By Rosine Alleva and Jose Oliveira, Journalists/Photographers, Rock At Night Correspondents in Colmar, France
INTERVIEW: DO MONTEBELLO – COLMAR, April 8, 2017
It was at the 2017 Spring festival in Colmar that we had the honor to discover the artist Do Montebello with her new album “BIRDY HEART“.
Do Montebello was born in Albi, she first discovered Arabic-Andalusian music, songs and Jazz, before succumbing to the charm of Brazilian rhythms where she forged strong musical friendships. Her first album “ADAMAH” (Red Earth in Hebrew), released in 2014, evokes with emotion, ecological trauma and pays tribute to those who try to survive by preserving their secular cultures. At the junction of world music, jazz, and classical music, ADAMAH was hailed by le Monde (the French Newspaper) as “delicate and delicious”.
Accompanied by some of the most prestigious Brazilian instrumentalists, this second album “BIRDY HEART”, was recorded a few months ago with a more Jazz soul. On this new opus Do Montebello magnifies “Peace” by Horace Silver, “Never let me go” by Evans Ray & Jay Livingston. But also pearls from the Brazilian repertoire signed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Moacir Santos, Edu Lobo, Toninho Horta and Luiz Eça.
It was on a sunny day and in a very intimate ambient in José Oliveira’s garden, that we had this magnificent interview with Do Montebello. The sensitivity of each word aroused such an emotion….it just makes you fly. It was a pure moment of joy, just like if time was suspended.
RAN – Can you tell us a bit about your career?
Do Montebello – What is very unusual about me is that I come from the world of writing. Words are my first music. In the sense of the sound they reveal. I write a lot with the sound of words. I often ask the composers to try to put poetry on my words as if the music was words…And me, to listen to my words music! It is the reversal of things. They don’t make the music, I do, and they create poetry on it ! In fact, it’s what is very curious in this request. I come from the « word » since the childhood, I was a very lonely child when I was little. There was no musical instrument at home and I regret it a lot but to the favor one day of a Bach record ! Music made its shattering entry into my life and I began to write, listening to Bach! My first poems came from there, I needed to express that incredible strength I had just felt. A bit like the feeling of being sucked into something immense!
RAN- And at what age?
DM- I must have been be 7-8 years old !!!
RAN- Wow! Incredible!
DM- And then I did literary studies, obviously. I simply felt that it was my route. And then came the music because I started to speak Portuguese, I invested a lot in this beautiful language, really fell in love with this language.
RAN – Yesterday in Colmar, you presented, at the prestigious Music and Culture Festival, the entirety of your new opus, “BIRDY HEART” recorded in BRAZIL last January and February. We felt you were invaded by an “onda de felicidade“! What did the concert in Colmar mean for you ?
DM- It is very interesting that this project has come in the land of storks! It is interesting that this Bird (Birdy Heart) flies here for the first time. At the same time there is no coincidence … Because just as birds sail and birds are free, I have an inner traveling soul. I wish that this music could go everywhere, because it is a peculiarity of my freedom. I think each of us carries this. You have this “birdy heart“, José has this “birdy heart” inside, we all have! This indestructible soul reminds us that there is something of us that never disappears from life!
RAN – The Colmarian public gave a “standing ovation” at the end of your magnificent set. It is a real recognition for your creative investment.
DM- Yes, it was a huge recognition all the more that I found it was a very attentive public, as I was told that it was a priori rather closed, not expressing too much its emotions…I have experienced the opposite with these people. They sang, picked up chants that are really not easy, with dissonance, with complex chords and at the same time they let themselves be carried by this happy bird to the heart. It was important. As the concert progressed, I felt this wonderful bubble, the burning fire of love, in fact! That’s what we are, against all odds, because the opposite of love is not hatred! It’s the lack of love ! Yesterday I felt that there was something that fulfilled the mission in this concert which was “Yes, something is possible in our crazy societies, and those crazy rhythms “This project wants to take the opposite of this endemic evil which is the waste of time for the human!
RAN – Tell us how this work was conceived. Why did you choose to record in BRAZIL?
DM– I really appreciate that question. Because contrary to what one might think, making an album that induces climates would rather carry me in a north country! But we often have an extremely hackneyed image of Brazil, for my part false, which is the permanent extroverted country ! No, it’s wrong ! There are unknown artists in Brazil, others a bit better known, who do a job, I’d like to say, of inwardness. Who do a job that requires silence! And I went to get this Latin-American silence! Not just the silence of the snow-covered Nordic steppes. Sometimes in the countries of the sun, there is the silence of the shade in the afternoon, when everything is bathed in sunshine and when we know very well that in the cool of the houses, something wonderful is happening….this quiet, peaceful time! I love those moments, and I went there to find composers who understood that. There are several – there is the great TONINHO HORTA, a great composer-arranger of Minas Gerais, to whom I asked for one of his compositions. When you see the majesty of INHOTIM, it’s a 420 hectares park, beautiful modern contemporary art and you are in the middle of this impressive Nature, with trees that have the circumference of the Eiffel Tower, I let you appreciate the sensation you have and this silence so present. I went to get that, and it’s where I went to register my project! In a country that is said to be extremely “batucada”, percussions … This is not Brazil.
