Music: Interview: Claudia Aurora

Simon Fry, October 4, 2016

Quite how Claudia Aurora has yet to grace Jools Holland’s Later… is the stuff of music mystery.

As one of the UK’s finest purveyors of fado, the brooding, bewitching, beautiful blues of Portugal, steeped in love, loss and longing, hers is a perfect fit for the format, a sound suited sublimely to the lateness of the hour. This is music of drama, darkness and decorum, with the traditional exhortation, “Silence! Fado will be sung!” proof of the respect given to its performance in its native land. 

Not that BBC recognition has not come her way, with a performance on the Radio 3 stage at WOMAD 2012 and a Royal Festival Hall broadcast live on Radio 3 on her increasingly impressive CV.

It was, however, in her adopted home town of Bristol that Claudia first sang fado. After moving from her native Porto to the city in October 2003, Claudia sang bossa nova and música popular brasileira in Bristol and nationwide, all the while singing the blues in the most intimate of settings. “Fado for me was very private, like my little secret. I only used to sing it for friends after dinner parties, not beginning to sing fado in public until June 2006 at Bar One30 (Stokes Croft’s The Social.) That was where it all started for me. When I started singing the songs live that night, I felt a huge connection with the music of my own country and an amazing public response.”  

The connection was made with Bristol’s Portuguese community and beyond, as a flame was lit. “I remember being extremely nervous and had no idea what to expect, practising a set of traditional fado songs for a long time, fully preparing myself to give my best performance. There were people sitting on the floor in front of me because the venue was packed, lots of familiar and unfamiliar faces longing to hear this “new” fado singer…I felt lots of pressure and remember thinking to myself  “This will be a one-off Claudia, do not worry, just close your eyes”….I never imagined two years later I would drop all my other music projects to focus fully on fado singing and songwriting.”

Between 2006 and 2012 Claudia sang regularly across Bristol, organising events which sometimes included film and the poetry of another of Bristol’s adopted Portuguese artists, poet and painter Fernando Messias. Claudia’s atmospheric show at Metropolis (the former Jesters and Magic Box) remains vivid in the memory, as do magical nights at the Folk House, including a Cots for Tots charity evening also featuring Katey Brooks.  

As Claudia’s star continued to rise, London was her next stop, where her career has taken in concerts at Kings Place and the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room and a residency at Camden’s Green Note. She completed the UK’s largest tour by a fado singer and has played in South Korea and Poland. London – Streatham, to be exact – is also the location of Café Barcelona where Claudia and husband Javier Moreno (also her fado guitarist/co-songwriter) stage fado, flamenco, gypsy swing and rebetiko, bringing together the capital’s musical community to cook-up compositions and inspiration to go with pasteis de Nata that are worthy of the gods.      

Despite the London move’s benefits, Claudia often has Bristol on her mind. “I miss the community, my good old bike rides, Gloucester Road, my lovely and amazing friends, the house parties, the music nights, so many good things about Bristol, it feels like home every time I visit. I’m very grateful to Bristol for all the opportunities it gave me to develop my talents.”

Now a historic Bristol venue welcomes back an adopted daughter for a date with destiny. “I’m very happy and excited to be singing in Bristol again and the Colston Hall feels right at this stage. I always wanted to sing there and now the time has come. It’s always magical to sing back home and for my people. I am normally very nervous before entering the stage but after a couple of songs I feel relaxed and in my element. I love sharing my songs, stories and my sentiments with the public. My aim is to transport them so they forget all of life’s worries.”

Claudia’s rapport with her audience is part of her appeal, explaining the background to her songs’ lyrics, rhythm and feel, interjecting humour and lightness when singing about childhood, cracking the odd joke with a crowd eating out of her hand.

Bristol’s music fans – of all genres – are guaranteed something special on Sunday from an artist heading for long deserved mainstream acclaim. Fado, with its themes of love lost to the sea, is all the more powerful in this port city. 

Until you can see Claudia sparkling with Jools, you are very much recommended to see her lighting up The Lantern.   

Claudia Aurora plays The Lantern on Sunday October 9.  For more information visit http://www.colstonhall.org/shows/claudia-aurora

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