Gospel singer uses voice to spread the good word

Springfield Gardens resident Petula Beckles performs her mix of gospel and soul next week in the East Village. Photo courtesy Michael McCabe
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If gospel, jazz and soul move you, and you can use a healthy dose of spirituality to lift your spirits, then you will likely enjoy listening to Petula Beckles’ refreshingly mellow and soulful sound.

Like many famous African-American artists who came before her and called Queens home, including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie, the Springfield Gardens resident chose the gentler borough and has lived here for many years.

“Despite the New York rush, it’s not difficult to find a quiet place. I love the easy access to numerous parks, and the events hosted here,” she said.

A multi-faceted artist, Beckles’ spiritual passion and rich musical palette are beautifully captured in her unique songs. Woven subtly throughout a popular tune, “Can’t Find the Words,” shades of her Caribbean roots mix with that gospel jazz style she’s known for.

“Music is a part of me. I come from a very musical family, and we spent most of our time singing together,” said Beckles, who was born and raised in Tobago, West Indies. “As I grew, my love for music grew with me, and after college it was difficult to fight it, as it consumed me.”

Beckles has been on tour promoting her album “My Song of Jesus.”

Wherever she performs, audiences are mesmerized by her God-given talent and fans delight in those honey-smooth tones and melodious stories. The atmosphere on stage combines a spark of whimsy with a quintessential jazz-house feel.

The artist performs sitting on a chair; on her lap is her whimsical jade guitar, an instrument she taught herself to play. There are 10 songs on the album, six were written by Beckles and one song, “Nobody Knows,” is a medley of old hymns she arranged.

“Each song has its significance, and the ones that I wrote were inspired by my everyday walk or experience with God,” said Beckles.

The artist said she has been singing for as long as she could remember and got her first job singing Karaoke, on a weekly basis, at age 14.

In 2008 the singer recorded her first album and toured solo to support it. The success of her efforts landed her a distributing contract with Tate Music Group, which released the album in 2011.

Beckles, whose soothing singing voice once calmed crying infants during her stint as a baby nurse, has been busy spreading her gospel all over New York City. Appearances have included a performance at Mt. Sinai SDA Church in Jamaica last month.

“I have not been formally trained, so no, ‘it’s not Maybelline.’ I was born with it! I’m all about growth, however, so I’m in the process of finding a suitable vocal coach,” she said.

Part of the artist’s inspiration is the music of her vocal mentors — like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. Beckles also loves the teachings of Babbie Mason, award-winning singer-songwriter of Christian music.

“I sing when I’m happy, sad, angry, worried, or just for fun,” she said. “I would say that when I’m not singing, I’m still singing, since it really is a part of me.”


Petula Beckles

When: Thursday, Aug. 28, at 8 pm

Where: Ella Lounge, 9 Ave. A, Manhattan

Cost: $10

Website: www.petul­abeck­

Posted 12:00 am, August 26, 2014
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