A big fan of Lisbon, this singer and songwriter has put Fernando Pessoa’s poetry to music.
One morning, six years ago, Tammy Weis was taking a nap but decided to get out of bed. It turned out to be the right decision. She had just arrived in Lisbon, was living in Alfama and an inner voice told her to go explore the neighbourhood. She stumbled across an art gallery announcing, “Paintings with red wine and coffee”. She thought: “My kind of place”. Inside, there was a Frenchman and a Mongolian-Russian painter. After a little conversation, the Frenchman picked up a guitar, she sang jazz standards, people began to gather, and the Russian Mongolian told the Frenchman in Russian: “Tell her she must do poems of Fernando Pessoa, and then her career will take off”. “Who’s Fernando Pessoa?” They said to her: “Look around you”. Basically saying, you’re in Lisbon and the poet (1888- 1935) is everywhere. “And there it started.”
What then ensued were what Tammy calls “Pessoa miracles”. She began her research and started composing. Weeks later, she mentioned the project to the owner of a beauty salon in Campo de Ourique, who then repeated it in Portuguese for her clients. A woman, who was on her way out, exclaimed: “Fernando Pessoa? I work with his nephew”. A few months later, she met Luís Miguel Rosa Dias, son of the writer’s sister, who gave her Pessoa’s English Poems as a gift and told her: “Here are some more songs for you”.
Tammy played the show for the first time in 2017 at Casa Fernando Pessoa (CFP). More miracles: by chance she moved to Pátio do Pimenta, to a house opposite the one where the Modernist magazine Contemporânea was first created, a publication that Pessoa contributed to; she went to a party where she met Portuguese star musician Rui Veloso, who wanted to produce and play on her next album – “She takes a lot of risks, I really respect her, I do, she has my admiration.”
Soul Whisper (working title) will be released in April, with a concert at the Liceu Camões Auditorium (18th). One of the songs, “Hope”, was co-written by Terry Britten, who has written for the likes of Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. The album features Randy Bachman (famous for “American Woman”, by The Guess Who) and his son Tal, as well as a talented group of Portuguese musicians, in addition to Veloso. (It’s an impressive transatlantic production, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Embassy in Lisbon, CFP and Clara Riso, Fernando Pessoa’s family and Rosa Dias, sadly departed in 2019).
Of course, everything about Tammy started well before. She has released two albums, Legacy and Where I Need to Be, and jazz is her favourite genre. In the words of her friend Michael Bublé: “She’s fantastic! Here’s a vocalist”.
by João Macdonald /// photo Duarte Drago
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