Laurette didn’t like this photo of herself. But her brother, the other half of their musical group Laurette N James, did. So she let me use it. Laurette came to Bemac’s music networking evening and mesmerized me by singing, a cappella, with her eyes closed. Time stopped as I drank in the light purple eyeshadow dusted on her dark eye lids and the beauty of her voice singing Champion, the sibling’s single about rising strong above racism and overcoming the odds.
Laurette’s family left Congo in 1993 when she was three and her brother was a baby. They went to Zambia in 1994 and then lived in Zimbabwe from 1999 to 2005. In October 2005 they were resettled and came to Australia as refugees. She’s just completed her Bachelor of Counselling with a minor in psychology at university.
“We come from a Christian background. We have so much faith in God, so we base everything on God. So having the talent of being able to share stories is where we find ourselves being real vessels to our humanity.”
Is that by sharing the stories through your singing?
“Yes, and that’s a God-given talent so being able to share those stories that some people are not able to share gives us a sense of belonging. Because there are many people who have a voice but they don’t know how to use their voice. Or they can’t really voice some of the issues that other people are experiencing.
“We come from a refugee background and so we are always telling stories of the experiences we have had in the past and being grateful for what we have now. Because there was a time when we never thought we would be able to graduate from university. We never thought that we would have a house that has electricity, food, all of those things that some people take for granted. But for us we don’t take them for granted because we’ve been through thick and thin. And so having this life really gives us a sense of belonging. You know what? It doesn’t matter where you come from. You can still find in Australia a home and you can still share your stories to encourage others and to motivate others to be the best version of themselves.”
So for you there hasn’t been much racism or do you see beyond it?
“There has been. That’s where My Very Moment comes from. That’s where Champion really comes from. There are about three songs. The first single, Set Up Your Mind, is about overcoming racism and understanding that we are all part of the human tribe and we all bleed blood. We just have different faces but we’re very alike. People need to allow themselves to experience different things and learn from each other’s differences, that’s really what makes us functional human beings.
“And that was the intention of God when you think about it. He made different species. He made human beings who have different colours so they can celebrate their differences and learn to be in harmony with each other.”
Is that part of what you’re working towards in your music?
“Yes. Our music is about that. Our music is about celebrating differences — motivating people to achieve their greater purposes. To even serve their purpose here on earth and to inspire people to be able to do things that they never thought they would be able to do. Challenging yourself, really. And I think at the end of the day everyone needs someone to encourage them, someone who inspires them. So we’re there to do that.”
“The second single, Champion, is about overcoming the odds. Many people told us that we shouldn’t pursue music because it’s such a tough industry. They said, You can’t. Like I was saying before in the first verse, You can overcome your fears. They’re saying, You can’t overcome your fears, they’re too big for you. But you have to understand that without trying you’re never going to know anything. So you have to try. Once you try, you’re going to realise that you’re a champion. You can actually champion anything in your life.
You can learn more about Laurette N James on their Facebook Page or on Twitter and listen to My Very Moment on Youtube. You can listen to Champion and buy it on iTunes. Laurette’s story was caught at BEMAC.
(Bemac, March 2016)