Portuguese singers Sara Tavares and Carminho come to the Chan Centre

As part of an exciting Portuguese music double bill, renowned artists Sara Tavares and Carminho will be appearing at the Chan Centre on Saturday, November 21. On a joint North American tour, the two singers hope to provide an evening of compelling world music.

While both artists are natives of Portugal, each bring a unique stylistic approach to their musicianship.

Opening the concert will be Sara Tavares, a Lisbon-born musician with Cape Verdean roots. In her genre-defying music, Tavares integrates a mixed bag of languages, rhythms and instrumentation. Throughout her diverse sound however, Tavares retains her hallmarks — hushed vocals and understated guitar strokes.

Having taken an interest in music at a young age, Tavares was quickly exposed to a variety of musical styles from radio pop to church gospel and Cape Verdean styles.

“I just got into church because of the music actually. I had heard of gospel music through my musical heroes, so I went in search for a church and I started singing,” said Tavares. “Then I won a contest – a very antique version of American Idol. Ever since, I’ve been singing, recording and travelling.” 

Drawing from a wide range of influences and having no formal musical training, Tavares likens her songwriting process to cooking.

“I learned a couple of chords on the guitar, I practiced a bit – I just let it flow. When I start writing some words, it comes in either Portuguese or Criollo and I follow. It depends on who and what I’m thinking of,” said Tavares. “If you talk to a Cape Verdean in Lisbon, you would be speaking most of your words in Criollo, but you’d have many little sentences in Portuguese.”

For Tavares, performing her captivating music is equally as important as sharing her sunny, cheerful disposition with the audience and creating an inviting atmosphere.

“I’m a very smooth kind of personality. I have to feel comfortable to sing and perform, so I try to create a positive mood,” said Tavares. “I want people to feel comfortable, light and smooth.”

Following Tavares’ performance, acclaimed Fado singer Carminho will take the stage. Growing up in Lisbon, Carminho was immersed in Fado – a rich Portuguese musical tradition – from a young age. 

Fado emerged in early 19th century Portugal and continues to be the country’s main musical emblem to this day. Dealing above all in melancholia, the genre expresses the spirit of "saudade" – an allegedly untranslatable Portuguese term for a distinct strain of nostalgic longing.

Lately, the genre has witnessed a dynamic resurgence. Led by artists such as Carminho herself, today’s Fado revival carefully balances modernity and tradition. Carminho’s music has received ample critical praise and has topped charts in Portugal and Spain. Having also toured internationally, Carminho has deservedly become a cultural icon in Portugal.

Together, these two promising artists look to showcase their native musical traditions in what is sure to be an excellent performance.