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Bansko Jazz 2015 – Carmen Souza

April 20, 2015 by · No comments

Interview by Dessislava Berndt with the singer Carmen Souza

Jazz Festival Bansko

The International Jazz Festival in Bansko is one of the biggest summer musical events in Bulgaria and one of the foremost international cultural happenings on the Balkans.

Since its foundation in 1998 the festival has been held every year in August in the small town of Bansko. The concerts are free for the public.

Traditionally, the programme features styles and groups representing almost all jazz trends. During the festival week jazz is also played on various smaller stages in the large resort complexes and restaurants.

Today we would like to present you Carmen Souza, who will perform this summer at the XVIII International Jazz Festival in Bansko.

Carmen, what does music mean to you?

Music for me is expression; it’s a way to express in sounds what you can’t express in words. It involves meeting with my inner self and exploring, discovering and trying to create something new.

(C)Philippe Masson a
Carmen Souza Live at Lagny Jazz Festival, Photo: Philippe Masson

Is this the first time you have been in Bansko/Bulgaria?

Yes it is the first time, we received the invitation and everything came together and I am very happy to perform in Bulgaria for the first time.

What do you know about Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people?

I know that you have great music, I have had the opportunity to hear some traditional songs, but I can’t say I have a very broad knowledge about Bulgaria and its people. I am hoping I can get to know them more when I come over.

(c)Patricia Pascal a
Carmen Souza, Photo: Patricia Pascal

What is the biggest challenge for you as an artist?

The biggest challenge for me is to keep listening to my inner voice and staying true to it. When you are an artist there are so many routes and shortcuts that are offered to you along the way, and one of the important things to learn is to say no, because most of these trails are dubious and they will most certainly deviate you from where you really should be. Before being an artist I am a human being, sometimes you may forget that as everyone around you tries to put you in a divine position of some sort. I always want to stay away from that as none of it is real.

What are you dreaming about?

I rather pray, about the healing of this world, the deep healing. I pray for every human to be respectful to one another, aware of differences, peace for all the troubled souls. I pray for purpose, I pray that my music brings well being and consciousness to anyone hearing it.

For you, what was the most surprising experience when working with other musicians?

My most surprising experience was when Theo Pas’cal who is the first musician I ever worked with, invited me to work with him, and I started developing music and musical knowledge with him. He started teaching me and showing me a lot of music that I had never heard about and I remember always being amazed with what he could do and develop, the level that he achieved he always has had a very strong personality, and the way he transported himself it into his music. The fact that he has always had a very authentic and unique voice as a musician helped me to find my own, which was a very special experience.

(c) Patricia Pascal a
Carmen Souza and Theo Pascal, Photo: Patricia Pascal

Would you please tell us something about your current and future projects?

I am very excited about the very near future. Me and Theo are releasing a new album, called Carmen Souza & Theo Pas’cal – Epistola in which we are joining this baggage of 13 years working together, and we are exploring new grounds. Well, it’s new grounds for the greater audience who has been following Carmen Souza Project, but me and Theo always had this wish of being more audacious, and stepping into more unknown grounds.

This project lives from various images and improvisations. My voice is used in story telling sometimes assuming different characters of the story, we are a quartet, I assume the piano, guitar and vocals, Theo is on bass and Double bass, we have Nathaniel Facey on saxophone and Shane Forbes on drums, so it’s a different set. There are images from Cape Verde, to Portugal, to France to New York…and Epistola is a musical open letter to anyone ready and available to hear it. We would surely love to bring it to Bulgaria as well.

Carmen Souza Bio
Carmen Souza was born in Lisbon (1981) within a Christian family of Cape Verdeans. Very early she experienced the “Sodade” feeling of missing someone with the long absence of her father due to his work at sea. She grew up in a mixed language environment of Creole, the Cape Verde dialect her parents spoke at home, and Portuguese, always surrounded by the Cape Verdean way of life.

In her teens she sang professionally in a Lusophone Gospel Choir. Being a strongly spiritual person, Carmen always saw music as her mission and felt privileged to have the opportunity to express herself through it, working hard every day to deserve that opportunity.

Theo Pas’cal, her producer and mentor and one of the best bass players in Portugal, discovered her talent and introduced Carmen to Jazz and other contemporary sounds that markedly influenced her musical development.

