Songs that call spring celebrate longing, dialogue with sadness, celebrate weddings. In “Mova Dreva”, an ethno jazz album by singer and pianist Katerina L’Dokova – born in Belarus and based in Portugal –, folkloric stories that have almost disappeared from the popular imagination gain a new lease of life. The album is now available on all major platforms.
Katerina L’dokova leads a complete quartet by António Loureiro (drums, synthesizers, production and recording), João Fragoso (double bass) and Paulo Bernardino (clarinets). In addition to singing, signing all the compositions, arrangements, musical direction and piano, the artist even created the album cover. “Mova Dreva”, which means the “language of the tree”, has delicate embroidery on the cover. L’dokova is a singer, songwriter, pianist and educator whose trajectory includes some of the main stages, concert halls and festivals in Portugal, in addition to accumulating passages through Brazil, Canada, Sweden, Spain, France, Holland and India. Graduated in Piano Jazz from Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa, she is currently working on a Masters in Music Teaching (Jazz variant). She composes and integrates four authorial music projects. In 2016, she released the album “Ledok”, followed by “Travessia”, from 2019. Now “Mova Dreva” comes to add to this discography.
The starting point of “Mova Dreva” is the folk culture of Katerina’s native Belarus. Each track is a musical tale, inspired by festive songs that celebrate the cycles of nature and life, almost forgotten by current generations. Based on her research into local traditions and customs, she creates a sound panel where influences from jazz and classical music blend with contemporary styles. With a unique sound in the Portuguese scene, the project evokes multiculturalism. Using music as a guiding thread of diversity and folklore as an example of cultural riches from around the world, “Mova Dreva” is an invitation to be surprised with each track. Check out the interview!
Recently released, the album “Mova Dreva” involves different feelings, such as sadness and at the same time celebrating the good times. How was the concept for this song born?
The music and the concept were born when I wanted to dive in search of my roots. I wanted to know about customs, celebrations and the way of seeing the world of my ancestors, who lived in the land where I was born. When investigating, I found recordings and books made with material from expeditions from the 60s. The more songs I discovered, the more that whole universe made sense to me, filled me. The culture and belief in Belarus were very connected to Nature, so much affection and respect that people have towards it. They call Spring, singing songs to it, they ask the patron saints of the land to open it and to let the herbs be born. The songs also talk about sadness and games and step by step I learn to see through the eyes of our grandparents. I transform the songs I find, first I sing and feel what the melody and lyrics bring me, from these sensations arrangements-compositions are born that I make.
One of the most recent rhythms that you have been introducing to the public has been ethno jazz, in addition to approaching forgotten folk stories from the popular imagination. What do you believe is the true power of music as a cultural awareness-raiser?
Music, in addition to lyrics and melody, makes us think beyond, makes us read and feel between the lines. Traditional root music carries with it a strength and wisdom that we understand and learn throughout life. Tradition brings us an awareness of the care we have to take with others, with animals, with trees, birds, rivers, sun and rain, in fact with everything. The message of traditional songs is a profound message that has to reach the heart. It is a message that inspires and makes you live each day with more love.
Despite being based in Portugal, you are from Minsk, region of Belarus. How was this change of countries and what were the main cultural differences that you found between these two places?
Portuguese nature is beautiful, I love the sea, I love seeing the water, I wouldn’t be able to live far from the sea anymore. I think it was only in the process of creating the project “Mova Dreva” that I really started to feel at home. It was very funny that in an article about the album “Mova Dreva”, written in Brazil, the journalist wrote rooted – I cried when I read it. I cried because I understood that I am finally putting down roots in Portugal.
The cultural differences are many, I will never be able to explain to the Portuguese something about the cartoons I saw when I was a child and children’s games, and so many other things, but that doesn’t matter, all people in the world want the same simple things deep down, we are all human.
In addition to fronting a powerful band, you also performed the composition, arrangements, musical direction and even the production of the cover. What was it like balancing all that work on the project?
