Q&A With Serah

Dateline: 04/16/99

Serah is a performer who knows all about the power of music in crossing cultural boundaries. Her newest album Senegal Moon has a strong African influence -- no surprise since Serah lived there for a year -- as well a European feel. Recorded in France (Bernard Paganotti, the bass player in Francis Cabrel's band is a co-producer), Senegal Moon is a testament to Serah's belief that music can cross cultural boundaries and lead to goddness in the world.

Serah will perform on May 11 at the opening day of the Hague Appeal for Peace, taking place from May 11-15 in the Netherlands. At the moment, she is also busy working on a new album with a projected Summer 1999 release date, producing other artists, and contemplating other charitable events.

I recently spoke to Serah on the phone from her current home in California about music, cultures, and peace.
Paula: How did you get involved in the Hague Appeal for Peace concert?

Serah: This is really a long story because I get involved with a lot of charitable projects. Thereís a group called the Womenís Summit Foundation based in Geneva Switzerland. Their mission is to try to reduce, heal the problems of abuse with women and children throughout the world and they really address some of the harsher sides of it as it relates to African countries and Chinese countries and some of the countries where the abuse is so severe to both the women and children. At the conference Mikhail Gorbechev had for childrenís rights and peace for the world ten years ago, they had presented one of my earlier records to him as a present and a token of those ideals. They are the ones who proposed the World Peace Conference to me. Itís a wonderful cause and will be fun doing it.

Paula: As a music artist, what do you feel is musicís most important role in promoting peace?

Serah: It depends on what the music is, and I love all kinds of music, but my ideal in music always is that itís inspired and that it inspires manís higher nature. I donít mean that it has to be anything Earth-shaking, but that it moves us in that direction of making people feel good and possibly igniting higher idealism through lyrics and music. Music is a wonderful metaphor for world relation because with music you can blend the best of so many cultures and when people get rid of egos and power trips the result is wonderful music. Weíve seen this happen with so many different kinds of music.

I am very intrigued with blending the African/European sound and I got inspired from that because I lived in African for a year and worked in a drought area -- I did that just because I started to feel frustrated that my music wasnít enough to do for the world and I should really do something hands on -- but after doing it we had a wonderful experience where we found families for 500 orphaned children with the help of some wonderful local charity organizations. It was also an emotionally really challenging year. When I was out in the bush with the Dorobo and Trikona tribes, the music was so beautiful and I had my guitar and would play songs I was writing and they would just chime in with harmonies and ad lib rhythms and lyrics and it was so exciting and really exhilarating. I thought "one day I have to bring that into my recording experience," and I never knew exactly how it would fall together. Some years later when I was recording in Paris we started to pull it together because there is a lot of African music in Paris and we were able to bring those elements into the recording and thatís what Senegal Moon really is.

Paula: Are there other cultures you are looking at incorporating into your music besides African?

Serah: I love all cultures; I think all cultures have something really beautiful to offer and I havenít been exposed to all of them personally. I love Peruvian music; there are so many different kinds of music that I love. In terms of my blood, my roots would be more Celtic. Irish, Scottish, English and then of course that is sort of like folk music, but having lived in France I ended up French musicians and some of the musicians -- one of the musicians in Japanese and the drummer is Japanese, we had singers from Senegal, one singer who sometimes sings with us is from Cameroon, and then one of my producers is half-French half-Moroccan, so there is a variety in there and those are sounds I am familiar with working with but I am always open to learning more. On my new album, I also love the Native American culture a lot, and we have a wonderful singer who adds a lot to what we are working on. He sings in Sioux, in Lakota, so I am really excited about that.

Paula: For a musician who wants to incorporate different cultures in their sound, how important do you think it is personally immerse yourself in that culture the way you did with Africa?

Serah: I think that would be individual. In terms of me I feel like I am pretty sensitive to certain things and if inspiration leads me to a certain culture, to using certain cultural sounds I donít feel like Iíd have to have lived there to feel connected. I really feel that we are all connected anyways at some level. I donít know, what do you think?

Paula: I think youíre right. Personally, I donít know anyone who is only one culture; we all are sort of blended in certain ways.

Serah: I love finding metaphors that cross culturally blend. Sometimes a metaphor will jump into my thought when I am writing a song and Iíll trace it and realize itís in the Jewish culture, itís in the Christian culture, itís in the Muslim culture, and you can even find traces of it in the Bushman culture, Hindu culture, Buddhist culture -- different metaphors that they may not be exactly the same but they are really saying the same thing and can be really similar in their story which is an interesting phenomenon.


Graphics courtesy of Great Northern Arts.

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