Tag Archives: Portugal

Artist Profiles: Camané

Camané – Photo by Felipe Ferreira

Carlos Manuel Moutinho Paiva dos Santos Duarte, better-known as Camané, was born on December 20, 1966 in Oeiras, Portugal.

He started getting appreciation in Portugal in 1979 after winning the ‘Grande Noite do Fado’ (Great Fado Night) contest. He became one of the leading male singers and achieved commercial success with six certified gold albums: Uma Noite de Fados (1995), Na Linha da Vida (1998),  Esta Coisa da Alma (2000), Pelo Dia Dentro (2001), the live recording Como sempre… Como dantes (2003), and Sempre De Mim (2008).

Infinito Presente (2015), the product of an extended collaboration with the writer José Maria Branco, includes lyrics and arrangements that are deceptively simple. The songs express the mysterious emotion that the Portuguese claim as uniquely and exclusively theirs: saudade, which is at once the happiness that brings sadness, and the sadness that brings happiness.

On Camané’s 2017 album, Canta Marceneiro , he revisits the repertory of Alfredo Marceneiro, an early 20th century fado singer who, though only moderately competent as a technician, completely changed fado’s possibilities for artistic expression through unrestrained inventiveness and wit. Camané’s Canta Marceneiro is filled with mischievous stories that reveal the common cares and fears in all of us through the lives of astute waitresses, drunken painters, and kings’ courtiers.

Discography:

A Alma Jovem Do Fado ‎(Riso E Ritmo Discos, 1982)
Uma Noite de Fados ( EMI-Valentim de Carvalho, 1995)
Na Linha da Vida ( EMI-Valentim de Carvalho, 1998)
Esta Coisa da Alma ( EMI-Valentim de Carvalho, 2000)
Pelo Dia Dentro (EMI Portugal, 2001)
Como sempre… Como dantes (EMI Portugal, 2003)
Ao vivo no São Luíz (2006)
Sempre de Mim (EMI Portugal, 2008)
Do Amor e dos Dias (EMI Portugal, 2010)
O Melhor 1995–2013 (Warner Music Portugal, 2013)
Infinito Presente ( Warner Music Portugal, 2015)
Canta Marceneiro ( Warner Music Portugal, 2017)

Share

Artist Profiles: Deolinda

Deolinda

Deolinda formed in 2006, inspired by Mariza, the Portuguese fado star who is renowned the world over. With a theatrical bent to much of their work Deolinda’s Ana Bachalau (meaning salted cod) recalls bringing her feminine character to life ‘She stands for days listening to records her grandmother left her and watching through the lace curtains at neighbors.’

The songs they write are often vehicles for comments on Portuguese culture and lifestyle and in recent years they have had their track ‘Movimento perpetuo Associativo’ used for political gain at party conferences (a fact the band smile wryly at considering the track took aim at national identity).

Deolinda’s debut album ‘Canção ao Lado’ (2009) achieved Platinum status in Portugal and their unique blend of delicate fado and Cape Verdean blues saw them scoop newcomer of the year at the 2010 Songlines Music Awards.

Discography:

Canção ao Lado (2009)
Dois Selos e um Carimbo (World Connection, 2010)
Mundo Pequenino (2013)
Outras Histórias (2016)

Share

Artist Profiles: Marta Pereira da Costa

Marta Pereira da Costa

Marta Pereira da Costa started playing the piano at the age of 4, later at 8 learned the classical guitar and at 18 began to study the Portuguese Guitar under the tutelage of Carlos Gonçalves, one of Amália Rodrigues’ most important guitar players.

Marta has performed with some of the true giants of Portuguese music, including Camané, Mário Pacheco, Dulce Pontes, and Mariza, as well as Afro-Atlantic legends such as Cameroon’s Richard Bona and Cape Verde’s Tito Paris.

Marta’s self-titled debut album was released by Warner Music in 2016, containing 13 tracks that mixed original compositions with interpretations showcasing contemporary Portuguese composers; instrumental tracks with guest vocalists such as Dulce Pontes, and Rui Veloso, and fado tradition with jazz improvisation and instruments and influences from around the world. One of Marta’s key collaborators on this album was GRAMMY Award-winning Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona, who helped bring Lisbon’s simmering Afro-Atlantic vibes to the fore on “Encontro”.

