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Bay Windows

Wonderful town
South African cabaret artist Jinny Sagorin followed the love of her life back to Boston; and now, she's a favorite on the cabaret scene.

By John Amodeo
January 27, 2005

"I didn't choose Boston, it chose me," proclaims South African cabaret performer, Jinny Sagorin, who followed her heart to Boston after meeting the love of her life on a holiday trip to the US with her dad in 1998. "I met him in Boston through a mutual friend, and we spent a blissful weekend together, but I had to go back to South Africa, to do 'Annie' of all things," says Sagorin, who is also a musical theater actress. "But we stayed in touch, and he came to visit me over the millennium, when he asked me to come to Boston. I thought I would just come over for a short time, but I ended up staying."

Having left her family, and a thriving musical theater and graphic arts career in Cape Town, as well as her native Durban, in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, Sagorin has worked hard to build a new life for herself in the town that chose her, by getting theater work in local productions of 1776, Pirates of Penzance, and the Overtures production of The Baker's Wife," starring Judy Kuhn. But it was thanks to the incredibly effective ties she formed with the local cabaret community, that merely four years after arriving in Boston, Sagorin's first booking at Scullers Jazz Club is already sold out. It is at this Scullers engagement on Feb. 1 that Sagorin will be releasing her debut cabaret recording, It's For You.

Eschewing an exclusive American songbook fare, Sagorin's CD is filled with an eclectic mix of Euro/American pop rock (Queen, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Armatrading), South African traditional and pop selections, and just a few select gems from the American Songbook. "They were the songs that I was drawn to," explains Sagorin. "Stepping back from it, yes they are an eclectic mix, yet, each song is from my heart, and it does form a harmonious whole because I bring myself to each and every song." One such example, is in the case of "Far From the Home I Love, " which resonates strongly with Sagorin, who not only played Hodel (whose character sings the song) in Durban's national theater production of Fiddler on the Roof, but like Hodel, Sagorin leaves her homeland behind in pursuit of her dreams. "My mother died, when I was three, so I was very close to my father. This song epitomizes the conflicting feelings inherent in leaving my father to go somewhere far away," reflects Sagorin.

But Sagorin keeps her South African heritage alive by singing the music from her native land, exemplified in such songs as "Weeping," about the man who concocted apartheid, and the traditional Xhosa lullaby, "Thula Mama," sung in the native tongue. Sagorin will also sing several South African songs at her concert that are not on her CD, such as the song "Hot Gates," inspired by her compatriot, Natalie Gamsu, another South African cabaret performer. When Sagorin sings "Hot Gates," which lists places in the world where human strife requires our attention, she will add "Indonesia" to the list, in recognition of the tsunami plight.

Sagorin's show will also reflect how she's come to love her new home, no better expressed than in the irrepressibly optimistic Sondheim number, "What More Do I Need?" the irrepressibly sunny Sagorin, influenced by romantic love, strongly identifies with the slightly modified lyric, "Slushy, snowy and gritty, what a pretty town." "We don't have real winter in Durban or Cape Town, so the winters here are a bit of a shock," exclaims Sagorin. "But while place is important, people are more important. It's been so heartwarming to be brought into the cabaret community, who are all so supportive. It's cliché to say that you don't get anywhere on your own, but it's so true."

John Amodeo writes about popular music for Bay Windows.

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