Songs by the sea

Moroccan-born singer Victoria Serruya presents a cross-Atlantic program of music that feeds off the rhythms and energies of Portugal and Brazil.

Victoria Serruya (photo credit: Courtesy)
Victoria Serruya
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The sea has always played a major part in singer Victoria Serruya’s life. Born in Morocco, she made aliya with her family at the age of five.
“The only thing I can remember from the trip to Israel is the sea,” she says.
RELATED:The Fall guyAll together now at the Yellow Submarine
The family settled in Acre, where the beach occupied much of Serruya’s early years and, although she now lives in Motza near Jerusalem, the sea continues to make its presence felt in her art.
On January 27 (8:30 p.m.) Serruya will front the On Both Sides of the Ocean concert at Jerusalem’s Confederation House, with a program of music that feeds off the rhythms and energies of Portugal and Brazil.
“They are both Portuguese-speaking countries with the Atlantic Ocean between them, which both separates and joins them together,” she explains adding, however, that there are also some important differences between the two countries.
“There are different colors there, and Brazil comprises three races, the Portuguese, Indians and the Africans. For me Portugal has a grand past, of many discoveries, while Brazil is a place of freedom and independence. Those are some of the things I would like to convey at the concert.”
Serruya has been working long and hard on the current project.
“I don’t do anything by halves,” she declares.
“For me, it’s all or nothing.” That total approach also involved getting her pronunciation spot on.
“I took two teachers to help me with my accent in Portuguese. It was a bit more difficult with the Brazilian accent but I think I’ve got it down pretty well now.”
The texts for the new show – some of which come from poems by iconic Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa – were, naturally, chosen with great care although they were not the primary driving force.
“The texts were the most important thing for the Turkish project I did for the Israel Festival [in 2002]. That was a tribute to [twentieth century Turkish poet] Nazim Hikmat. But this time I started from the music and then gravitated towards the texts.”
Two of the musicians from the Abidin Ensemble with which Serruya performed at the Israel Festival, double bass player Ehud Erlich and percussionist Oren Fried, will be on the stage at Confederation House next week, and they will be joined by guitarist Udi Horev and mandolin player Yaki Reuven.
THE MAIN musical component of the On Both Sides of the Ocean concert is the darkly bluesy fado genre of Portugal, with some added brighter coloring from Brazil. Serruya worked for several years as a theater actress before eventually returning to the stage as a singer, for the Nazim Hikmat project.
“I hadn’t been on the stage for 15 years before the Israeli Festival,” Serruya recalls, “and I was petrified.” Some of her theatrical upbringing will, no doubt, come through at the new show.
It took a while for Serruya to get into fado.
“I’d heard some in the past but I really started delving into it seriously two years ago. Fado expresses longing and solitude, like looking out over the sea to the horizon, from somewhere like Portugal. I like that. I like being alone and doing things my way.”
Serruya’s way also involves finding the pieces she needs to make up the eventual picture she wants.
“I choose colors, like with a painter’s palette. I pick the songs I want then check to see what colors I am missing.”
In a way, On Both Sides of the Ocean is a sort of homecoming for Serruya.
“I think I know Portugal and its culture from my childhood in Morocco. There is something very familiar about it all. Brazil is about sun and lots of characters and aromas. Portugal is very different. There is something in me that connects with that.”
For more information: (02) 624-5206 or www.Confederation