Discography:

Marta Pereira da Costa (Warner Brothers, 2016)

Share

Ibero-American Showcase and Conference EXIB Música 2019 to be Held in Portugal

The 5th edition of EXIB Música will take place in Setúbal, Portugal during June 13-15, 2019. The event celebrates the musical diversity of Ibero-America (Spain, Portugal and the Spanish and Portuguese countries of the Americas).

EXIB Música includes international showcases, conferences and workshops.

More information at www.exibmusica.com

Share

The Passionate Story of Fado

Fado star Mariza

Fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul. It is one of the oldest urban folk music styles in the world. Some say it came as a dance from Africa in the 19th century and was adopted by the poor on the streets of Lisbon. Or perhaps it started at sea as the sad, melodic songs created by homesick sailors and fishermen.

Whatever its origins, fado’s themes have remained constant: destiny, betrayal in love, death and despair. A typical lyric goes: “Why did you leave me, where did you go? I walk the streets looking at every place we were together, except you’re not there.” It’s a sad music and a fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears.

All fado is dominated by the sentiment known as saudade. While there is no precise English definition for this word, it may be translated roughly as ‘yearning.’ Essentially it describes the soul of the music and is the measure of understanding that passes between performer and audience.


Cover of A Origem do Fado by José Alberto Sardinha

Fado History

By the early twentieth century, fado had become popular in the everyday life of Lisbon’s working class. It was played for pleasure but also to relieve the pain of life. Skilled singers known as fadistas performed at the end of the day and long into the night. Fado was the earthy music of taverns and brothels and street corners in Alfama and Mouraria, the old poor sections of Lisbon. (Another strain of fado, Coimbra fado, was favored among university students and professors.)

The fado is normally sung by men or women and accompanied by one Portuguese guitar and one classical guitar, which in Portugal is called viola. This song reached its golden era in the first half of the 20th century, when the Portuguese dictatorship of Salazar (1926-1968) forced the fado performers to become professional and confined them to sing in the fado houses and the so called “revistas”, a popular genre of “vaudeville”.

The main names of that period were: Alfredo Marceneiro, Amalia Rodrigues, Maria Teresa de Noronha and guitar players Armandinho and Jaime Santos.


The Queen of Fado Amalia Rodrigues

From the 1940s until her death in 1999, the towering figure of Portuguese fado was Amalia Rodrigues. She was the diva of fado, worshiped at home and celebrated abroad as the most famous representative of Portuguese culture. When she died the country’s prime minister called for three-days of national mourning. Such is the hold of fado over the people of Portugal.

Saudade

The essential element of fado music is saudade, a Portuguese word that translates roughly as longing, or nostalgia for unrealized dreams. Fado flowers from this fatalistic world-view. It speaks of an undefined yearning that can’t be satisfied. For Portuguese emigrants fado is an expression of homesickness for the place they left behind.

Like other forms of deeply moving folk music such as flamenco, American blues, Argentine tango or Greek rembetiko, fado cannot be explained; it must be felt and experienced. One must have the soul to transmit that feeling; a fadista who does not possess saudade is thought of as inauthentic. Audiences are very knowledgeable and very demanding. If they do not feel the fadista is up to form they will stop a performance.

Duarte at EXIB 2016 in Evora – Photo by Angel Romero

Fado can be performed by men or women, although many aficionados prefer the raw emotion of the female fadista. Dressed in black with a shawl draped over her shoulders, a fadista stands in front of the musicians and communicates through gesture and facial expressions. The hands move, the body is stationary. When it is done correctly, it is a solemn and majestic performance.

Carminho

Aside from the Lisbon fado there is another completely different form of this song, sung by the students of Coimbra University whose ancient roots can be found in the medieval songs called trovas. Here the subjects are mainly love, friendship and nostalgia. This form of fado reached its most famous period in the 1950s and 1960s when names like Edmundo Bettencourt, Luis Gois, José Afonso and the musicians Artur Paredes, Carlos Paredes and Antonio Portugal among others, combined new forms and lyrics to a song which was limited to student circles.

Fado guitarist Antonio Chainho playing the Portuguese guitar – Photo by Alexandre Nobre

The traditional accompaniment for the fadista is a Portuguese guitar, or guitarra, a 12-stringed instrument, and a bass guitar, or viola. Sometimes a second acoustic guitar is added. In recent years, fado recordings have added piano, violin and accordion, instruments which sometimes accompany the music on the streets of Lisbon.

