SARA TAVARES (PORTUGAL)
The West African archipelago of Cape Verde has always punched above its weight when it comes to music. The likes of Cesaria Evora, Voz de Cabo Verde and Bana were the first to take their morna and coladeira overseas, part of a generation of emigrants leaving their barren, isolated home – some for good. And let’s not forget where the popular ’70s soul group Tavares came from. These days it’s the children of that Diaspora we’re hearing more from – born abroad, but with a strong sense of their parents’ roots. Last year, one such nominee was Lura, and now it’s the turn of Sara Tavares.
Sara was born in Lisbon, although sadly her parents abandoned her there to pursue their dreams elsewhere, leaving her in the care of a Portuguese woman. Maybe that’s why one of the strongest messages in her work is the importance of self esteem, both personally and on behalf of her own community of Africans born outside ‘the Motherland’. Whatever it is, her sweet and swinging music radiates a positivity that effortlessly jumps the language barrier.
Influenced by gospel, funk and soul as a child, she naturally gravitated towards a musical career. At 16, she won two of Portugal’s national song contests, which led to her representing her country in the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. Two years later, the EP Sara Tavares & Shout was released, and in 1999 she recorded her debut album Mi Ma Bô with producer Lokua Kanza, combining African rhythms and a pop feel.
But it’s her second album Balancê (2006), with its Cape Verdean, Portuguese and Brazilian flavours that has really won her a wider audience and led to tours of Europe, North America and Japan. Not only did she write the bulk of the songs, she also produced and arranged it. Then there’s her supple, soulful vocals and guitar playing. Sara Tavares is a fully rounded artist, or ‘balanced’, as she puts it:
“Balancê is about taking life with a swing…balancing my history, my heritage, my daily life and my future, balancing emotion in my heart – the tears and the joy.”
Sara Tavares website
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