Grace Notes: Sara Tavares

Grace Notes
Sara Tavares
Balance (Times Square)

In a music world where multiculturalism can sometimes seem
forced (Afros consort with Celts! Country legend goes reggae!),
Sara Tavares stands out. Her music is all over the map because she
can’t really help it. She’s Cape Verdean by birth but grew up in
Portugal and landed in the rich immigrant community of Lisbon,
soaking up French and polyglot African influences along the way.
This multicultural milieu plays out naturally in her graceful
songs, which are driven by her warm and inviting voice.

Fundamentally, these tunes share a consistent vibe: laid back
yet upbeat, burbling with rhythms and cascades of acoustic guitar
notes. But their provenance in what Tavares calls a ‘metisse
culture’ gives them an air of mystery and surprise. Hints of
Afrobeat, juju, reggae, marimba, and the Cape Verdean style called
coladera lurk in the grooves, and Tavares’ multi_lingual
facility — she sings in Portuguese, English, and Cape Verdean
Crioulu — sometimes leaves you wondering where in the world you
are.

As a singer she’s been compared to Rickie Lee Jones, and Tavares
sometimes strikes a jazzy-cool vibe that invites the comparison.
But she’s also got some of Astrud Gilberto’s sensuality and Miriam
Makeba’s fierce playfulness, and this sheer versatility may be her
greatest asset.

One thing she doesn’t do is wallow in self-pity. Lyrically,
these songs swell with optimism; she has described them as ‘little
lullabies to myself.’ For someone whose parents left her and who
grew up rootless amid street culture, it’s a remarkable testament
to her resilience and drive. Let Portugal’s fado queens and the
saudade Cape Verdean divas weep; Tavares is singing her sorrows
away. — Keith Goetzman

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