Fado Today


Cover of the album New Queens of Fado (Arc Music, 2016), featuring Joana Amendoeira, Ana Moura, Carminho, Mariza, Cristina Branco, Katia Guerreiro, Mafalda Arnauth, Misia

Today the younger generation in Portugal is respectful but not dedicated to fado. However, a new generation of young musicians have contributed to the social and political revival of fado music, adapting and blending it with new trends.

Contemporary fado musicians like Misia have introduced the music to performers such as Sting. Misia and fadistas like Cristina Branco and Mariza, Amelia Muge, Antonio Zambujo, Ana Lains, Ana Moura, Joana Amendoeira, Katia Guerreiro, Mafalda Arnauth, walk the fine line between carrying on the tradition and trying to bring in a new audience.

Cover of the album Queens Of Fado – The Next Generation (Arc Music, 2017) featuring Cuca Roseta, Yolanda Soares, Carminho, Raquel Tavares, Gisela João, Claudia Aurora, Carla Pires and Joana Rios

One of the biggest names in the new generation of male fado singers is award-winning Marco Rodrigues.

2018 saw the rise of a new fado revelation, Sara Correia, who released her debut album Sara Correia.

(Sources: World Music Central, World Music Institute, World Music Network)

Coimbra Fado

Coimbra Fado is a genre of fado originating in the city of Coimbra, Portugal. This fado is closely linked to the academic traditions of the University of Coimbra and is exclusively sung by men; both the singers and musicians wear black capes during performances, the remaining part of the students outfit. It is sung at night, almost in the dark, in city squares, streets, or fado houses. (source: Fado group Verdes Anos)

Recommended Fado Recordings

Portugal: The Story of Fado
Fado: Exquisite Passion
The Rough Guide to Fado
Queens of Fado
Fados from Portugal
Great Voices of Fado
Queen of the Fado by Amalia Rodrigues
Rough Guide: The Music of Portugal
Queens Of Fado – The Next Generation

Fado Artists:

The following artists perform fado or fado-influenced music: Ala Dos Namorados, Almaplana, Amélia Muge, Ana Laíns, Ana Marina, Ana Moura, Antonio Chainho, Antonio Zambujo, Armenio de
Melo, Bicho de 7 cabeças, Camané, Catarina Cardeal, Cristina Branco, Custodio Castelo, Duarte, Grupo Cancao de Coimbra, Joana Amendoeira, Jorge Fernando, Katia Guerreiro, Lula Pena, Mario Pacheco, Madredeus, Mafalda Arnauth, Maria Amelia Proen, Mariza, Melian, Mike Siracusa, Misia, Nem Truz Nem Muz), Ramana Vieira, Sonia Tavares, Teresa Salgueiro, Verdes Anos – Fado group, Cuca Roseta, Yolanda Soares, Raquel Tavares, Gisela João, Claudia Aurora, Carla Pires, Marco Rodrigues, Joana Rios, and Sara Correia.

Fado Books:

A History of the Portuguese Fado by Paul Vernon (Routledge, 1998)
Fado Portugues – Songs from the Soul of Portugal by Donald Cohen (2004)
Fado and the Place of Longing, Loss, Memory and the City by Richard Elliott (Routledge, 2010)
A Origem do Fado [includes 4 CDs] by José Alberto Sardinha (Tradisom, 2010)
Fado Resounding: Affective Politics and Urban Life by Lila Ellen Gray (Duke University Press, 2013)
Fado and the Urban Poor in Portuguese Cinema of the 1930s and 1940s by Michael Colvin (Boydell & Brewer, 2016)

Fado sites:

Portal do Fado, Portuguese portal dedicated to fado.

Share

Artist Profiles: Mariza

Mariza – Photo by Carlos Ramos

Mariza began singing Fado as a child, before she could read. Her father sketched out little cartoon stories to help her remember the lyrics. At the age of five, she would join in the spontaneous singing at her parents’ restaurant in Mouraria, one of Lisbon’s most traditional neighborhoods.

Mariza was born in Mozambique, but her family moved to Portugal when she was a baby, giving her plenty of time to get immersed directly in the Fado tavernas (Fado houses) where singing is part of everyday life. She told the BBC, “Half of me is very, very Portuguese and the other half is very, very African.”

