Displaced, abandoned and yet somehow triumphant, the Sara Tavares story is as extraordinary as her music. Join her on the journey from saudade to balancê
Sara Tavare’s Balancê is wonderfully textured and varied, sunshine on your soul one moment and scattered clouds of wistfulness the next. It’s full of perfect, accessible melodies with a sense of depth and sincerity, beautifully sung and played.
Balancê means to move with life and with nature, to swing with the rhythm of the universe and also to balancê the different energies and moods inside my soul
Like her music, Sara has travelled the full emotional spectrum. Abandoned by both her Cape Verdean parents as a child, she was raised by a Portuguese woman, an experience that would have broken most people and one that certainly defines the term ‘saudade’ (the wistful longing for the return of something or someone much loved and missed).
This personal catastrophe has been contained by Sara’s positive thinking, “All the love I sing about, I’m experiencing it in my life… So, mostly, I’m speaking about self-esteem and care, for me that’s all that matters, all things in life should grow out of love, first for ourselves and then for the others.” Her songs, many of which are infectiously upbeat, act as a kind of prayer, she confides, a way of wishing into existence better times.
Now a mature artist, Sara enjoyed a spell as a teenaged pop sensation in Portugal, adding another dimension to an already eventful life. Reluctant to dwell overly on that, she concedes that experience gave her the gift of finding catchy melodies and writing lyrics that convey a simple message clearly. Her new album, Balancê has stormed the charts in Portugal and will no doubt do the same across the rest of Europe as people get to hear her.
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.
The title track acts as a kind of manifesto for Sara, “Balancê is a slang word for swinging; dancing; to have groove. Balancê means to move with life and with nature, to swing with the rhythm of the universe and also to balancê the different energies and moods inside my soul. I keep on swinging away, up and down, so I never really get balancê, I just dance along with the everyday movement of life.”
Sara also talks about what it means to be between cultures. Like fellow singer Lura, she grew up in Lisbon and her late teens saw her develop an awareness of her Cape Verdean roots. Her identity could not be fully contained though by either place. For her and many others, she is both and neither, she is a third thing and representing this third way is part of her mission, “It is very important that young people with this kind of background have references in the world of art, so that they feel comfortable with their identity and don’t have to look outside of their context to find references to look up to and be inspired by.”
Drawing parallels with other Diaspora communities, like Afro-Americans and Afro-Brazillians, she notes that, “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!”
These are exciting times for fans of music coming out of Lisbon. Mariza, Lura and now Sara. You could wait until everyone has a copy of Sara’s new album but — then again — if you were that kind of music fan, you would not be reading Fly. Catch her on Charlie’s show or one of her appearances over the next two months and make up your own mind.
Sara Tavares — Balancê (Cat No: 43058) is out now on World Connection
- 13 Dec: De Roma, Antwerpen-Belgium
- 14 Dec: AB, Brussel-Belgium
- 15 Dec: Vredenburg, Utrecht-NL
- 16 Dec: Concertgebouw de Doelen, Rotterdam-NL