Artist from São Paulo proposes a symbolic dive in the album “Eu Also Sou Teus Rios”
Using the aesthetics of a banquet as a way of poetically destroying the roles of women in society, singer-songwriter Natália Xavier releases the video for “Penelope”. The track is one of the highlights of the debut album, “Eu Além Sou Teus Rios”, which was imagined as an intimate and authorial dialogue between the artist and her northeastern ancestry.
Natália makes Brazilian music that encompasses theatrical and poetic references, in a dialogue with her origins, but also with her multiple forms of expression, incorporating her experience as a visual artist and poet, as well as a singer and composer. Her songs are guided by the poetic word and the potential to imagine new worlds through art.
Taking as a reference the musical work of Alceu Valença, Chico César, Lenine, Zeca Baleiro and the sound research of the groups A Barca, Raízes de Arcoverde, and the singer Renata Rosa, the sound of the record was being woven, over the course of a year, to multiple hands. Natália receives several artists, including Maria Fernanda Batalha, who appears in “Penelope”. “Eu Also Sou Teus Rios” is available on the main music platforms and the clip is available on the artist’s YouTube channel. Check out the interview!
Recently released, the video for “Penelope” deals in a very creative way with the destruction of female roles in society, mainly through the analogy of a banquet. I’d like to start by first asking what it was like to come up with the use of this analogy and the history of this project?
Well, before being a video and a song, Penélope was a poem of mine, written in 2018 inside a bus. haha. And one of the great inspirations for this poem was the homonymous text by the writer Nélida Piñon. The image of the banquet comes from there first and, within my studies of feminism and the decolonization of knowledge, this image of the banquet establishes itself as a potent way of subverting the pejorative relationship that was historically established between the feminine and the kitchen. I like to think of the kitchen as a place of power and revolution as well. From a knowledge that comes from the body, more than from the intellect so overrated by the patriarchy. I think this was the first principle that guided the clip’s project and made the banquet gain centrality. In fact, the narrative we created points to the kitchen and the knowledge of herbs as a place of power, since in the clip the protagonists kill by poisoning a system that oppresses 90% of the bodies.
My multi-artist friend, Maria Fernanda Batalha set the poem to music and recorded the song with me. Then when I decided to shoot a video for the record, of all the songs, this one was the most theatrical. It has to be Penelope! I thought. So I invited Alice Gouveia to direct the clip. Alice had already photographed the cover of the album, the publicity photos and has a photography direction completely based on visual arts. After aligning the script, she invited the girls from Agência Nebá to develop the art direction, costumes and beauty of the video.
You are currently working on your first album which is “Eu Tambou Sou Teus Rios”, which in addition to showing a bit of your northeastern ancestry, it also dialogues in a personal way with your feelings and worldview. Right at the beginning of this launch journey, what has been the meaning of this project in your life?
Despite being new to music, I’ve been producing artistically for at least 10 years. Therefore, having released my first authorial album has a very special meaning for me. Seeing my poems gaining melody, harmony, voice and enchanting bodies is very magical. On the record, I feel that there is a maturation of several processes that I have been developing in different artistic languages during my life (I’ve done shows as an actress, I’m a visual artist and a poet too). And I feel that in creating the album I was able to formally translate my repertoire of poetic images more easily. There was rigor, but also a lot of viscerality. It really is a dream come true for me. And that was only possible thanks to incredible partnerships. By the way, I still ended 2022 debuting the record show at the Brazilian Cinemateca, within the Jardim Secreto Festival.
In addition to you, another person involved in the project is director Alice Gouveia Barroso. How was the exchange between you and what were the first contacts you had to start lining up the music video?
Wow, the exchange was incredible and very respectful, since we were two women exhausted from seeing a violent patriarchal structure operating in the artistic environment. After Alice accepted the invitation to direct, we had a first meeting to brainstorm ideas. I scored what I thought couldn’t be missed and what didn’t have to do with my creative process. That done, I sent a first draft of the script to Alice, who, in addition to finalizing and filling in the holes I had left, also brought a whole repertoire of reference images ready for the clip. So we invited Agência Nebá to direct the clip’s art, costumes and beauty. (They were even the ones who produced the beautiful feast) We sent them the script and we aligned every detail of this pre-production together there on whatsapp hehehe. I think it was like 2 or 3 weeks of pre. We filmed everything in 4 days and this team (me, Alice and Agência Nebá) was present in all 4 days.
