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Sara Tavares, born 1978, is a Portuguese singer, composer and guitarist. She is of Cape Verdean descent and grew up in Portugal. She composes African influenced world music.
Tavares won the 1993/1994 final of the Endemol song contest Chuva de Estrelas, which helped her win the Portuguese Television Song Contest final in 1994, consequently earning a place the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, with the song "Chamar a MÃºsica". In 2006 she made a TV advertising for the bank Millennium BCP.
Sara Tavares was only 16 years old when she won two of Portugalâ€™s most prestigious TV music contests. Born out second generation Cape Verdian immigrants, Sara grew up between two cultures. Initially known as a singer and composer of Gospel, Funk and Soul, she gradually incorporated more of her African music in her compositions. Her second album â€˜Mi Ma BÃ´, produced by Parisian Lokua Kanza, reached gold in her native Portugal and was a mix of African rhythms and melodic pop songs. After a long wait of five years, finally her new album â€˜BalancÃ©â€™ is due in February 2006. In this record produced by Sara herself, she wrote and composed all the songs and played many of the instruments. BalancÃ© is a beautiful record in which Sara shows to be a very talented contemporary singer/song writer, that has managed to combine in a subtle and honest way contemporary music with her African roots.
The following is from a Press Release at World Connection:
â€œThere is a big, big generation of Cape Verdeans and other Africans here in Lisbon, in Paris, in Boston, all overâ€¦ with a kind of messed-up identity,â€ says Lisbonâ€™s twenty-seven year old Sara Tavares, who releases BalancÃª on World Connection on February 13th, 2006. â€œOur generation feels very lost because there is no culture specifically for us; that talks about our reality.â€
â€œWhen I walk around with my friends, itâ€™s a very, very interesting community,â€ Tavares explains. â€œWe 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 didnâ€™t speak the same languages. We are a metisse culture.â€
Multilingual wordplay shows up throughout Tavaresâ€™ album, and she hops across cultural references as much as she embraces any. The album title BalancÃªâ€”pronounced bal-on-SAYâ€”has many different meanings. The noun balanÃ§o is used in Portuguese when music â€œswings.â€ Lusophone Africans use the verb form balancÃª in a more general way. â€œWhen you are eating something really good you say â€˜this food is balancÃª!â€™â€ explains Tavares.
â€œFor me song â€˜BalancÃªâ€™ is also about balancing yourself,â€ Tavares continues, â€œbetween sadness and joy; day and night; salt and sugar. Itâ€™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.â€ â€œI was in Zimbabwe a few years ago and I saw some really drunk people dancing,â€ Tavares chuckles. â€œWe 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.â€
Tavaresâ€™ sweet voice and gentle arrangements communicate this meaning even if you cannot understand all of the lyrics. Her voice has a healing power which comes from someone who has struggled with her place in the world and then accepted herself fully. This is the voice of a woman whose parents left her. In the ever so Cape Verdean search for a better life, her father left for America; her mother moved south. Tavares was raised by an older Portuguese woman. Through music she sought out her family and cultural roots, along with the help of veteran African musicians in Lisbon and back in Cape Verde where she travels every year.
â€œThe whole album is like little lullabies to myself,â€ says Tavares. â€œAll the messages are about self-esteem, loving yourself. About liking what is different in you. About integrating all the parts of you.â€ â€˜Bom Feeling,â€™ whose title combines a Portuguese word with an English word that â€œeveryone uses,â€ translates as â€˜Good Feeling.â€™ While some people look down on the Portuguese slang associated with African people in Portugal, Tavares embraces it. Tavares says she is from a â€œbroken homeâ€ and identifies with street culture.
â€˜Poka Terraâ€™ is influenced by Afro-Beat and semba (a style from Angola). The songâ€™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 â€œAn alligator that sleeps will be turned into an alligator bag sold in some store.â€ On â€˜Planeta Sukriâ€™ (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). â€œThe poem of this song can be seen as a love poem,â€ says Tavares. â€œI am saying â€˜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.â€™ I mean it more in a spiritual way than a romantic way. The ballads are very much like little prayers.â€
Tavares talks to the moon on â€˜Muna Xeiaâ€™ (Full Moon). The song title emerged when Tavares made a mistake and accidentally combined the English word â€˜moonâ€™ with the Portuguese word for the same â€˜lua.â€™ â€œItâ€™s a very feminine song with me talking to the women,â€ Tavares explains. â€œFirst the woman inside of me and then the women in Africa and the women in the world. I sing, â€˜Moon go in peace, moon go in faith, walk in peace, walk in faith.â€™â€ Two years ago, Tavares spent tie in Cape Verde working with a contemporary dance company. He â€œYou know how contemporary artists do crazy experimental stuff?â€ she asks. â€œWell, 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. Itâ€™s a two-sided knife.â€
â€œI want to be a part of a movement like the African Americans were, like the African Brazilians were,â€ Tavares says. â€œInstead 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 shouldnâ€™t have to choose. You should just be there. Celebrate that. Be that!â€
Why not treat yourself?