Interview with Sara Serpa

by Giovanna Camacho

A native from Lisboa, Portuguese Sara Serpa is a singer, composer, improviser, who through her practice and performance, explores the use of the voice as an instrument. Serpa has been working in the field of jazz, improvised and experimental music, since moving to New York in 2008. Literature, film, visual arts, nature and history inspire Serpa in the creative process and development of her music. She has performed her own music in Europe, Australia, North and South America, singing at international festivals such as Bergamo Jazz Festival, Festa do Jazz, the Panama Jazz Festival and many more. She currently also teaches at The School of Jazz and Contemporary at The New School and at the New Jersey City University.

I was given the opportunity to interview Serpa and this is how it went..

Me: Who were your earliest inspirations? How do you think they helped you become the musician you are today?

Sara: I started playing piano when I was 7 and sang in a choir until the age of 18. I think that shaped my ears and what they look for , in particular Bach and Bartok. Learning Jazz opened my mind to other ways of making music- it liberated me from the conservatory rigid approach to music. The Miles Davis Quintet, Hermeto Pascoal, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Guillermo Klein, Mark Turner – these were musicians I listened to a lot and intrigued me in the way they wrote music, improvised and performed. Ran Blake and Danilo Perez were very important teachers. Today, Duke Ellington is also a huge inspiration.

Me: It is no surprise that music has a variety of genres. Why choose Jazz? What stuck out to you the most?

Sara: Freedom and creativity. Black culture.

Interview with Sara Serpa

Me: Looking back at your entire discography, is there a specific album/song that means to you the most?

Sara: Each album marks a period of my life – it is hard to choose one… Primavera and All The Dreams mark a period of blossoming and new life.

Me: Is there a certain message that you want to give to your listeners when they listen to your music? If so, what would that message be?

Sara: I hate cliches, but music is a universal language. My message is to listen with an open heart and non-judgemental ears. Music is not only about music, and it can certainly open the listener’s minds to other worlds and realities. That is what I have been trying to do in my latest projects, such as Recognition and Intimate Strangers.

Me: What are the struggles you face when it comes to your artistic career? Are there times where you lack inspiration? Do you get anxious before going on stage?

Sara: The struggles are many – I think about the lack of opportunities and representation of creative female and non-binary musicians in festivals, venues and in the scene in general. I lack inspiration when I listen to music that is only focused on the business/ marketing side. I get anxious the weeks before, but not before going on stage. I always want to be prepared for concerts and do think that a long term approach is the best to be centered during performances.