Interview with Portuguese Vocalist Mara

Mara - Photo by Catarina Vasconcelos
Mara – Photo by Catarina Vasconcelos


Portuguese singer Mara will bring the vocal sounds of Alentejo in south-central Portugal to EXIB, the Iberoamerican Music Expo. EXIB takes place May 7-9, 2015 in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain.

Mara was born in Arraiolos (Evora district). She got her vocal training at Jb Jazz school and took part in several projects such as Música nos Hospitais (Music at Hospitals) and Aqui Há Baile. She participated in soundtracks and dance performances. She worked with pianist Amílcar Vasques-Dias, Ronda dos Quatro Caminhos, Orquestra Sinfonietta de Lisboa and Mestre António Chainho.

In 2009, Mara found her roots in Alentejo and started her own project with Carlos Menezes (bassist and music director), who encouraged her “to get the stuff out of the drawer”, revisiting pieces already created and composing new songs.


Mara  - Photo by Telmo Rocha
Mara – Photo by Telmo Rocha


The debut album “Folha de Rosto” came out in 2014. the lineup features Daniel da Silva on flamenco guitar, Henrique Leitão on Portuguese guitar and Rui Gonçalves on percussion. “Folha de Rosto” is the logbook of a journey where Mara searches for her identity and for a space of encounters.

Mara is deeply inspired by Cante Alentejan (Alentejo song). She talks to World Music Central about her upcoming showcase.

When did you start singing and composing?

I always sang at home… In fact, singing was part of day… then it became more conscious since the time I was an adolescent. I was singing in several projects until I created my own compositions, my first original works in 2003…

On May 7 you are going to perform at EXIB in Bilbao. What repertoire are you are going to present and what musicians going to bring?

For Bilbao we prepared a small concert which is an invitation to a trip… we will present songs from the album “Folha de Rosto”. Fado and Alentejo song, which are part of my roots… Hopefully, people at EXIB will let themselves be carried on this trip and the meeting of the senses…

As far as the musicians, we will have Bruno Chaveiro on Portuguese guitar, Carlos Menezes on bass, Daniel da Silva on Flamenco guitar and Rui Gonçalves on percussion.


Mara - Photo by J Alberto
Mara – Photo by J Alberto


One of your musicians plays flamenco guitar. What are the connections between the music of Alentejo and Andalusia?

Yes, it’s true… To me, between them there is an encounter, soul, strength, origin, people and life… What I feel in this connection is mainly the voice, in which the musicality of one region or another sounds very unique and accentuated.

Can you tell us a little about the characteristics of the music of Alentejo?

Alentejo music is primarily song. This form of singing is unique and genuine. It is a song made mainly by vocals (a capella). Lyrics are also fundamental. They speak about work, the countryside, of love, of the difficulties of life, people and places. To me it is music of the soul and feeling… it’s the music of a people and the characteristics of people from Alentejo… It is music of the plains, which is our landscape… it’s people and loneliness…colored roasted yellow…




How is the Alentejo roots music scene?

Cante Alentejano (Alentejo song) is increasingly visible and recognized … and that makes me very happy! Actually, it’s an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity … and there are more and more people promoting this musical expression … there are a lot of new people who sing, and do it well, and that makes me believe that this music is alive and will last…

If you could gather the ideal musicians or groups, whom would you call?

I will dream… Patrick Watson, Lhasa, Astor Piazzolla, Mariza Monte and “my” Carlos! 🙂

Where do you live now?

I’m living in the Alentejo, in Evora.

What music are you listening to now?

There is always music I listen to … Amalia Rodrigues, Lhasa Sela, Chico Buarque, Nina Simone, Antony and the Johnson, Gotan Project, Concha Buika … Most recently Silvia Perez Cruz.

What do you like to do during your free time?

I like being with my friends and my family… These are the main things. I like walking through the countryside or to the beach. Tours without clocks or time. I like listening to music, reading, dancing… I like to create.

What country or countries would you like to visit?

Many… Argentina and tango, Mexico… back to Brazil… The United States …Sao Tome and Principe… India… I like to travel, live and absorb where I am going through and share…

What other projects do you have?

Besides this my personal project, I’m working with “Aqui Ha Baile” group and with the Portuguese repertoire of music and dance for the folk dances…Soundtrack creation when I want a challenge… and other projects that have been emerging from the contemporary and experimental music point of view.

More about Mara at

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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