Sara Tavares Balances Musical Influences

Sara Tavares

Sara Tavares says she wrote little musical poems to help deal with the alienation of being an African girl growing up in a European city. Courtesy Times Square hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Times Square

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Tavares performs songs from 'Balance.'

Sara Tavares is a truly international talent. But the 26-year-old Portuguese-born singer, whose parents are from Cape Verde, seems most at home behind her guitar, making music.

"It's a whole inner process of dealing with my issues, and I think the music is medicine and a cathartic process for me," she says. "So that's why I do it — for me most of all."

Even if Tavares writes for herself first, she says that, in a way, she also represents a nation. Her roots are in Cape Verde — a cluster of small volcanic islands west of the African mainland.

It's a poor country that's mostly desert; those who can leave head to Senegal, Boston, Paris, and Lisbon. That's where Tavares was born. Her parents left her with a Portuguese family while they looked for jobs abroad. An African girl growing up in a major European city, Tavares made sense of it all with music.

"I'm a very simple guitar player..." she says. "I would write my songs as lullabies. I would write little poems for myself to lift me up."

Tavares used those lullabies to win a local TV music contest and a national competition. She launched a music career before she was out of her teens.

Today Tavares sings mostly in crioulo. It's a language born hundreds of years ago in Cape Verde, when slave-trading Portuguese and the Africans they brought from all over the continent had to communicate with one another.

As her music constantly juggles languages and global influences, Tavares is also balancing identities — as an African, as a European, and as a young musician who's coming into her own. Thus it seems appropriate that her latest album is called Balance.

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