“Vestida de Nit”: Sílvia Pérez Cruz at the Hong Kong Arts Festival

Sílvia Pérez Cruz (photo: Cesar Lucadamo) Sílvia Pérez Cruz (photo: Cesar Lucadamo)

Literature comes in many forms; sometimes it is sung.

Hailing from Catalonia, singer-songwriter Sílvia Pérez Cruz sings in at least three of the languages of the Iberian peninsula. Her concert on 22 March was a voyage around the wider Iberian world, with songs in Spanish and Portuguese from Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela, with musical influences from flamenco, fado, folk, jazz and much else besides.

But behind the music is some accomplished and evocative poetry. The title song, “Vestida de Nit”, was written some 35 years ago by her parents. It begins, in Catalan:


Pinto les notes d’una havanera
blava com l’aigua d’un mar antic,
Blanca d’escuma, dolça com l’aire,
gris de gavines, daurada d’imatges
vestida de nit.
(I paint the notes of an habanera,
blue as the water of antique sea,
white from the foam, as sweet as the air,
with the grey of gulls,
gilded with pictures,
dressed by the night.)


Another selection in the concert was “Mañana”, a poem by the Catalan poet Ana Maria Moix, which Pérez Cruz set to Mexican-inspired music:


Cuando yo muera amado mío
no cantes para mí canciones tristes,
olvida falsedades del pasado,
recuerda que fueron solo sueños que tuviste.
(When I die, my beloved,
don’t sing sad songs for me.
forget the falsehoods of the past,
remember that were only dreams you had.)


Pérez Cruz’s sensibility clearly extends beyond music to the music of language: poetry is just as evident is lyrics she penned herself, as in the words to No Hay Tanto Pan” (There is Not Enough Bread”), inspired, she says, by Federico García Lorca:


Mentiras, sonrisas y amapolas
Discursos, periódicos,
banqueros y trileros
Canciones, manos y pistolas…
Lies, smiles and poppies
speeches, newspapers,
bankers and swindlers
Songs, hands and pistols …


Pérez Cruz sings in an expressive and rich soprano and was—in this, apparently their last concert together—accompanied by an extremely talented string quartet, who could, within a single song, meld genres from classical to modernist, from folk to jazz.

Peter Gordon is editor of the Asian Review of Books.