Interview with Renata Rosa, vocalist extraordinaire and rabeca expert from Brazil

Renata Rosa
A magnificent highlight of the Førde Traditional and World Music Festival, held this year July 5-8 in Førde, Norway, is the multicultural performance of Renata Rosa. Her music reflects the crucible of Brazilian influences, which includes indigenous, African and Portuguese elements. She was born in Sao Paulo, and draws her inspiration from the northern state of Pernambuco. Her soaring voice, instrumental flair and compositional skills have made her a popular artiste at festivals across Europe. She joins us in this exclusive interview where she shares her musical journey, richness of musical genres, and the joy and importance of preserving and enhancing musical traditions.

How would you describe your musical journey?

My first strong school of music was the school of chant in the kariri-xocó tribe, where the chant is used as a ritual, an action in the world, a calling. I went to study music in the university but I always had many schools of music in daily life, going to the countryside playing rabeca in the “Cavalo Marinho”; doing the improvised poetry in the “ Maracatú Rural”; listening to the great poets improvise with their guitars on “Cantorias de Violas”.

Little by little I started to have access to music from other countries and I fell in love with the music from Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe, which I can feel have strong and deep relations with the music we have in the countryside of Brazil.

Renata Rosa – Manto dos Sonhos
My first album Zunido da Mata is a deep dive into the traditions I took part in the countryside of the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas. My second album Manto dos Sonhos too had this deep dive but was also the result of a dialogue with other experiences that I had subsequently, such as the writer’s work Ariano Suassuna for which I worked as an actress and composed the music for some of his poems.

The music I was listening to from Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe certainly influenced me and made me realize nuances in music and in my own way to compose and make arrangements.

I am now working on my new album “ Encantações” (Incantations).

What music influences did your family have on you?

With my family I listened to a lot of poetry, sung and improvised. We also used to play and sing a lot together.

What is your message to your audiences?

Navigate in the curves of this history of roots, branches, water, land grains, thorns and smells!

Who would you say are the leading influences in your musical career?

My masters from the cavalo-marinho – Biu Roque and Seu Luiz Paixão; some singers from the kariri-xocó tribe – Cema, Eberú e Noraia; a great coco singer – Dona Liu; and some artists and groups from Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe such as Muzsikás and Marta Sebastian (Hungary); Warsaw Village band (Poland); Dimi Mint Abba (Mauritania); Marzieh and Kayhan Kahlor (Iran).

Tell us about the more unusual instruments you have in your ensemble.

I play the ‘Rabeca’ a traditional fiddle from the countryside which has its origin in the rebab (Arabic instrument which arrived in Europe and North Africa in the 8th century and was brought to Brazil by the first Portuguese colonizers in the 16th century). We use a ten strings guitar (5 double strings) called viola which also has a similar origin as the rabeca, and percussion from Afro-Brazilian culture such as Ilú ( drum rituals) and alfaia (big drum from the maracatú).

How do you blend different musical influences and genres?

I have literally been enraptured by the incantatory power of this sonorous and poetic universe. In return, I assimilate and rebuild with my own urban influences, recreating old forms and inventing new themes based on the same codes.

My rabeca is used as my second voice and in a way very rhythmic (here we have the cavalo-marinho’s influence). We also do vocal polyphonies with strong influences of polyphonic singing from the Indians of Northeast Brazil, which is one of my first schools.

We blend some Afro-Brazilian rhythms from Pernambuco such as cocos, baiões, cirandas and macumbas (rituals) with our 10 string and 7 string guitars. Our guitars also use very rhythmic patterns. Underlying all this is the basic rhythmic cell called ‘baiano.’

What is the profile of some of the artistes you perform with?

Renata Rosa
I have worked a lot with vocal polyphonies. In the last few years I did two special projects: one with the group from Marseille “ Lo Cor de la Plana” which we named “ Lo Cor de la Rosa,” where we blended our polyphonies of northeastern Indian and Occitania. The other one was with my masters of singing from the Kariri-xocó tribe named “Renata Rosa and the Poliphonie Kariri-Xocó”.

I also worked (and we are still developing ideas together) with the French singer and composer Emily Loiseau. Our partnership has started for a special project for the Louvre Museum, to make music for films from the beginning of the 20th century, and we have a deep desire to continue to work together.

What have been your previous highlights in playing across Europe?

Since 2003, I have been touring a lot in Europe: more than 170 venues. We performed in Theatre de la Ville du Chatelet, Theatre du Bouffe du Nord, Louvre Museum in Paris; Sala Flagey in Brusells; and festivals such as Pohoda (Slovakia), Ziget (Hungary), Voix des Femmes (Benelux); and Ille de France.

Do you also teach workshops for students/musicians?

Yes, specially singing and its relation with body, dance and impulse. I also teach workshops about traditional music and poetry.

What can we expect to hear at your upcoming performance?

We will perform some tracks of my new album “ Encantações”, which I will be recording during this second semester of 2012, some tracks from Zunido da Mata and Manto dos Sonhos, my first and second album, some of them with new arrangements.

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