Interview: Cristina Clara – A Universal
Musical Language (April 2023)

Words by Marco Canepari / Photo by Cristiano Barbosa

Amidst the lively melodies and vibrant rhythms of the Atlantic Music Expo, which unfolded in early April in the heart of Praia, in Cape Verde, one artist’s music deeply resonated with the eclectic, international audience. Cristina Clara, a talented musician hailing from Vila Nova de Famalicão, Northern Portugal, brought her enchanting story and her passion for uniting people through the harmonious fusion of fado and choro.

As anticipation grew for Cristina’s evening performance, we had the unique privilege of sitting down with her to explore her musical journey, her debut album Lua Adversa (released in 2021), and her heartfelt dedication to impactful initiatives like Flor Amorosa.

We debuted our interview right where that musical journey began, in Northern Portugal…

Yes, I’m from Famalicão. It’s situated in Northern Portugal, in the Minho region, which is very close to Spain. There’s a significant Spanish influence in the area. Interestingly, many immigrants from northern Portugal also settled here in Santiago, Cape Verde, so there’s a beautiful cultural mix. I recently recorded a Vira, known as the ‘Vira do Mondego,’ which I’ll be performing with the batucaderas today. It harmonises wonderfully with the local batuco rhythm, showcasing the connection between Portugal and Cape Verde“.

As anticipated, Cristina’s musical journey began in her hometown, where she sang with friends in the comfort of her home. However, her passion for music truly ignited when she moved to Lisbon for nursing training, a time when she decided to take theatre and singing courses.

My musical journey started informally in the North, singing at home with friends. Later, when I moved to Lisbon for nursing training, I began taking theatre and singing courses. It was during this time that I was invited to sing fado in various fado houses, I was 21 or 22 and that marked the beginning of my musical career. I had the privilege of meeting many talented musicians in Lisbon, who influenced and inspired my music like Maria João, Jon Luz, Rolando Semedo (who is going to play with me today) or Edu Miranda from Brazil and Pedro Loch. And then we started this path together. Since then, the morna and batuco rhythms of Cape Verde, along with the choro from Brazil, have become integral elements of my artistic expression“.

Lua Adversa, her debut album, seamlessly blends fado and choro, genres that may seem worlds apart but find a unique fusion in her music.

Lua Adversa is a musical journey that combines fado and choro, bringing together talented musicians from both Portugal and Brazil, with influences ranging from jazz to traditional music. ‘Flor Amorosa,’ my second single from the album, showcases the cultural bridge between Portugal and Brazil, much like the entire album. It’s a contemporary interpretation of traditional music that reflects the rich tapestry of our shared musical heritage“.

The music video for “Flor Amorosa” (one of the singles extracted from the album) serves a meaningful initiative, supporting the “Association Coração Amarelo” in combating isolation and loneliness, particularly among the elderly.

I’m deeply committed to using my music to make a positive impact. Flor Amorosa and its accompanying music video aim to bring a breath of fresh air during these challenging times when many have experienced prolonged isolation. Loneliness, especially among the elderly, has been exacerbated. Through this music video, I wanted to convey a message of optimism and reconnection, highlighting the undeniable power of music in bridging physical and emotional distances. Music and dance, as universal languages, transcend verbal communication and bring people together in the most wholesome way.

Cristina’s music has resonated with audiences worldwide, including countries like Brazil, where her unique blend of Portuguese and Afro-Brazilian influences was initially met with curiosity.

It’s been an incredible journey, taking my music to places like Brazil. I was initially concerned about how Brazilians would react to a Portuguese woman with a distinctive accent singing their music. However, Brazilians are incredibly generous and open-hearted people. They embraced my music wholeheartedly, and I received a lot of affection from them. It wasn’t just about full concert halls; it was the warmth and appreciation of the people that made it truly special.

In Lisbon, a city with a diverse music scene, Cristina has had the opportunity to collaborate with artists from around the world, experiencing its vibrant and eclectic musical environment.

Lisbon’s music scene is vibrant and diverse, with musicians hailing from all corners of the world. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with artists from Cabo Verde, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Italy, and more. It’s interesting to note that Italian musicians often have a deep affinity for Brazilian music, including choro. Lisbon’s music scene is a melting pot of influences, and you can find exceptional performances every day and night. Some names worth mentioning include Maria Emilia and Ricardo Ribeiro in fado, and the versatile Diogo Picão, who draws inspiration from Cabo Verde, Brazil, and Latin America, blending it into his music“.

Cristina’s music has the unique ability to transcend language barriers, reaching deep into the hearts of listeners who may not understand the lyrics but feel the music’s emotional essence.

It’s fascinating how music transcends language barriers. People often approach me after concerts, saying that while they may not understand the lyrics, they feel the music deeply. Music is a universal language that speaks to the soul. When I perform, I believe in the authenticity and passion behind the music, and that sincerity resonates with the audience. It’s not about changing the essence of the music; it’s about letting the music inspire me and convey its message, which people seem to connect with on an emotional level“.

Looking to the future, Cristina is excited about her upcoming projects, with dreams guiding her creative journey.

I have exciting plans on the horizon. After this trip to Cape Verde, I’m feeling inspired to start working on a new project, which we’ll likely begin recording next year. Dreams are the first step to making things happen, and I’m eager to embark on this new creative journey“.

In closing, Cristina Clara extends an invitation to those who might not know her music yet, assuring them that it offers a unique and heartfelt musical experience worth exploring…

My music is like a musical portrait of my journey in Lisbon. It’s a representation of the brotherhood that has blossomed among musicians from various backgrounds in the city. It’s a colourful, rhythmic tapestry that draws from Portuguese-speaking countries and beyond. I’d say it’s a unique and heartfelt musical experience worth exploring“.


Photo ©: Cristiano Barbosa