The work was happening, the music was being born and even the cover ended up appearing. I knew exactly how I wanted the cover, but I didn’t have anyone to embroider it, so I had to learn the traditional symbols and look for ones that reflected the themes of the songs on the album. Besides being a big search, I ended up being able to embroider the 11 symbols and prick all my fingers. Oh, I also made traditional cut shirts for the band members. The musicians who embarked on this project with me are also great friends. I feel really lucky to be able to play with players that I admire so much. I also had the privilege of being able to count on the precious help in the musical production of António Loureiro, whom I met in Lisbon and whose music I already knew because the band’s bass player had already shown it to me a few years ago.
A curiosity about the name “Mova Dreva”, its translated meaning is “tree language”. Where did the creation of this name come from and what is the meaning of the album at this point in your career?
Right, it’s Language, language, way of speaking of the tree, of Nature. In Belarusian symbology, the tree represents life – Roots are the past, wisdom, traditions and culture; the trunk is the gift that is nourished by roots, family and learning; the branches are the future, the dreams. Like plants, a creature also has a past, a present and a future. It’s been a long time since the culture, belonging to some tradition, to some past has been taken away from the people of Eastern Europe. For two centuries the Belarusian language was banned, it almost disappeared. At the moment Belarusian culture and language are still experiencing severe oppression. The “Mova Dreva” project goes beyond music, it is also a manifestation of Belarusian culture that transforms and survives traveling across countries and cultures.
Regarding the art of this album, it came out of his own hands and brings much of the centenary symbology of Belarus. What did you think of this opportunity to be able to bring a little more of your * hometown to our audience and what can we learn from each other?
They seem like a risk here, another one there, but if we look closely, we notice a very strong concept in each image. There is the sun there, which gives life, there is a protective mother who cares and who is very strong, there is spring where the sun warms and the buds are born, there is song, love in bloom, planted land, soul, ancestors, celebration of life and the way. So much kindness, so much caring. This is exactly what we lack on the planet, respect and affection for others and for Nature.
In addition to having performed numerous times, you have already taken to stages in different countries, such as Brazil, Canada, Sweden, Spain, France, Holland and India. What was the performance that most marked you so far and are there any plans for a new tour?
The trip to Brazil marked my path not only artistically, but also personally. The solo concert I did in BH was very impressive, people were so eager to hear and get to know my music. I will forever keep a smile in my heart on this tour. Those huge butterflies, the plants, the colors, the flavors – it’s all a whole new world. The beautiful people with thoughts and dreams, like the branches that go to the stars. I would love to go back to Brazil.
In addition to being a singer, you are also dedicated to teaching her, including composing four authorial projects. How does it feel to be able to pass on to others something that is so significant in your life, like music?
I started teaching a long time ago. It was never a matter of choice, everyone with a music background taught. But as the years went by, I left the conservatory where I taught because it no longer made sense for me to follow the programs and teach in standards that did not fit reality. I went to study Jazz, started to compose and nowadays I teach, adapting the teaching to each person more carefully. Being a teacher is also being able to feel and understand the person at the moment, leading not only what the person learns, but also how they feel. It gives me joy to see the sparkle in the students’ eyes when they manage to play what they wanted, when they find new sounds, when they manage to express themselves with the sounds of instruments and voice. “Beauty will save the world” and music is part of that beauty.
“Mova Dreva” is her third album, following “Ledok” (2016) and “Travessia” (2019). What do you believe was the main difference that this new project is bringing to the public?
On the one hand, the album “Mova Dreva” introduces the public to the culture of Belarus, the traditional melodies that many people have never heard, the stories and way of life, the people’s connection with Nature and its celebrations. On the other hand, this project brings a reflection on the connection of all the peoples of the world. After the concerts, people come to tell me that in their region there was also a similar custom, or that the melody of a song reminded me of a melody that their grandmother used to sing. It’s just one world, we say the same things in different words.
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