RAN – Your first work “ADAMAH”described your attachment to this often-maltreated Planet Earth, while questioning humanity about its relationship to life. What is the frame of BIRDY HEART?
DM – The frame of Birdy Heart starts from something quite simple. You know, we have a very special avian species deep within the chest cavity. Able to palpitate, to beat widely, able to express emotions or not. Able to feel carried by a crazy desire for freedom. That’s the bird-heart! He’s there, somewhere. You know there is this beautiful text from BUKOWSKI “Blue Bird”, where he says “I let you go out from time to time at night, but you won’t blow my book sales in Europe. Keep quiet and I quickly put it back inside because I am not a man who weeps. And you ? » And BIRDY HEART is the journey and the path of each one to this wonderful question which, for me, is in the sentence of SOCRATES “You who have the chance to live, what do you do with your life? It is in this inwardness that we must seek! Not outside! Nothing comes from the outside. Never. The answers are always inside. And if we hear this bird-heart, it is a majesty. You know, when you read Farid ATTAR’s “Cantique des oiseaux » (Canticle of the Birds)“ you have the feeling of seeing all these birds going on the quest for the Sîmorgh, they are led by the Hoopoe and they look for this divine bird, the source of life. They will travel through valleys and mountains, cross all kinds of things, fullness, all human feelings. After a while, they made such a journey, they arrive near the Sîmorgh and what do they perceive? That they didn’t move, that this bird shines within themselves. The bird-heart! This is the genesis of the bird-heart ! It is the absolute necessity to return to the source of the Eternal!
RAN– The inner quest! I think more and more people are coming back to this. But it’s a huge work.
DM– Yes, especially to put it in music! It’s very complex!
RAN– Who were the musicians who participated to this album? Have they easily adhered to your project?
DM– Sergio FARIAS is a 17-year-old accomplice who is both composer-arranger and guitarist. He is very receptive to my words and the texts I send him. I think we have the same philosophy of existence. There is Airton GUIMARAES, beautiful on the double bass. There is also Roberto TAUFIC, an extraordinary guitarist, of Palestian origin but Brazilian. Then there are magnificent guests who are obviously the great Jacques MORELENBAUM, violoncellist with Antonio CARLOS JOBIM, having played with the greatest, YO – YO MA, Ryuichi SAKAMOTO, prodigious people and being the arranger of MARIZA and having arranged the last Album of CARMINHO and I have the honor to have him to the cello on four of the titles! And also Toninho HORTA, who is a virtuoso guitarist who has worked with PAT METHENY. It is today the guitarist reference of Brazil and almost world! I can even give you a scoop, he will release a very good songbook of 180 pages. Something that will really be followed because he has beautiful melodies. “WAITING FOR YOU” is on my album and he accompanies me on this piece!
RAN – Do you have a scheduled date for the release of this last opus?
DM– These things are always hypothetical because I don’t want to make a record! I want to make a book-record! It means finding a label that adheres to this proposition, where I will put drawings, I have 120 drawing boards, 20 poems, plus the album and the music! And pictures. It is a project that wants to be in another dynamic, another dimension. Will it be an American, French or German label? I am not bound to any party! I am the free bird heart and I want this project to be brought to people with that freedom, which I want to give to this project. So that people have a beautiful object in the hands. Music is dying because of the Internet, the virtualization of the media. I want to return to something that is a jewel case of beauty! That people can touch, look, come back to, a design, a picture, read a poem listening to music…that’s all I like. We will make sure that it will emerge next November.
RAN– We feel a perfect harmony on stage between the poetry of your texts and the musical virtuosity of the musicians. They are Brazilians. Does this help?
DM– It’s good that you come back to this question! Because I forgot an essential figure in this project, Marc Berthoumieux. A French accordionist, who accompanied Claude NOUGARO, MAURANE and who is actually grafted on this album in a spectacular and prodigious way. He was yesterday on stage with me and he brings an extreme elegance! It’s someone who is very connected. Able to watch on stage, to smile, his music breathes … I like it very much.
RAN– We totally agree. The participation of MARC BERTHOUMIEUX in your Sextet was absolutely remarkable. How did it happen ? Will he continue to play with you?
DM– At the beginning, before recording “BIRDY HEART”, we made a memorable date in Paris, and we remember it very well since it was 2 days before the Paris bombings. We played at this venue “Le Studio de l’Ermitage” and we presented a few pieces of “BIRDY HEART. I invited Marc BERTHOUMIEUX and there was a magical moment on this title that he adored. You know, when things like that come together naturally, when it’s a bit a question of color, harmony, something between people, that makes it happen…Quite simply, I want to say yes. I dream of having a plethora of dates with this team, which really yesterday, raised the heart of Colmar because I believe it is a team that is fully inserted in this project! And so, to answer your question, Marc will be part of this adventure on the road. I sincerely mean it.