One of the big problems we face in today’s world is certainly prejudice, it is one of the cases we see the most, including in art is xenophobia, we had some like the case of Juliette accusing a dubbing team when asked to neutralize her accent during a production. With Northeastern ancestry, what are your points of view in relation to these cases that happen in the artistic class?
I’m from São Paulo. My parents who are northeastern. My father is from Guaratinga in Bahia and my mother is from Caruaru, Pernambuco. But even as a paulistana I have my point of view on this. I find this situation that happened to Juliette, for example, very complicated, because I don’t believe in neutrality. LOL. Paulista also has an accent, why does everyone have to fit this way of speaking?! It’s a lot of presumption. But this is something due to the Eurocentrism that was established with the violent process of colonization. For Eurocentric thinking, vehemently supported by Cartesian science, there is the peak of evolution that culminates in the straight white man (just look up the human family tree, Anne McClintock talks about it in the book Imperial Leather). The Southeast mirrors this way of thinking: the top of the evolution of the accent culminates in the way of speaking in São Paulo. It’s wow. I remember my mother telling me that she stopped wanting to go to school as a child here in São Paulo, because everyone made fun of her accent. My mother finished school when I was only 7 years old.
Her album is bringing together different musical styles, such as coco de roda, maracatu, baião and afoxé that together provoke mobilization with questions of the body, female identity, hunger, times, chaos, among other phenomena. In her opinion, what would be the true power of music as a vehicle for propagating cultural identities?
I really believe in the power of art to create other possible imaginaries. Be in any language. This may come along with the propagation and diffusion of cultural identities, but it has never been my main focus. Especially because although this happens somehow, it depends a lot on how much the cultural industry – which has an absurd power of distribution – is interested in spreading these other rhythms and cultural productions. Right now, we see an industry emphasis almost exclusively on pop and sertanejo, for example. Anyway, I understand artistic production as a translator of archetypes, reanimating language and regulating the psyche. This is a very Jungian approach, which is even present in my master’s degree in Visual Poetics and, not by chance, guides my entire creative journey. LOL
A characteristic of your songs is the way you bring them with the use of theatrical and poetic references that dialogue with your origins. In that case, how does your composition process usually work and what elements could not be missing in your music?
Most of the compositions came from a poem/text of mine that already existed. Poetry/word moves me in a very profound way. Then, with the lyrics in hand, I determined a rhythm that would guide the song. My biggest fear was running out of swing, a rather lukewarm MPB that I’m terrified of. haha. Having studied percussion before taking up singing, I know most of the keys of popular Brazilian rhythms. I would record something simple on the tambourine, or with palms and I would draw the melody on top. My process with the melody is very intuitive, and my goal is to create something beautiful that I can hear and say: wow, what a beautiful melody. Because I already have this natural relationship with the melodies I listen to. I’m always attentive. Then, as I don’t master any harmonic instrument, and I’m very strict with the entire process of creating songs, I partnered with other musicians so that they could create harmony from this process of mine. Six of the eight compositions on the album were made in partnership with guitarist Eder Sandoli (known for collaborating with Tom Zé, Jarbas Mariz and playing with Trio Virgulino and Itamar Assumpção) who also signed the musical direction of the album. All partnerships made in the process involved affection. I only invited people with whom I had some affection/friendship relationship, who believed in what I was creating and who were extremely rigorous and visceral in the creative process.
Not only musical releases, your store will also arrive with news. What’s new for your virtual store and preparations for the coming months?
Wow, I launched a lot of new products at the end of 2022. In the next few months I want to take back the T-shirts that sold out, produce CD T-shirts, paint a lot and do more CD shows. My god I love being on stage! hahahaha
Alceu Valença, Chico César, Lenine and Zeca Baleiro are some of your inspirations, would you say that Northeastern culture is your greatest inspiration?
For sure! It has something of the swing of popular rhythms and the poetic rigor of these authors that speaks directly to my heart.
Follow Natalia Xavier on Instagram
*Interview in partnership with Regina Soares