Interview with Sofia Hoffmann: For the sharing of the emotions: Video

Jazz interview with jazz singer Sofia Hoffmann. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Sofia Hoffmann: – I grew up mainly in Lisbon, although I spent as well long holiday periods in Düsseldorf (Germany) with my German Grandparents. My Family always exposed me to music, since I was a baby. I loved to sing all the children’s lullabies, and maybe music became special to me because of that, and because of the happiness and fun it was.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

SH: – I started to sing Portuguese and pop covers with a school band we had (5 elements total). I also gave the first steps in terms of songwriting at that time. Later on, the musicians with whom I sang and built a repertoire introduced me to new music styles, such as bossa nova, and soul. Jazz stepped in as I decided to take a short masterclass with the Italian singer Laura Fedele. Finally, in 2015, I was initiated into Indian classical music by my teacher, the late Acharya Roop Verma. My music profile is therefore including some of these different music styles.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

SH: – Practice is of course key to achieve excellence, in whatever you do. Music is definitely not an exception. Vocal exercises, exploring high, middle and low keys, are a must before going on stage. Concerning rhythm, it is fundamental to have a good breathing technique to keep the pace of the music and to be able to properly sing all words and notes. As for the sitar, which I’m learning now from the international sitarist and composer Arjun Verma, rhythm becomes an even bigger challenge, considering the richness of the Indian classical music. Listening, understanding and singing the rhythmic formulas is the base of the instrumental performance and improvement.

JBN: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

SH: – At this stage, and taking my music background into consideration, yes, my compositions drift more to harmony. The harmonic patterns of this album are mainly a reflex of jazz, of world music and until a certain (little) extent, of Indian classical music. The existing dissonance is part of specific moods, and although it was a conscious decision to work on it, the musicians were free to use it as they wished.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

SH: – It is important to express ourselves artistically in whatever music influence comes to our minds. Nevertheless, when your presenting yourself on stage or through an album, it is good to guide the audience through your “music story”, of which the elements should have some connection or have a common aspect. This aspect may be a moment or a period in your life, a music gender, a subject or a mood.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

SH: – The intellect should be there for the technique and for the performance development. The soul should be there for the inspiration. For the sharing of the emotions. Both should coexist and are depending on each other. You may have an excellent playing technique, but without putting your soul into the music you play, you will eventually sound cold or even uninteresting.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

SH: – I’m ok with giving the audience what they want, as long as it is something that I have to share. And as long as it adds value to their emotions and wellbeing.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

SH: – Sure! The summer gigs at the Bela Vista Hotel & Spa (Algarve, Portugal) with my school band as I was 16; the first jam session with one of the musicians I sing with, Nanã Sousa Dias (he’s considered one of the best in Portugal!). The day I sang Night and Day with my Portuguese idol (during my adolescence), Luis Represas.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

SH: – The secret of music is to feel it, more than understand it. The age of a music piece is never correlated to its timeless perception and understanding. The quality of the music though, is clearly setting the level of its perpetuity. Referring concretely to jazz, it is of course important to understand what is going on when the musicians improvise, but again – feeling the music and listening to it is half way to understand it. I taught music to 3 to 7 years old children at school, and after giving them a simple, basic explanation about what improvisation meant, even the youngest ones improvised on the scales and harmonies I was playing on the guitar (which was actually part of my life during 4 intensive years of study). Exposing children to good music, including jazz and classical music, is fundamental for their sensitivity regarding music, and for their intellectual and emotional development within this field. It will enable them to fully enjoy even these endless jazz standards!

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

SH: – According to my guru, Roop Verma, we are constituted by body, mind and spirit. Body is necessary for us to materialize, and accomplish, and to physically express our mind and spirit.
The mind is nonphysical, fundamental tool of our intellect, or our rational side. Mind acts on the body, drives us through our actions and attitudes; it relates to our consciousness. It is also here where the ego exists and works, providing us confidence to perform and to accomplish, but also playing tricks if it occupies too much “space”!
Ultimately, and when the mind is dominated or asleep through specific methods and processes, the spirit remains as the unique element of our existence. It shelters not only our artistic and irrational knowledge, but it reflects our deepest emotions as well. It is the level of the superconscious state, erasing all thoughts, questions, doubts and fears. And what may be music, if nothing more than freedom to express ourselves and our emotions, without these boundaries of the intellect? What is the use of life, if we can´t express ourselves? Music comes from the spirit, and it is made for the spirit. And this is how people connect so strongly – through the music, which units us even on a worldwide level. We feel the same emotions, and we share them. And this brings meaning to an individual’s life!

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

SH: – It would be not the fair, global appreciation of the great musicians who add so much happiness and good energy to the world, and who aren’t duly recognized, but also the recognition of the importance of music, not only as an art but also as a mental and spiritual healing tool.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

SH: – Mostly to some of my Portuguese Colleagues, such as Nuno Tavares (responsible for the album’s arrangements), Daniel Bernardes, Joel Silva. Always to Ella Fitzgerald (my jazz diva!), to Stacey Kent. To Ravi Shankar and Roop Verma almost on a daily basis, and to Gaurav Mazumdar and Anoushka Shankar.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

SH: – Unconditional love. For ourselves and for the others. Even the ones who may cause suffering, are contributing to our growth. It is up to us to transform these episodes or encounters into opportunities to become better human beings. Sharing the different shades of love… that’s what One Soul is all about.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

SH: – Great question! I’d probably travel back in time to assist to a concert by Ella Fitzgerald. Or … I’d be back to the times when social events always included the dancing, singing and music performing acts, with some formality and most of all, with respect for the artists!

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

SH: – Could you define jazz in one work only?

JBN: – Thanks for answers. Yes, of course, if it is played by a master or masters …

SH: – NOTE: Thank you so much for giving us the chance to express ourselves through your amazing website! Simply loved it!

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

SH: – Everything we hear and share may become a starting point for inspiration, and for a new song!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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