even trying to. It’s inevitable... at this point it’s so much a part of me, that it’s my raison d’etre.

As someone who’s pretty much flew its flag since the beginning, how would you say the burlesque scene in Malta has evolved over the years? Do collaborations such as this one also help the genre’s outreach across different audiences?

It’s been an uphill battle but over the past three years, since the first edition of my theatre show MalTease at Spazju Kreattiv, things have been pretty great! I guess watching burlesque in a theatre setting has opened people’s eyes to how grand, beautiful and varied burlesque can be.

For the first few years I concentrated on making a name abroad but in 2015 I decided to switch my focus to doing my thing at home, and I am so happy I did! People now see burlesque as the art form that it is.

I think as artists it is our duty to push boundaries and break barriers, and I feel I have managed to do at least a bit of that. It’s something I am proud of. And of course, collaborations like this help make burlesque more mainstream and more well known.

It does help reach different audiences, and I am excited to see what’s about to happen now that we’ve unleashed this track!

What do you make of the performing arts scene in Malta? What would you change about it?

We all know how V18 went. I definitely see an increase in productions around the island and more variety. Some independent and quite underground, like my own; some partially and other heavily funded.

I have seen an increase in productions in Maltese, which is great, at least they are out there safeguarding the island’s linguistic heritage. I am happy to see a lot of political satire and participate in such shows when possible, that is imperative to keep the nation in check.

With that in mind, I think we have a lot of great artists fighting the good fight. Those who truly understand and love the arts scene and who, like myself, believe that the arts can bring about change.

That can evoke emotion, move and drive the nation.

I admire people who don’t give up their beliefs and conviction and prefer to step down rather than go against them, when they don’t agree with the decisions coming from above.

I think the arts scene and the arts funds should be controlled by people who are deeply involved and experienced in the scene itself.

What’s next for you?

Well, Silicone Soul is something thrilling, definitely a new leap!

I am excited to be performing and representing at Malta Pride this year. I am touring Germany in October and in November I am producing the third edition of my theatre show MalTease, with a great local cast and foreign artists hailing from three continents. I am beyond excited for what the rest of the year will bring!

To watch the video for Silicone Soul, log on to: https://youtu.be/vFsnb_ZZR5s

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