Mal Devisa Shines at Jittery’s Live

Photo by Carolyn Brown '16 Mal Devisa played an electrifying set to a captivated audience at Jittery’s last week. Laura Green '18 Contributing Writer I want to be friends with Deja Carr, but Mal Devisa intimidates me. Mal Devisa has power. She is captivating. She is focused. She’s entirely in the moment. Deja Carr is relaxed, comfortable. She is funny. She is open. She is supportive. Mal Devisa is Deja Carr’s solo project, her alter ego, and I got to see these two sides of her at Jittery’s lasr week. Both are confident and ultimately cool women. Carr, who grew up in Amherst, Mass., has been playing music since she formed the band Who’da Funk It? when she was 12 years old. Former band mate Bess Hepner ’16 was the opener for Mal last Thursday night. The juxtaposition between two equally beautiful voices with such different approaches was refreshing. Hepner has her gentle, folksy voice, her guitar and a crumpled piece of handwritten lyrics on the floor. Carr has her soulful voice, her bass, her loop pedal, her keyboard and the freedom of improvisation. When Carr is playing her music, she becomes Mal Devisa. In addressing the crowd, she is once again an 18 year old, grateful for the opportunity to play for an audience. Mal Devisa effortlessly shifts between harnessing the power of her voice and incorporating a loop pedal to repeat the dramatic sounds of bass and keyboard. When all these elements are combined, it is overwhelming in the best way. Then, suddenly, she turns it off and lets her voice shine. She grunts and hits incredible high notes. She sings softly and then fills the room. I repeatedly got chills. Mal Devisa purposefully transcends the boundaries of genre, incorporating elements of indie, R&B, funk and folk. The bass perfectly complements her low voice and sets her apart from the many guitar-strumming solo acts. Mal Devisa also incorporates spoken word into her music, which adds energy to her already loud and beautiful set. She uses it to great effect in her final song of the night, which deals with major issues such as race, and the music industry, with grace, strength and humor. When I spoke to Carr before the show, we talked about her favorite part of performing. She explained that normally she has a filter, albeit not the greatest one. Onstage, she said is “the one time I get to have control over what’s happening. It’s a special time.” She said she feels that a performance is a way to generate genuine conversation between her and an audience. Mal Devisa’s first full-length album has now been funded through Kickstarter, and she and her fanbase are looking forward to its release later in the year. However, beside wanting to “play music forever,” that’s the extent of the plan. “I don’t know what pants I’m going to wear tomorrow. I don’t know what songs I’m going to play tonight. I don’t know what grades I’m going to get,” Mal Devisa said. She bravely embraces improvisation in her life as in her music. This semester’s second Jittery’s, put on every other Thursday in the CC TV Lounge by the Student Events Committee, was overall an emotional experience. Both Hepner’s sweet love songs and Mal Devisa’s biting lyrics contained a profound sense of vulnerability, uniting the two performances. The pair of friends put all of themselves into their music and were unafraid to present it to the world. And that was the most beautiful part of the night.