Helena Sofia – Artist Residence

Helena Sofia is a Brazilian singer and songwriter and was selected by the Ibermúsicas Program to perform a four-week artistic residency in Palermo, with the support of A Casa di Amici and La Bottega by Percussioni. Here the interview

#Before arriving in Palermo

“Before arriving, I was very anxious about what would happen here: can I compose the songs? How will the musicians react to them?

But soon in the first rehearsal I was sure that this artistic residency would be something far beyond what I expected.

Santo, Salvo, Daniele, Nino and Teo, the musicians who are accompanying me, are very special people, extremely dedicated to music.

They treat me always very well, beyond patience with my ungrammatical Italian, hahaha.”

#The rehearsal atmosphere

“The rehearsal atmosphere has been great, an honor for me to play with them, such incredible musicians.

During the process, I introduced the first songs to them and I underlined that everything was open for changes, for their suggestions and… in a natural way the arrangements took shape.

Salvo and Santo played the percussive base with the sicilian frame drums, cajon, vase, djembe and even a toy of Salvo’s daughter!

Daniele brought melodic-percussive instruments, such as the Swiss hang drum and the Indian bulbul tarang, which I did not know.

Nino, played bass guitar and he sang some Sicilian songs, great!

Teo played the Clarinet – which brings me home memories – the clarinet is one of the main melodic instruments of Brazilian choro.

I played guitar and accordion, which is demanding a lot of study and dedication on my part.”

#Common roots

“Brazil and Sicily have common roots – African, Arab, European – and some rhythms are exactly the same, we only play with different instruments.

But obviously, the roots took us to different places – as you can see the Brazilian pandeiro and the Sicilian tamburello.

The interesting thing is that some traditional songs, such as children’s games, have very similar melodies.

Salvo and Santo were in Brazil before and understand a bit of Brazilian’s musical language, so we are playing mixing rhythms, using typical Sicilian instruments to play a xote, for example.

One thing I thought would be difficult and very curious is the language: in the beginning I was speaking in English, they answered me in Italian, but then I started to speak Portuguese, and we understood each other little by little.

We’re even laughing at the same jokes now, hahaha.”