Cristina Braga, open up and she'll capture you... 

by Sabine Meijers / iJHF 


On February 8th 2009, Cristina Braga (Brasil) played at the annual Festival des Harpes en Avesnois at Espace Gerard Phillipe. The afternoon was filled with Latin-American jazz standards and songs from ancient times mixed with improvisation and grooving rhythms. Cristina is not only a great jazz harpist but also a great performer. She brought the warmth of the streets of Rio de Janeiro (her hometown) to the concert hall and we all forgot the cold, hazy winter landscape of Maubeuge outside. 


In the morning of the Cristina Braga concert, Brenda and I went on what now becomes our yearly trip to Maubeuge (France) to see her on stage at Espace Gerard Philipe. Cristina had been invited to play at the annual Festival des Harpes en Avesnois. She is not the first jazz harpist playing at this festival. Deborah Henson-Conant, Felice Pomeranz and Park Stickney amongst others are regularly seen guests. 

The concert hall with over 300 seats seems to be completely sold out. The Blue electro-acoustic harp provided by Camac for the Festival is already on stage. For Cristina and her band members this will be the last performance of their European tour. Over the past month they have been playing throughout Germany. 


Cristina is playing with Ricardo Medeiros, her bassplayer and companion in music and life, and special guest for the Europe tour Flo Pfeiffer from Germany on drums. 

They start the performance with the song Ozaniná. Ozaniná is a song of a woman of the Brazilian Indian tribe ‘Pareci’. Later I asked Cristina about the meaning of the song and she explained that there is a curiosity about it: two German scientists collected and noted it in Brazil in the first half of the XVIIIth century. Then Villa Lobos used the same theme in a vocal school choir system he directed “canto orfeonico” for the public schools of Brazil. Since this tribe has long disappeared, until now, nobody knows the translation of these words... In Cristina’s performance and interpretation we didn’t miss the meaning of the words at all; the old tones she awakened from her harp did al justice to the roots of this song. 


Cristina held her audience captivated with an almost hypnotizing performance, not only because of the sounds of her harp and voice, but also with her big brown eyes holding us in a grip. The program proceeds with the popular song Manhã de Carnaval (aka Black Orpheus) written by the Brazilian composers Louis Bonfa and Antonio Maria. The intro exists of a strong up-tempo rhythm in which Cristina ‘slaps the bass’, meaning she hits the bass strings strongly with flat hands. Then after an improvisation over the changes with almost classical riffs the theme starts and the Bossa Nova song unfolds. 


We also hear songs from her newest cd ‘Paisagem’, which features Cristina and American cellist Eugene Friesen. For this occasion she plays ‘Retrato em Branco e Preto’ (by Tom Jobim) and Cove (by Cristina and Eugene) with her trio. 

The harpists amongst the public get their share of ‘arpeggio’s’ in the Intro of Jobim’s ‘Insensatez’. Guitarist can enjoy the beautiful ‘Choro no. 1’ from Villa Lobos, which also sounds great on the harp under Cristina’s fingers. In the finale of this afternoon we hear Água de Beber, where the liveliness and joy is splashing from the stage and we learn from Cristina that the first rap might actually have been in the Bossa Nova, namely in the song Águas de Março. Jobim was way ahead of his time, he wrote this song in 1972. 


Cristina and her magnificent fellow musicians closed the program with an encore by Jobim, the most popular song after Yesterday from the Beatles: Garota de Ipanema.  


Missed the concert? Check our jazzharp calendar, you never know when she's playing near you. Check out her website to learn more about Cristina or to buy her cd’s. 


Complete Program 

Ozaniná (trad.) 

Manhã de Carnaval (Louis Bonfa & Antonio Maria) 

Retrato em Branco e Preto (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Chico Buarque) 

Insensatez (Antonio Carlos Jobim)  

Choro no 1. (Heitor Villa Lobos) 

Cove (Cristina Braga & Eugene Friesen) 

Inútil Paisagem (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 

Água de Beber (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 

Águas de Março (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 

Veleiros (Heitor Villa Lobos) 

O Barquinho (Roberto Menescal) 

Garota de Ipanema (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 



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