There are artists that seem to have an intrinsic understanding of the way words and melody should fit together. Where the rawness of the voice is so overwhelming that you feel like you are eavesdropping on a conversation between a woman and her id; Usra Leedham is one of these artists. Raised in Toronto and trained classically in both voice and piano from a very young age, she graduated from the prestigious Claude Watson Vocal program and originally intended to become a Baroque opera singer. Usra toured professionally from the age of 12, performing everywhere from Roy Thompson Hall to Chartres Cathedral in Paris. But after years of singing everyone else’s music, she knew that she needed to write her own. Her brand of Urban Soul eludes description, influenced by her South Asian background, Jazz greats like the almighty Ella, and lyrical masters like Joni Mitchell. But despite the range of her influences, her music achieves a sort of wonderfully awkward balance; somehow, between the richness of her voice and the frankness of her words, there is an undeniable symmetry. The past year has been full of momentum for Usra. While writing and producing her first album, The Architect’s Wound, she’s really focused on gaining exposure in the Toronto scene. Performing live is her first love. She was a featured performer at Harbourfront’s Mehndi, Masala, Masti! festival two years in a row and this year is a nominee for the Favourite Singer/Songwriter award at the MyBindi Awards, sponsored by Toronto’s Flow 93.5. Television appearances in the past year have included an interview on CFMT’s Ishtyle TV, hosted by Kiss 92.5’s Mo-D, a piece on the CBC National News, and performances on Omni 2. On the Film and Television front, Usra recently licensed her song “Us on a Thursday” to the syndicated television show “Mutant X”, a Marvel Comics endeavor. In the past year, Usra also had the opportunity to work with a number of other artists, most notably West Magnetic of OM records. She wrote and performed the vocals on his hit release “Lock it up”, which sold more than 3000 copies. The two have continued to work together and have two more releases coming out on Ultrasound Records in the next year. In a recent review on mirrorball.8m.com, DJ Def-E, A&R of Champion Records (UK) wrote, “(Lock it up) has one of the best vocals I have heard in ages, sultry and sexy it leaves you just wanting the track to go on and on.” Usra’s South Asian and British roots result in a mingling of Eastern and Western sensibilities. Melodies combine Indian ragas with Jazz keys; rhythms use tabla and dirty cut-up beats. Songs can be full, with Rhodes, horn, and bass, or sparse, with only vocals and piano. But don’t go to one of Usra’s performances looking for something easy. There will be wit, anger, regret, passivity, sarcasm, and (false) bravado. You will have to think. You will have to watch. You will want to listen.


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