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Still family, and still lost in music
Published 23/06/14

LOVERS of Sister Sledge’s disco, funk and soul stylings could be in for a big surprise at this year’s Rewind Festival.

The two remaining sisters — Debbie and Joni — still tour regularly since they formed in 1971 but say they’re taking a radically different direction on their upcoming new album.

Best known for singles We Are Family, He’s The Greatest Dancer and Lost In Music, the group is famous for its American R&B sound.

However, singer Debbie Sledge said their latest record, called Women Are The Rhythm Of The World, would have a more eclectic flavour.

She said: “It has a lot of influences from around the world.We’re very used to the rhythms of music from our own culture in the US, especially from New York, but this new release will be much more diverse.

“We’ve had the privilege of playing in a lot of different countries and feel like we’ve evolved into international artists, so we want to reflect that in our songs. We absolutely love dance and we’re continuing to put elements of that into our music, but it will have things like African and Hindi drums in it.

“It’s going to be a very rhythmic and passionate record. We’re very excited about it.”

When it comes out later this year, it will be the siblings’ first release since 1997’s African Eyes.They recorded an album called Style in 2003 but never released it due to legal complications.

The sisters were raised in Philadelphia into a showbiz family, but it was their grandmother Viola Williams who taught the girls to sing and dance.

In the grand tradition of American soul music, the girls — Debbie and Joni, together with Kathy and Kim — learnt their trade by performing at their local church. They later formed their own band, Mrs Williams’ Grandchildren, and performed at charity and political events throughout the area. They then transformed into Sister Sledge, shooting into the charts with We Are Family after teaming up with Chic producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards.

Debbie assured fans that they will be wheeling out the classics at their second visit to Rewind — they played the inaugural event in 2009.

She said: “We love coming to the UK — it’s like a second home to us. We’ve got family there, or ‘fam’ as you guys say! We love the realness of British people. They aren’t in the least bit fake. They’re down to earth, they always speak their mind and they’re just generally good people.

“If they love you then they love you and they don’t mind telling you, which is such a high for any artist. They’ll also tell you if they don’t like you — though fortunately we’ve never experienced that! I think Rewind is popular simply because of the great music. We’re going to be performing with some amazing artists. We’ve got a flight that leaves soon afterward but hopefully we’ll be able to stick around and see whoever’s on at around the same time.

“I love all the artists but I really used to like Spandau Ballet so I’d love to see Tony Hadley. The Eighties was a very cool time because you could dance to a lot of the music but it also had a message. We just love all the nostalgia as well as the old songs — it’s a total love-fest.”

Despite more than 40 years on the road, Debbie said she and her sisters still loved singing live.

She said: “Performing never gets old for us. It’s new and exciting every time because every audience is different.

“We have an absolute party and I don’t think you ever lose energy when you’re doing something you love.”

• Sister Sledge are at the Rewind Festival on Temple Island Meadows near Remenham on Saturday, August 16. For tickets and more information visit www.rewind festival.com

PUBLISHED 23/06/14

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