At the age of twenty-six, Mariza released her first CD, Fado Em Mim, the recording presents six classic Fados and six original compositions, all of them tugging listeners at the heart and soul.

Fado is Portugal’s passionate and bittersweet musical gift to the world, equivalent to Blues or Rebetika or Tango or Flamenco. “They all stand on emotions,” said Mariza. “Fado is an emotional kind of music full of passion, sorrow, jealousy, grief, and often satire.”

Mariza had her first major national exposure in 1999 as one of the guest performers in Tribute Concerts for Amália Rodrigues in the Coliseums of Lisbon and Oporto. Both performances were broadcast live on one of Portugal’s Network TV channels. Mariza’s performances immediately sparked interest in the public and in the national media. In 2000, she received the award, “Voice of Fado,” presented by Central FM (Portugal’s national radio station). She was invited to “introduce” Fado to rock icon Sting by a highly rated national television show Hermansic.

Mariza walks the fine line necessary to both genuinely carry the tradition and bring it freshness for today. Her performance style captures the raw emotion that characterizes the genre, but with her own personal twist.

When Mariza recorded Transparente, her latest studio album, she recruited Brazilian Jaques Morelenbaum to help her create the sonority she wanted. “He gave me a more velvet, more intimate, more romantic sound,” Mariza dreamily recalls.

Mariza

We recorded the Transparente album in Brazil,” explains Mariza. “I am looking for fado from a different perspective, because I now travel a lot. One month I am at the Sidney Opera House, another month I am in China or Thailand. I am starting to find that this music that belongs to Lisbon, to Portuguese people, is starting to feel more and more universal. It speaks about universal feelings. Each country interprets it in its own way. We are crossing cultural lines now. And I feel so proud about it.”

When Lisbon’s mayor invited Mariza to perform for Lisbon in this way, she brought Morelenbaum in once again for the arrangements and conducting duties. One a rainy summer evening in 2005, around 25,000 people gathered at the Tower of Belem’s gardens in Lisbon to hear Mariza.

The 500 year-old Tower of Belem sits at the mouth of the River Tagus. The Tower of Belem looks in one direction onto the river and towards the sea, the departure point for Portugal’s famous sailors. In the other direction it looks over the city of Lisbon. Looking forward while looking back.

At the gardens, Mariza performed favorite songs from her young-but-full career with a full orchestra, the Sinfonietta de Lisboa, conducted by Jaques Morelenbaum. The magical night is captured on Concerto em Lisboa, released on CD with a bonus DVD documentary. Concerto em Lisboa went platinum in Portugal for both CD and DVD version.

Having the river and the Tower, the place where the boats left to make their discoveries in the 16th Century; going to India and Africa. Being in that place, singing fado was very emblematic that night,” says Mariza. “Even if I didn’t want to think about it, the sea was so near, and all these things came to mind that night. I never thought a girl with roots in Africa would have all that!

I was not expecting so many different ages, from a younger generation, to grandmothers with grandchildren. There were traditional people from my neighborhood and people coming from the north and the south, even from Spain!” exclaims Mariza. “When I saw the images, showing my Lisbon people, and not only people from Lisbon, but a very eclectic audience, all clapping and singing along, I realized what a beautiful night it was. It was not a typical fado audience. I was so surprised. I loved it.”

Outside interest in Mariza abounds, from her sell-out concert at the 6,000-seat Royal Albert Hall in London, to her BBC World Music Award, and being picked by Germany’s ‘100 most important women in Europe.’ She performed a duet with Sting for the Athens Olympics album, and became a UNICEF Ambassador.

In 2007 Mariza took the symphonic show on the road. “Sometimes when you talk about classical music, people have a cold approach and they get a little bit distant,” Mariza says. “But with John Mauceri, it was amazing. He had a very, very special way of treating the music. Always explaining it to the audience and saying funny things. It was unbelievable! I learned from him that even if you have a light approach, it doesn’t mean you are not respecting the music.”

Mariza has also been getting her feet wet in the film world. The BBC released a documentary in 2007 titled Mariza and the Story of Fado, compellingly profiling both the artist and the genre. There will be a special limited edition version of the Concerto em Lisboa album that includes the full BBC documentary. And Mariza played the lead role in a new film called Fado by Carlos Saura, whose past works include the Oscar-nominated Tango and Flamenco, giving fans a chance to see her in an acting role.

