Paying tribute to Stevie Wonder

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  • Stevie-like: Bermudian musician and singer Desta Zion Wilson was recently hired to perform Stevie Wonder songs in a tribute concert, called the Stevie Wonder Experience, in the UK.

    Stevie-like: Bermudian musician and singer Desta Zion Wilson was recently hired to perform Stevie Wonder songs in a tribute concert, called the Stevie Wonder Experience, in the UK.

When entertainer Desta Zion Wilson first took to the stage at the age of 21, alongside his mother, singer Phiemma Caisey, it was to sing the Stevie Wonder hit ‘Ribbons in the Sky’.

He never imagined ten years later he would be making a name for himself in the United Kingdom by impersonating the legendary musician.

Mr Wilson, 32, was recently hired to sing alongside a 12-piece band in the tribute concert Stevie Wonder Experience; with three more dates scheduled for this month.

Before going on stage, he undergoes a mini-transformation and is fitted with 1970s attire and the iconic black shades. To make his performance of songs like ‘Signed, Sealed Delivered’ and ‘Superstition’ even more authentic, Mr Wilson also has mastered the well known head roll.

He said his voice naturally has a similar tone to Stevie Wonder’s, but the challenge is in hitting all the high and low notes the entertainer made famous.

Mr Wilson descends from a long line of talented and well-known musicians, singers, dancers and entertainers, including his mother, grandmother June Caisey and cousin Mitchell (Live Wires) Trott.

While living on the Island, he became a regular at Chewstick’s open mic sessions. However, he wanted to take his music career a step further and enrolled in the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford, England, in 2006.

After graduating from ACM, a fellow student got in contact with him about joining a band that plays at entertainment functions called Academy All Stars. From that opportunity he met talent booking agent Nick Leigh, who thought of him for the role of Stevie Wonder in the tribute show.

Mr Wilson said: “I am a big Stevie fan, so I was excited when he asked me, but also terrified at the same time because he is such a big icon. Stevie Wonder’s songs and his vocal range are ridiculous and that was the thing that was making me nervous. Even today it’s still challenging because I have to fill the expectations of people.”

The local singer and guitarist has taken part in three shows thus far in theatres around Surrey and Croydon. He will be performing in Burgess Hill on Thursday; Swindon on October 18, and Fareham on October 25; with more dates expected to be scheduled for next year.

He said the first few shows were “amazing” and the reaction from the public was all positive. “It seems like people seem to believe in me more than I believe in myself, but this is one of the biggest opportunities and tasks to be able to sing Stevie Wonder songs,” he said.

Though finding success in England can prove challenging, Mr Wilson said there were more opportunities on that side of the world.

“Bermuda is small and it’s not how it used to be when my grandmother was doing her thing back in the 1970s when Bermuda was a tourism hub. Now it’s more international business, so it has definitely changed.”

Mr Wilson was always singing around the house when he was a young boy, but he admitted that his passion wasn’t ignited until his teenage years when he was able to write his own songs.

“I would write about whatever. I was really into dance hall at that time, so a few times I wrote my own lyrics to songs [already out there].

“I came from a spiritual background, so one of my first songs I can remember writing was called ‘The Lord is My Light and Salvation’. With dance hall and reggae the subject matter can be spiritual, political or a love song.”

He continued singing, but didn’t perform in front of an audience until his mother invited him to take part in her Valentine’s Show.

Mr Wilson said he was proud to be starring in the Stevie Wonder Experience and looking forward to other opportunities that might come his way in the future.

“It’s a great show. I don’t like to blow my own horn, but I try my best to put Stevie’s music across with the band.

“They are a great live band, they sound great and it’s a great lot of songs, some that are popular and some that are lesser known.

“Overall it’s just set up really well, really professional and it has promise and could be one of the best tribute acts in the United Kingdom.”

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Published Oct 1, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated Sep 30, 2012 at 11:08 am)

Paying tribute to Stevie Wonder

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