San Francisco Jazz Festival: Particular and infinite - Page 2

Samba and musical collaboration are a way of life, a mode of communication for Marisa Monte

I like to exchange and to collaborate, and something that's very strange about music is that for me it can be also a lonely activity. You can be a solo artist, but for me it has always been a collective way, with bands, in the studio, with composers. I've been always finding ways of reutf8g with people and with life through the music.
"Sometimes I think if I was a plastic artist, like a visual artist or a writer, I would suffer a lot. If you are a painter or something, you have to work alone," Monte added. "Though I would love to one day also be able to do a concert only myself. Maybe one day."
This spirit of collaboration has manifested itself as a dialogue between different styles and approaches within Monte's music. In addition to the Brazilian and international pop she grew up listening to as a member of her generation, more traditional and classical elements found their way into her life. Her father was a teacher at a samba school in Rio, and she grew up hearing and singing popular and traditional sambas.
"The fact is, samba is the most important musical expression from Rio, and I grew up in Rio," Monte said. "It's very natural, loving music."
Later, Monte became a serious student of opera, which also continues to inform her music, both as a discipline to aspire to and as an aesthetic to avoid.
"When I was 13 or 14, people started to ask me to sing because they noticed — friends in the school and in the family — they noticed that I liked to sing and that I had a nice voice, and they started to ask me, 'Sing for us. You sing very well — sing for us.' And then I started to study," she recalled. "It was very important for me to know my vocal apparel, to learn how. Until now I warm up before every concert with vocalizes that I learned when I was in classical training, but I don't use that technique for popular music because it's a technique that was developed for a premic world: you had to sing over a whole orchestra, so it's very intense — a lot of volume, and it's a little bit artificial."
As with many musicians whose voices happen to be their instruments, Monte is forever linked in the minds of her fans with her timbre and delivery. (On Infinito, she plays with this idea of her voice as an instrument, employing wordless melodies and textures and using audio effects to alter and disguise her voice.) In any musical context, it is her profound sense of phrasing that captivates, while focusing the listener's attention not so much on her own voice as on the song itself.
"I really search for simplicity when I'm singing. I love to sing, and my intensity, I try to find something very similar to the conversation we are having here," Monte said. "It helps to communicate with people, to be direct, to be without any oversinging. If I am singing a song that is intimate, you can sing really slowly, you can sing it low, you can sing it soft, you can sing it with intimacy. It's something that I really search for — the exact intensity that the songs ask me to do."
For Monte, music is a social activity, and communication and collaboration are key elements. In her music and in her process of making music, dialogue flows in all directions: between songwriters and musicians, between audience and performers, between different musical worlds, between musicians and the music itself. The emphasis is not on creating commodities to sell but on sharing the musical process with as many people as possible.
"When we do a song, we don't do a song to be recorded. I don't do it like that. I just do it because it's fun to do. It's like a game. It's like playing — a nice thing to do with friends, instead of playing cards or video games," she offered. "And sometimes something comes out of this universe, this atmosphere, and can be part of something that you can share with a lot of people." SFBG
Sat/4, 8 p.m., and Sun/5, 7 p.m.
Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
3301 Lyon, SF

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