RAN– Sergio FARIAS, the wonderful guitarist came from Brazil for this concert! Where does this complicity come from and what are, for you, his artistic qualities that make him become essential on stage?
DM– As I explained at the beginning of our interview, he has the ability to hear the music of my words. In a song you have 3 minutes to tell a story. He is able to inlay some notes that will induce the climate of a sea, the climate of a sky, or a small thing that happens, he has this filmic ability to bring music in resonance with the words! And create an image for people! It’s fabulous to have a custom tailor!
RAN– A great variety of influences inhabit your music. Where does this musical eclecticism come from?
DM– It comes from the fact that I have always lived in foreign countries, since I’m a little one. I was one month old when I left the city where I was born, in ALBI. My parents went into exile in MOROCCO, ALGERIA, MAURITANIA and then BRAZIL…the CARIBBEAN for almost 10 years, singing. So it was a pretty fabulous experience and I think mostly that the influences come from the human beings I met and who overwhelmed me. When we have a lot of stuff, there is something in us that brings together flavors, colors, textures, emotions, codes of cultures. Everything is material to my music.
RAN– You sing in English and Portuguese. Is it the subject of a new composition that influences the choice of the language in which you are going to interpret it? ? How do you decide it?
DM– You know, PAUL VALERY said “the first word is a gift from the Gods”! I almost want to tell you that, for example, the first sentence of “BIRDY HEART” that came to my mind, came to me in English. “In spite of this rib cage, my Birdy Heart swings there! Tell me what is better, those heavy skies he dreams of to spread out his wings or one’s inside dim chest where music made its nest“ Then, it’s work! I go back, change a word. I hesitated for a long time to put” blue chest “but dim chest was better. “Dim” is this thing “the hearth”, when there is nothing left but the embers still crackling inside of the gray, this little red-orange color… well the “Bird-heart” is inside there! In these embers, burning with so much love! So much love! At the beginning all my compositions are driven by a word, a phrase or something.
RAN– Something like the volcano you evoke? Can you tell us about it?
DM- I wanted to talk about migrants. I couldn’t leave it to chance. I wanted it to be translated by an image. So what is this Volcano? It erupts and all the fauna has to leave. We see them running everywhere. And in a report, I saw this little butterfly fly over the wide ocean with an island in the background and I said to myself, “There’s no way to go back, it’s over“. What is the most dangerous? Leaving or staying? All the people leaving for economic reasons, reasons of survival, or climate change, with what is done to the Earth, but do you think they feel glad-hearted? When we look at what was the XII century, with magnificent agreements. There have been times when life has been more human in the sense of human wisdom. Today the world of money has overwhelmed mentalities so much that we can’t tell the difference between what it is to leave, because we want the best for our children, and we who fight to save money, to finally buy air tickets to see how it is elsewhere? But in what world are we? It is necessary to restore life to its proper dimension. Are we interested by the human and his culture or are we interested to spend a lot of money to have the illusion of knowing a country…
This is what I wished to say with the Volcano “Breathe butterfly, don’t look back, fly, there is no more return, leave the volcano behind. On this wide blue ocean you spread out your wings, what is the most scary between staying and leaving. Breathe butterfly, your tiny heart feels better as it braves immensity, for there is a new life blooming, an island for you to make a living“…Maybe…
I admire the Greeks. What the Greeks did with emigration, no country would have been able to do it! They were in the front line and continue to assume.
RAN– “Birdy Heart“ makes us definitely fly! Does Horace Silver’s magnificent cover of “Peace” define the subject of this new album?
DM– Absolutely! Thank you for this fundamental question! The song finishes with this wonderful sentence “Peace is for everyone”, for everyone! In each human there is a flame that can’t be put to death by man. I’m persuaded that, as I said earlier, the opposite of love is not hatred! It’s the lack of love!
Thanks for letting us look deeply into your “Birdy Heart” and feel how life can just be wonderful!! Obrigado…
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From Belgian and Italian parents, I grew up with music, dance and big fun! I love singing since I'm a little girl, I still am, haha. When I was 14, I saw my first concert: T-Rex. Later it was FrankZappa, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Fela, Canned Heat, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Earth, Wind and Fire ....
I dreamed to have a chat with each of them 😀 Before interviewing bands, I used to sing (and still do) and met lots of great musicians. I had the chance to be the support band to Joe Cocker in 2007. I love to communicate and meet people (Italian blood).
Working for magazine, a few years ago, l met José Oliveira! We were working at the same festival in Colmar. 2 people from the South with the same passion just recognized each other...and we stayed in contact since then. Here I am! Enjoying concerts, covering interviews and articles with José for Rock at Night!!