In 2003, Carmen began working with Theo on the compositions that would be included on her début album “Ess ê nha Cabo Verde”. Carmen wanted to create a new sound, in her ancestor’s dialect Creole, that would mix traditional African and Cape Verde rhythms like Batuke, Morna, Cola djon, and others, with her jazz contemporary influences, in a totally intimate and acoustic vibe, different from the traditional festive environment of Cape Verdean sounds.

“Ess ê nha Cabo Verde”, was released two years later in 2005 to critical acclaim and led to her international breakthrough performance at the WOMAD at Reading Festival of the same year.

In “Verdade” her second album, which She co-produces and features on Wurlitzer and guitar, released in 2008, Carmen Souza signs an exciting and melodically vibrant repertoire in Creole that once again received amazing reviews from the International Press worldwide.

After 2 critically acclaimed albums, Carmen Souza returns in 2010 with the impressive “Protegid” (Protected) that blends perfectly with elegance and sophistication the African and Cape Verdean traditional rhythms with Contemporary Jazz and Afro-Latin. Once again the two composers, Carmen Souza and Theo Pas’cal, present an album that pushes even more the limits of what constitutes the Cape Verdean music, World Music and Jazz. Carmen co-produces, plays guitar, Rhodes and signs 11 out of the 12 lyrics on the album.

In “Protegid”, Carmen Souza’s singular vocal approach and courageous musical chooses have earned her pairing with singers like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Cleo Laine, Eartha Kitt andMarie Daulne. Her Unique talent as a singer, composer and musician sets her apart from the female crowded Cape Verdean scene and progressively she is consolidating her own space in the World Music/Jazz industry.

“Protegid” received a nomination for the German Record Critic’s Award, entered the World Music Charts for Europe in April and was included in the list of pre-nominated albums for the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music album.

Carmen Souza has been touring extensively around the World since 2005 and in 2010 she played at big stages like The North Sea Jazz Festival (NL), London African Music Festival (UK) or the Leverkusener Jazztage Festival (DE). In Leverkusener Jazztage Festival, Carmen Souza, headlined a double bill with Mariza with a performance later broadcasted by WDR/3SAT German TV.

Carmen Souza starts 2011 with a special performance on Italian national television RAI UNO, Concerto Dell Epifania, broadcasted to millions in Italy on the Jan 6, a religious holiday and went on a long tour to sold out big venues and Festivals and mesmerize audiences and Press in UK, Brazil, Turkey, Netherlands, Germany, Cape Verde, Latvia, Ireland, Portugal, Finland, Italy, USA andCanada.

A special mention to her first Official North American Tour with 14 dates in several states receiving opening honours at San Francisco Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival and also performing at Montreal Jazz Festival. Carmen´s Monterey Jazz Festival concert was web broadcasted live, for the first time in the Festival history and transmitted direct by NPR.

Another year highlight was Carmen Souza’s first concerts in Cape Verde with full coverage in all national press. The concerts received great reviews from Press and Audience and all recognized her special and unique place in the Cape Verdean musical culture.

Early this year Carmen Souza and Theo Pas’cal released a special live Duo performance recorded in London “LONDON ACOUSTIC SET”. This was her first live record and the naked versions of her songs from previous albums received again rave reviews from both the Jazz and World communities. 50% of the sales from this album are donated to SOS Children Villages in Cape Verde and Unicef Brazil.

In September, Carmen Souza’s 4th Album “KACHUPADA” was released in France and Germany. KACHUPADA received maximum note at Télérama magazine (France’s most important musical critic) and was supported by Vibrations and Sojazz magazines beside other excellent reviews and playlist on national radio RFI. Carmen Souza was also featured on the Cover of the Cap Magelan Magazine, the biggest lusophone magazine in France.

After the goodbye of the biggest Cape Verdean singer, Cesária Évora, Carmen Souza was named as one of the new generation singers to continue the successful path of the Cape Verdean music.

In 2013 Carmen Souza won the title of Best female singer and Best Morna with the album “Kachupada” at the Cape Verdean ‘Grammys’- Cabo Verde Music Awards 2013.
After a hectic year with concerts at Major Festivals and venues all over the World, “Kachupada” was again included in the prestigious Best Album lists and Carmen made it to the 31 Best Vocals at the 2013 NPR Jazz Critics poll together with a position for Best New album for “Kachupada” right next to all the greats of Jazz in the World.

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