Tanita Tikaram – Twist in my sobriety
In mid-October 1988 we discovered a song that we all remember and that we all loved. It was sung by a very good singer, very original young lady. A singer that we remember above all for this song and for her particular name, veiled in an aura of mystery. Her name revealed her Indian, Fijian, Malay, and Borneo origins, even though she, Tanita Tikaram, was born in Germany and raised in England. About a month before, at just nineteen, Tanita had released her first album, Ancient Heart, preceded by a moderately successful song, Good Tradition.
The album was a great success, and served to make Tanita’s talent known just in time for the release of Twist in My Sobriety, a song that hits with the music, but also with the lyrics, and of course with the video.
Trying to understand the subject of the song by reading the text is a difficult task right from the first verse, which is actually the title of a book by the poet Maya Angelou, a book which had remained in Tanita’s heart.
In reality, the theme of the song is precisely not being able to understand, not feeling adequate and prepared to face the world and life, and it was exactly the feeling that Tanita felt, at the dawn of her almost twenty years, when she tried to find her way in life. A sentiment common to almost all young people but expressed with the skill and depth of a great artist.
The song also had a beautiful video, shot in sepia tones and filmed on a plateau in Bolivia, with the singer surrounded by scenes of everyday life and even desolation in that very remote context. The charisma that Tanita Tikaram emanated cannot be described, with the beauty of her nineteen years (she is about a month younger than me!), and above all a hoarse but sensual voice from which it was impossible to part. And shall we mention the charm of the oboe sound, so unique in an 80’s pop song? Only Depeche Mode had been able to put the sound of a shawm, a medieval instrument, in Everything Counts!
When Tanita Tikaram spoke of Sobriety she probably had in mind the English meaning of the term, that is sobriety of habits, of moral conduct. Two years later, in 1989, the song will be covered and recorded by another great singer, Liza Minnelli, “Liza with a z”, as she said in a song. At that time Tanita Tikaram did not know Liza Minnelli well, but when years later she had the opportunity to discover her career, she was very honored that Liza had chosen her song, even if she always remained with the doubt that Liza had meant sobriety in the American sense of the term, that is, moderation in alcohol consumption.
Twist in My Sobriety did not enter the singles top ten, but it went very close to it at the end of October, just when at the top of the charts there was another very original and highly sophisticated performer, Enya with Orinoco Flow. Nonetheless, Tanita Tikaram and her song became famous throughout Europe.
Tanita Tikaram’s success has taken a tortuous path. If we look at the numbers alone, Tanita was a very prolific artist, with even some moments of detachment. Four albums between 1988 and 1992, then three years of detachment, then other albums and other detachments. It is true that she no longer reached the fame she achieved with Twist in My Sobriety, but it is also true that as she turned away from pop, Tanita moved towards more complex and certainly less profitable music. But she has never been a woman of compromise, and her talent led her to more refined and committed scenarios.
Her last album was in 2016, so we can say that she has been in business for thirty years, and she is to be appreciated for that: in our hall of fame, her star has been shining for more than thirty years!
Tanita Tikaram on Wikipedia