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Cleveland Artist Spotlights
Brazilian singer, songwriter and student of the Tri-C music program, Maira Vianna graces the Cleveland community with the soft rhythms of bossa nova, samba, jazz and now blues. Maira hails from Minas Gerais, Brazil and carries with her a rich family tradition of music. She just released her newest album “Green Blues” on YouTube. “Green Blues” is a departure from Vianna’s previous style and is “the product of a Brazilian musician trying to write a blues—the bossa nova keeps trying to sneak in,” she says. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Maira persevered to complete and record the album with the help of Tri-C recording studios. While her vocals were recorded at Tri-C, her ensemble (which includes professors within the music program) had to record separately in their homes. “We stay strong, dreaming and producing art, with a lot of love to share, even during a pandemic.” She says. Check out her beautiful voice and original songs on YouTube at the 'Learn More' link below.
Q. How would you describe yourself and who are you as an artist?
A. I’m an independent singer-songwriter from Brazil, living and studying in Cleveland.
My work, like myself, is a mixture of my Brazilian baggage, the Brazilian rhythms and melodic scales that we have, with the improvisational jazz, the lovely swing and the passionate blues, which I had and have a deep contact through my studies and my experience living here.
To be more specific, I confess that the Brazilian rhythms that I was raised listening to, are always in my songs, they are followed by our passion of Harmony and our pleasant challenge of defying it, like Tom Jobin famously did. Let me be clear here, he did, I’m still humbly trying. In addition to that, I’m fascinated by the blues. The struggles of the day and life expressed so visceral in melody and voice. That is something that I always try to incorporate in my songs, lyrics and melody, to make it a vehicle of change!
Q. Can you talk a little about your creative process? How do you generate new ideas? What or who influences you?
A. Before I came here, my creative process always started with harmony. We Brazilians are kindly known for wanting to put a different chord in every measure, according to my dear jazz classmates. It was an amazing change when I came here and was introduced to the concept of a standalone melody: “If the melody is strong enough, it will stand by itself, and the rest will follow” by my professor Steve Enos. This opened so many doors in my process, the fact that I was trying to listening to the melody in a spoken work, or the rhythm that the word naturally has. In my opinion, it’s you reaching freedom, in a musical way!
One thing that I had to open my process to was to work with a lyricist that spoke the native language. At first, I would write what I would consider some beautiful Portuguese lyrics that didn’t mean the same thing or didn’t have the same strength when translated to English. That’s when I invited my lyric partner in crime, Emily Durbak, to start writing the lyrics in English, instead of translating them.
Q. Really interesting to hear about your work with an English-speaking lyricist. Do you feel this changes the impact of your work for your Portuguese-speaking audiences?
A. Let me tell you, I’m curious too haha! I’m experiencing, mixing Portuguese and English, only Portuguese, only English... I don’t know how the audience will react, I’m still trying to figure out how I react!
It feels true to what I am experiencing as a person. Having to “translate” my Portuguese feeling in English all the days since I got here. In addition to that our most famous composers in Brazil, always do a word game in their songs, they give new meanings to words, use them in different contexts as the usual...
We had a terrible period of military regime that the songwriters had to “hide” what they actually meant because of the censorship imposed by the military, and this practice of hiding kept going. I do a lot of this on my Portuguese lyrics; lots of internal jokes between me and me. I love words and their power, I feel that I want to be able to play and honor them in English as well. I want to be true to my feelings, by “translating” them, the best way I can.
That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop writing in Portuguese, it’s so natural, and I love the rhythm that the words have in Portuguese. My next release for example will be all in Portuguese it’s called “Sereia” which means mermaid in Portuguese. ( I wrote it looking at lake Erie though)
Q. It seems as though your family has instilled in you a deep love of music. Can you talk more about that?
A. Almost all the people in my family in Brazil are musicians. Holidays in my family are always a beautiful war. Everyone running to pick up their favorite instrument and play all night.
Covering classical music, music for television and samba, in which my mother and her sisters have a samba group, called "Le Vianas." Samba for us has the same objective as the blues, to express the injustices and sadness of everyday life, but with the objective of making the listener feel better after listening. This connection between them for me is magical and of course, it is also a door of inspiration!
Q. What is your idea of artistic or creative success?
A. It’s you, being able to express your music being who you are, and having support to share it with the world without having to struggle so much with the process! It’s terrible listening to songs and melody that you can’t express into a “physical and material” world. Maybe it’s a financial issue, equipment, lack of knowledge about media, among so many other things.
Learn more about this artist