“I love it deeply, I need it, I need to leave it… and to come back crying because I had forgotten that nowhere do I feel as centred as when I am in Menorca.” Anna Ferrer is a singer whose repertoire and musical personality are deeply involved and enmeshed with the island where she was born. She will be bringing Balearic history (and sunshine) to The Pheasantry, Chelsea, on 6 April. Interview with Sebastian Scotney:
LondonJazz News: How did you discover the history of Menorca?
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Anna Ferrer: I was born and grew up in Menorca surrounded by people in love with the island; I myself am in love with the island, and one wants to know in depth her loved one. I don’t consider myself a great scholar of its history on an intellectual level, but I feel like an active agent of it.
I always wanted to understand who has preceded me and why they have behaved the way they have. That means to understand myself and those close to me, and I have been passionate about that since I was very young.
LJN: Was there a particular light bulb moment when you decided that this was what you really wanted to sing folk music?
AF: I decided that I wanted to live making music through traditional music when I was 2 years old and I was at a party with a lot of people singing folk songs, while eating, drinking and laughing. Music, as a tool that generates community, liberation, union, dissolution of the ego, this is what captured me.
LJN: What is so special about this culture and geography? What do you want people to discover about your land and your history?
AF: Menorca has been French, English, Muslim, Spanish… and it is an island; to the north France, to the south Algeria, to the east Italy, to the west Spain. It has been a strategic place for wars, for industry, for culture… Its isolated quality and its many settlers have favoured that the cultural manifestations left by each of its passers-by remained protected. Recipes, words, stones, rites… I am passionate about the slow times and the care of the processes, and that has more to do with how people lived in the past than in our present (hopefully it will be reversed). I sing to remember these real times of things, this value of community, of grandmother’s cooking, of one’s own words, of diversity, of depth and of ritual.
LJN: When did you start writing songs and arranging folk tunes?
AF: I wrote my first pop song when I was 14 years old. At that same age I joined a group that arranged folk songs (S’albaida), and I have always sung versions of them, but relatively recently I have dissolved the limits between creation and tradition. They are already the same, because someone created that which for us is now tradition, while we all create based on the cultural baggage of where we come from.
LJN: What starts a song for you: the emotion, the experience, the musical phrase…?
AF: You can create from so many places; I’m still in the middle of discovering my ways of creation. Normally I used to love above all the songs that come to me as a complete download, as if someone sent it to me (melody, harmony and lyrics, they are made together and without effort). I think this would be the relationship with the muse, the source. But right now I’m really enjoying writing lyrics, paying all the attention to the message and the poetic form and opening this way more as a composer to give value to what I’ve written.
LJN: You have developed a programme called Parenòstic with a concept, what is the story and what should the listener expect?
AF: The key word of the show is rawness; I feel saturated with the amount of stimuli in our lives right now, the fireworks, the caffeine, all the filtering… I needed to return to a stage putting in value the emptiness, the silence, the slow times, the reality of what you see and what you hear. With Parenòstic I want to show the audience my approach to traditional music, which is informed by the oral tradition, archival research as well as original creation, without being too pedagogical and without wanting to distinguish one thing from the other, because in the end, it’s all the same.
You will hear my voice accompanied by an instrument that is sometimes a synth, a guitarron, a guitar or a drum, singing songs of labour, romances, songs of holy week, my own songs inspired by all this folkloric experience that surrounds me.
The listener should expect a musician unafraid to show her vulnerability and offering a unique insight into Menorcan culture.
LJN: Do you think you will always live in Menorca? Can you imagine yourself living somewhere else?
AF: That’s my conviction. To leave and come back. I love it deeply, I need it, I need to leave it… and to come back crying because I had forgotten that nowhere do I feel as centred as when I am in Menorca. For the last 10 years I have spent more time in Catalonia than in Menorca, but I can’t last more than a month and a half before needing to return home. Creating music in Menorca is an experience of serenity, purity and roots, but sometimes an artist also needs a bit of air, some distance from that centre.
LINKS: BOOKINGS: The Pheasantry, Chelsea