In 2007 prominent architect Frank Gehry designed a set for a performance by Portuguese fado singer Mariza later this year. Gehry, renowned for his stunning and daring urban visions, agreed to create a taverna-inspired stage for Mariza’s performance in October at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Gehry said he met Mariza several years ago in Lisbon and was enamored by fado, Portuguese folk music that often has mournful lyrics. “It’s a very intimate setting and there is a dark ambiance,” said Mariza. “It’s a huge privilege to have my own taverna directed by Mr. Gehry.”

Her international acknowledgement is notable: in 2003 she won the BBC Radio 3 Award For World Music, in the European category. She was the first Portuguese artist ever nominated for the GRAMMY awards in the category of Best Folk Album.

Discography:

Fado Em Mim (World Connection, 2001)
Ao Vivo Na Culturgest ‎(2002)
Fado Curvo (EMI, 2003)
Fado Curvo / Ao vivo em Espanha ‎(EMI-Valentim De Carvalho, 2004)
Ao Vivo No Casino ‎(Corda Seca, 2004)
Transparente (EMI, 2005)
Concerto Em Lisboa (EMI Music Portugal, 2006)
Terra (EMI Music Portugal, 2008)
Fado Tradicional (EMI Music Portugal, 2010)
Live at Philharmonie im Gasteig in Munich ‎(2013)
Mundo (Warner Music Portugal, 2015)
Mariza (Warner Music Portugal, 2018)

DVDs

Live in London

Live 8 at Eden – Africa Calling (Real World/Rhino, 2005)

Share

Artist Profiles: Toque de Caixa


New traditional music from the northern Portugal, with a strong acoustic flavor. Starting from its own musical researches in “deep Portugal”, this band has developed a solid reputation in the Portuguese traditional music scene.

Toque de Caixa won the “José Afonso” Award in 1989 – Best Folk Band of the Year. The award is named after one of the best Portuguese folk-singers of all times and devoted to celebrate new achievements in the evolution of Portuguese traditional and folk music.

Miguel – guitars, viola braguesa, rajão, quatro ocarina, percussion, vocals
Machado – vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion
Albertina – accordion, concertina, keyboards, percussion
Horácio – guitar, viola braguesa and percussion
Luís Viegas – vocals, percussion
Eugénio – percussion
Tété – gaita de foles, flutes and percussion

Discography:

Histórias Do Som (Numérica, 1993)
Cruzes Canhoto (Ocarina, 2009)

Share

Artist Profiles: Rodrigo Leão

Rodrigo Leão

Rodrigo Leão is one of the greatest Portuguese composers of his generation. This great Portuguese musician, founding member of the Madredeus group and key element of the Sétima Legião lineup, undertook his solo career in 1993 to explore new musical terrains.

For a long time, the trio Setima Legião was the passion of Rodrigo Leao: the constant presence of musicians who exchanged ideas and friendship became an aspect of their music that will never be dispensed with. Then came the days of Madredeus. Rodrigo Leão found in Pedro Ayres Magalhaes the ideal companion for his musical idea. Together they built one of the key groups of contemporary Portuguese music, Madredeus.

Meanwhile, in 1989, Rodrigo Leão made what can be considered his first solo work: the soundtrack for a film by the young director Manuel Mozos Um passo, outro passo e depois …

Four years later came the decisive test: the edition of the album Ave Mundi Luminar, under the name of Rodrigo Leao and Vox Ensemble. This initial album shows a new trajectory in the composition of Rodrigo Leao. He abandons the pop format to proceed through more contemporary sounds, closer to Sakamoto or Nyman, mixed with classical vocal and musical influences. Ave Mundi Luminar was produced by Antonio Pinheiro da Silva and features Francisco Ribeiro (vocals and arrangements) and Teresa Salgueiro (vocals), both from Madredeus, a group that Leão had just left.

In 1996, Rodrigo Leao directed another project with the editor Herminio Monteiro: the
The group was called Os Poetas and the disc Entre Nos e As Palabras based on a poem by the Portuguese surrealist poet Mario Cesariny. The following year he released Theatrum, his second solo album, in which he traveled to darker and disturbing territories.

Pasión is a compilation album recorded live.

