Posts Tagged ‘gisela joao’
Photography by Haydn Wheeler
Simon Broughton reports on the excellent artists performing at the first evening of Songlines Encounters Festival
Songlines Encounters Festival kicked off with our favourite Cypriot trio: a turban, a top-knot and a flat cap. These were Antonis, Demetris and Angelos, otherwise known as Monsieur Doumani. Do they perhaps represent the Sufi, the hippie and the labourer? Whatever, they play a wonderful reworking of traditional Cypriot repertoire and numbers of their own.
The common theme last night was Southern European musical cultures with a twist. Monsieur Doumani have a love of the tradition but delivered with a mischievous irreverence. Their song ‘The Bland’ is directed at politicians who don’t do what they preach. But what comes over to us non-Greek speakers is the sense of enjoyment and the striking instrumental arrangements for mini-bouzouki (tzouras), guitar and trombone (occasionally flute). They play with a fire that got the audience animated from the start. Monsieur Doumani are a terrific band with an infectious sense of fun.
Gisela João – pronounced Ju-wow – also delivers fado with a twist. Not for her the traditional black shawl. She’s wearing blue sneakers and a short white dress of her own design, which looks like what an angel might wear while playing tennis. For her fado is life. “We are not always smiling,” she says, “and we are not always sad.” For João, fado reflects all of life, including chance meetings with interstellar aliens in the garden – a highlight of last night’s show. Her band are brilliant musically, with Ricardo Parriera on Portuguese guitar, but they need to look like they’re having fun – like Monsieur Doumani do.
But what is special about João is the way she can send up the genre yet perform some of her emotional numbers, like ‘Madrugada sem Sono’ and ‘Meu Amigo Está Longe’, so they go straight to he heart. Justifiably she got a standing ovation. Gisela is a star. Ju-WOW!
Before her debut UK tour and Songlines Encounters Festival performance, Simon Broughton catches up with fado singer Gisela João.
Click here to purchase your tickets for Songlines Encounters Festival at London’s Kings Place
When Gisela João talks about the fados she sings it’s like she’s really living them and feeling them. I ask her about ‘Madrugada sem Sono’ (Sleepless at Dawn), one of her signature songs that shows off the low, dark side of her voice. “It’s just before dawn and I’m trying to forget my lover,” she says. “It’s that love that you want completely – sex, hot fire, everything. But I’m thinking about everything I’ve done to forget that person, all alone, waiting for dawn, I just bite the sheet on my bed and feel jealous.” Steamy stuff.
I’m talking to João at Babel Med in Marseille where she gave a performance that totally held her audience – at an event that usually has professionals darting from one thing to another to catch a bit of everything. As well as the crowd in Marseille, she also impressed a handful of Songlines Music Travellers who were lucky enough to catch her at Senhor Vinho in Lisbon, in 2011.
Gisela João grew up in Barcelos in the north of Portugal, not the fado heartland. The eldest of seven children, she looked after her brothers and sisters when her mother left for work at six every morning. She heard Amália Rodrigues on the radio when she was seven or eight years old and became obsessed with the poetry. “While my friends were singing ‘Ace of Spades’ and Bananarama, I was singing fado,” she laughs.
As a teenager she started singing Fridays and Saturdays in a fado restaurant in Barcelos for €15 a night. Then she went to Porto and then to Lisbon where she was signed up by Maria da Fé at Senhor Vinho. “But I missed my friends in Porto. For the first year I was crying every night.”
One of João’s self-imposed challenges is to bring fado to people who don’t normally listen to it. “I did a show in Lux, the big riverside disco in Lisbon. Those people are my audience. What I want is to show the art I love and sing with all my emotions. I hate art for the elite.”
A lot of the conventions of fado were putting off her friends, she says. “I love to wear sneakers. I don’t dress in a black shawl. And when I go outside Portugal people don’t understand a word. I want you to imagine you are in the living room of my house, we are friends and I am singing stories about life and love. It’s like the poems choose me. I have a very personal connection between myself and the poems.” See Gisela João next week at one of the gigs below:
Songlines Encounters Tour 2015 Dates:
June 2 – Manchester www.rncm.ac.uk (0161 907 5555)
June 3 – Bury St Edmunds www.theapex.co.uk (01284 758000)
June 4 – London www.kingsplace.co.uk/sef2015 (020 7520 1490)
June 5 – Southampton www.turnersims.co.uk (023 8059 5151)
Photography by Mário Pires. Words by Gonçalo Frota.
There is an infallible method to tell apart a remarkable singer from a merely very good one. Let’s call it the ‘goosebumper.’ If, involuntarily, the reaction to a vocal performance hits you at gut level and manages to completely disarm you, you’re certainly in presence of a voice that works way beyond any technical qualities. Gisela João is such a singer. You can take your pick with her eponymous debut album. She has the ability to create an emotional vertigo in both the most dramatic, despairing love song and the looser folkloric songs. From ‘Meu Amigo Está Longe’ (a bold take on a staple of Amália Rodrigues’ sacred repertoire) to ‘Bailarico Saloio’, it all fits beautifully into place, led by a voice so full of longing. Such an arresting, passionate drive is wisely left to its own devices.
There is enough of a contemporary quality to Gisela João’s performance for her to avoid the pitfalls of fado instrumentation nowadays. On Gisela João, there are no violins nor bassoons, no overly stylised arrangements nor pompous fireworks. Even when João enlists hip-hop wonder Capicua, the rapper’s signature is lightly stamped, via updated lyrics, on a version of the traditional ‘Casa da Mariquinhas’. Add it all up and what we have is an outstandingly well-planted footprint in fado history.
For the first time in its five-year history, Songlines Encounters will tour venues around the UK
This years Songlines Encounters Festival at London’s Kings Place (June 4-6) features musicians from Portugal, Cyprus, Iran, the UK and Bangladesh. There are some UK premieres, some first-time collaborations and lots of supremely inspirational music. As ever with Songlines Encounters, the idea is to discover something new and memorable. Visit the Encounters website to find out more. The festival is co-curated by Songlines magazine and Ikon Arts Management.
Portugal’s rising fado star Gisela João, Iranian sisters Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat and progressive Cypriot trio Monsieur Doumani will tour as part of Songlines Encounters On Tour.
Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat
May 30 Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham
May 31 Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
June 1 MWLDAN, Cardigan
June 3 The Met, Bury
June 4 Songlines Encounters Festival at Kings Place, London
June 5 The Hothouse, Morecambe
June 6 Unity Works, Wakefield