San Francisco International Arts Festival Features Vocal Artist Lua Hadar: ‘Our Common Humanity’

Lua Hadar, Vocalist. Photo credit: Kingmond Young.
This writer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

by Charles Kruger

Lua Hadar has built her reputation by developing her talent for languages to sing songs and speak to audiences in no fewer than seven tongues! She and her band Twist describe themselves as “cultural diplomats for a new age” and ther mission statement speaks of their desire “to promote world harmony through music, seeking to ignite in audiences an awareness of our common humanity.”

Not every vocalist has a mission statement. But then, not every vocalist is Lua Hadar, for whom music is a calling as much as a talent.  She can certainly claim to be cosmopolitan! Her ports of calling (get it?) have included Bali, Russia, Switzerland, Japan, Thailand, France, Italy and beyond.

Lua’s performances include original songs in multiple languages, as well as new arrangements of classic tunes from the American Songbook. She collaborates closely with her musical director, composer and arranger Jason Martineau. In addition to Jason on the piano, the band includes bassist Sascha Jacobsen, Brazilian drummer Celso Alberti, percussionist Ian Dogole, Sheldon Brown on reeds, and guitarist Schuyler McFadden. For their performance at San Francisco International Arts Festival, Twist will be joined by backup singers Claudia Landivar and Candace Forest.

Together, they represent musical cultures from around the world, from contemporary Brazilian jazz to traditional American swing, and can collectively boast hundreds of recordings and performances. The result has been described by critic Brent Black as an “incredibly intriguing hybrid of . . . cosmopolitan jazz with some delightful world flavor.”

They will be premiering a new music video, “Our Common Humanity.” Referencing America’s current Presidential adminstration, Lua Hadar states that “the assault on our Democracy and on human rights has galvanized me to stand up for equal rights for all, and has inspired this music video.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Lua for TheatreStorm.

Charles: How would you describe your work?

Lua: Eclectic is the first word that comes to mind. I draw from a variety of traditions and languages and bring it sort of all together into the jazz idiom—a cosmopolitan mix.  For an album or a show, I try to bring everything together  into a theme. For example, we recorded a concert film in 2012 (“Like A Bridge”—you know, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”) and the material was designed as a world music synthesis—the bridge theme was about connections across cultures. I love that there are love songs and lullabyes in every language—that’s common humanity.

Charles: What are some of your influences?

Lua: Latin music! Swing! A Capella! Harmony! Choral music! My earliest singing influence was Judy Garland. Also, I’ve always loved the purity of tone of Ella Fitzgerald, her fidelity to the music, and her attention to the original tunes along with her great improvisational skills. Nana Mouskouri is a great influence. She is a cultural diplomat, and sings across many languages—that is CENTRAL to me, what I do, and why I want  to do it!

The concept of cultural exchange has been with me my whole life. I traveled with my parents as a teenager, and I’ve had day jobs in the travel business and taken advantage of that.

Charles: How would you describe your daily artistic process?

Lua: Chaotic! I am also a self-producing artist. Part of my job is knowing how to promote myself, create my own brand, and develop my own material.

Whatever project I’m working on is always on my mind. When it comes to song writing, I would say that inspiration comes in odd moments.  I’ve got scribbles on the back of envelopes, voice memos on my iphones, whatever!

And I regularly meet with my musical director, Jason Martineau, with whom I’ve been working for ten years. He helps me develop things from idea to song. He’s a songwriter and composer himself and has wonderful skills.

Charles: What would you say to someone who wants to do what you do?

Lua: Well, the artistic aspect of what I do is beautifully taught in schools, but young people need to learn the whole other skill set of how to manage yourself. You have to be a small business. You are your own product and you have to learn what that product is, how it appears to other people, what your personal brand is, and how to create your own style. And I learned that I don’t need permission from anybody to becreative. I had to learn that I could be myself, find myself, be liberated and teach the audience how to appreciate me! That’s what I’d tell any young performer.

_____________________________________________________

Lua Hadar and Twist will perform and preview their video, “Our Common Humanity,” at the San Francisco International Arts Festival on the evening of May 26th (6 p.m.) in Gallery 308 at The Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, Building A.

Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture (FMCAC) hosts this performance as part of the Festival, which runs from May 24, 2018 to June 3, 2018. The Festival features more than 60 performances by close to 40 different artists, ensembles, and companies. Get discounts on tickets to see multiple shows at the Festival by buying a Festival pass. More details HERE.

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