Discography:

With Sétima Legião

A Um Deus Desconhecido (1984)
Mar d’Outubro (1987)
De um Tempo Ausente (1989)
O Fogo (1992)
Auto de Fé (Live) (1994)
Sexto Sentido (1999)

With Madredeus

Os Dias da Madredeus (1987)
Existir (1990)
Lisboa (Live) (1992)
O Espírito da Paz (1994)
Ainda , soundtrack (1995)

With Os Poetas

Entre Nós e as Palavras (1997)

Solo albums

Ave Mundi Luminar (1993)
Mysterium, EP (1995)
Theatrum (1996)
Alma Mater (Columbia, 2000)
Pasión (Columbia, 2001)
Cinema (Columbia, 2004)
Portugal, Um Retrato Social (Sony BMG Music Portugal, 2007)
O Mundo (compilation with new material) (2006)
Portugal, um Retrato Social, soundtrack (2007)
A Mãe (2009)
Equador (Farol 2010)
A Montanha Mágica (Sony Music, 2011)
La Cage Dorée (Zazi Films, 2013)
Songs (compilation with new material) (2012)
The Butler, soundtrack (2013)
O Espírito De Um País (Ao Vivo Na Assembleia Da República) (2014)
Florestas Submersas (2015)
A Vida Secreta Das Máquinas Blitz (Uguru 2014)
O Espírito de Um País (Sony Music Portugal 2014)
O Retiro (Universal Music Portugal, 2015)
Florestas Submersas (Uguru 2015)
Life Is Long (Glitterhouse Records 2016)
100 metros, soundtrack (2017)
O Aniversário (Universal Music Portugal, 2018)
Os Portugueses (Sony Music 2018)

Share

Artist Profiles: Ronda dos Quatro Caminhos

Ronda dos Quatro Caminhos is one of the most important groups in the Portuguese traditional folk music scene. The group was formed in the early 1980s. During this time Ronda recorded over a dozen albums and performed throughout the world.

On stage, Ronda presents a selection of Portuguese traditional songs, from the north to the south of Portugal, from the islands of Azores and Madeira.

Antonio Prata – violin & bandolim;  Carlos Barata – accordion & bandolim; Pedro Fragoso – keyboards; Pedro Pita – drum set; Mario Peniche – electric bass; and Joao Oliveira – vocals & guitar

Discography:

Ronda Dos Quatro Caminhos (Orfeu, 1984)
Cantigas do Sete-Estrelo (Rádio Triunfo, 1985)
Canções Tradicionais Infantis (Transmedia, 1985)
Amores De Maio (Contradança, 1986)
Fados Velhos (Contradança, 1987)
Romarias (Ovação, 1991)
Uma Noite De Música Tradicional (Polydor, 1993)
Outras Terras (RQC, 1999)
Terra De Abrigo (Ocarina, 2003)
Canções Esquecidas (Ovação, 2005)
Ronda Dos Quatro Caminhos com a Orquestra Sinfonietta De Lisboa – Ao vivo no Grande Auditório do Centro Cultural de Belém (Ocarina, 2005)

Share

Artist Profiles: Sara Tavares

Sara Tavares

Sara Tavares was only 16 years old, when she won two of Portugal’s most prestigious TV music contests. Born out of a second generation Cape Verdean immigrants, Sara grew up between two cultures.

Initially known as a singer and composer of Gospel, Soul and Funk, she gradually incorporated more of her African music in her compositions. In 1994, she recorded her first album Sara Tavares & Shout, released in 1996. To present the album she performed all over Portugal, Cape Verde, and France.

Her second album Mi Ma Bô, produced by Lokua Kanza, reached gold in Portugal. The album was a mix of African rhythms and melodic pop songs.

By the end of 1998, Sara Tavares decided to start working on her new album. To achieve that, she stopped performing, and went through a long period of introspection to search for her real roots and influences.

As a result of such profound search, Mi Ma Bô was born. Mi Ma Bô, which translated from the criolo (language from Cape Verde) means “Me and You”, is an intimate album, wherein Sara’s voice links all the emotions expressed in its lyrics and melodies.

In this record, Sara Tavares establishes herself not only as a huge musical talent, but also as a composer and co-producer, which assures us of her maturity, her talent and of the long career she has in front of her.

Mi Ma Bô was produced by Lokua Kanza, a musician from Congo, living in Paris. He has previously worked with other African artists such as Ray Lema, Manu Dibango, Papa Wemba, Miriam Makeba and Youssou N’dour. Together with Sara’s co-production, the final result is a very special album, with African colours and a touch of soul, that winds up stirring the listener’s soul.

