The first thing that struck when I met Aline Farzao was how beautiful she was. Her persona generated a sense of warmth and kindness that simultaneously disarmed me and put me at ease. Twenty four hours later at the Tribe Hotel, I was struck again, this time it was by the beauty of her voice. How strong, matured and rounded it sounded. I’m no music expert, but to my ears, her voice sounded seasoned and her performance also emanated her warmth and kindness.
Aline Farzao. A daughter of Angola, who sings in Portuguese, inspired by Brazilian, hip-hop and Angolan and Cape Verdean music, who fuses her multicultural African soul into a sound, that is unapologetically Aline.
“As far as the Angolan and Cape Verdean music is considered, it’s what moves me and touches me. I am constantly looking for the look and rhythm of the music and this moves me when I am on stage. I am not a religious person, but for me this is the soul of my music,” she says.
Music from Lusophone countries rarely gets to the shores of this part of the continent and Aline was nervous about how her music was going to received by her audiences. However, she was surprised by the responses that she received at the recently concluded Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar and was consequently in here in Nairobi and in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia was her ‘homecoming’, which she confessed had a profound effect on her and will its musical influence will most definitely makes it way to her third album which she is currently working on and is scheduled to be released later this year. She bubbles when recounting her experience in Addis and wore the memory of this trip by wearing a traditional Ethiopian shawl when she performed at the Tribe Hotel in Nairobi.
“This experience in Addis was really inspiring for me! I could understand the rhythm and beats of Ethiopian music, despite its uniqueness and complexity I was able to understand it. I was fascinated by this complexity. Addis for me was similar to Luanda in some way. I not only connected with the music, for me inspiration comes from various influences. It was the contact with people, meeting people who welcome you into their home, listening to their music, sharing coffee and generosity. I call it my recovering in hope experience. I was utopian for me,” Aline recalls.
Her tour in the region has left her more determined to perform in other African cities and in order to share her music, but admits that she dogged by lack of time and money. Her trip however has given her the confidence to take her music to more parts of the continent, sadly Lusophone music is largely limited to the former Portuguese colonies, a fact that is not lost on Aline. She is quick to point out that her music is not your conventional traditional Angolan music and is quick to admit that her music is not your regular Angolan, music. For her it is a fusion of her various cultures with lyrics penned by a woman who is urbane and global. Her music like her is a product of Luanda and a young a vibrant Luanda that is going out into the world grabbing and making opportunities work for them.
“I am a citizen from Luanda and Angola, playing music that touches people and trying to raise questions and to participate not only as a musician but a citizen in trying to make society better,” she describes herself. As she said this, she averted her gaze her from me and stared into the distance, clearly uncomfortable about talking about her. I pointed it this out, she laughed about it, admitted her unease and so went back to talking about her music and her passions.
Aline is also vocal about social issues which she highlight sin her column that appears in an Angolan paper. The inequality between Luanda’s ‘super haves’ and poor, democracy, gender equality and freedom of expression are some of the items that she writes on. She is unapologetic about her views and strongly believes that musicians have a role to play in championing social and political challenges. She confesses to being an over-thinker and loves heated discussions.
Watching her speak and then watching her perform I got to realise her ‘magic’! It was in her eyes and she admitted that this was her style. “ I like looking people in the eyes and at times making them uncomfortable. I’m urging them to forget the world outside and bringing them into my performance and hopefully challenge them and carry them with me.”
Clearly, one can only say that to get to feel Aline’s charm and music then, the eyes have it!