Sung in three different languages (Portuguese, Criolo and English), “Mi Ma Bô” really shows the universality of the language of music. The album reached gold status in Portugal.

In 2006, her third album, Balancê, came out on World Connection (Europe) and Times Square (North America).

Sara Tavares has become one of the leading exponents of Lisbon’s world music scene. “There is a big, big generation of Cape Verdeans and other Africans here in Lisbon, in Paris, in Boston, all over; with a kind of messed-up identity,” says Tavares. “Our generation feels very lost because there is no culture specifically for us; that talks about our reality.”

When I walk around with my friends, it’s a very, very interesting community,” Tavares explains. “We speak Portuguese slang, Angolan slang, some words in Cape Verdean Crioulo, and of course some English. In Crioulo there are already English and French words. This is because slaves from all over the world had to communicate and didn’t speak the same languages. We are a metisse culture.”

Multilingual wordplay shows up throughout Tavares’ album, and she hops across cultural references as much as she embraces any. The album title Balancê has many different meanings. The noun balan?o is used in Portuguese when music swings. Lusophone Africans use the verb form Balancê in a more general way. “When you are eating something really good you say “this food is Balancê!“? explains Tavares.

For me the song, Balancê is also about balancing yourself,” Tavares continues, “between sadness and joy; day and night; salt and sugar. It’s about balancing emotions. You are always walking a thin line and you have to keep your balance. You have to dance with that line in order to keep standing. If you stay too rigid, you will fall.”

I was in Zimbabwe a few years ago and I saw some really drunk people dancing,” Tavares chuckles. “We were watching them, and they were always almost falling and then they would catch themselves. Just like those people dancing, I also want to dance with that kind of freedom and balance.”

Through music, Tavares seeks cultural roots, along with the help of veteran African musicians in Lisbon and back in Cape Verde where she travels every year.

The whole album is like little lullabies to myself,” says Tavares. “All the messages are about self-esteem, loving yourself. About liking what is different in you. About integrating all the parts of you.”

“Bom Feeling,” whose title combines a Portuguese word with an English word that “everyone uses,” translates as “Good Feeling.” While some people look down on the Portuguese slang associated with African people in Portugal, Tavares embraces it. Tavares says she is from a “broken home” and identifies with street culture.

“Poka Terra” is influenced by Afro-Beat and semba (a style from Angola). The song’s title is an onomatopoeia for the sound a train makes. Tavares is calling on people to catch the train of consciousness and to become responsible for yourself. She sings “An alligator that sleeps will be turned into an alligator bag sold in some store.”

On “Planeta Sukri” (Sugar Planet) Tavares places a reggae style sound system on top of a traditional Cape Verdean rhythm coladeira (a style made popular by Cesaria Evora). “The poem of this song can be seen as a love poem,” says Tavares. “I am saying “Take me to a sugar planet, take me to place where there is no sadness, no cries. And this place is inside of you and me and everyone.” I mean it more in a spiritual way than a romantic way. The ballads are very much like little prayers.”

Tavares talks to the moon on “Muna Xeia” (Full Moon). The song title emerged when Tavares made a mistake and accidentally combined the English word “moon” with the Portuguese word for the same “lua.” “It’s a very feminine song with me talking to the women,” Tavares explains. “First the woman inside of me and then the women in Africa and the women in the world. I sing, “Moon go in peace, moon go in faith, walk in peace, walk in faith.””

Tavares spent time in Cape Verde working with a contemporary dance company. “You know how contemporary artists do crazy experimental stuff” she asks. “Well, they gave me the strength to experiment. If those who live in and own the culture, then we in diaspora can also experiment. As long as someone keeps the tradition. It’s a two-sided knife.”

I want to be a part of a movement like the African Americans were, like the African Brazilians were,” Tavares says. “Instead of doing the music of their ancestors, they have created this musical identity of their own. And it is now respected. It is considered whole and authentic and genuine. It will be a long time before the people from my generation do not have to choose between being African or European. I think you shouldn’t have to choose. You should just be there. Celebrate that. Be that!

Discography:

Sara Tavares & Shout! (BMG Portugal, 1996)
Mi Ma Bô (RCA, 1999)
Balancê (Times Square Records, 2005)
Xinti (World Connection, 2009)
Fitxadu (Sony Music, 2017)

www.saratavares.com

Share