Finding strength in suffering - an interview with Claire Tonna
Claire Tonna will be releasing The Port, her debut album tomorrow. In this interview with Eric Montfort, she reveals a lot of insight and personal experiences that influenced this release.
What led you to do this new album The Port?
It has been an intensive year. I was living in in Calcutta, then in Spain and later in Morocco. I was volunteering, singing, living and learning from life’s experiences. I somehow had to face unbearable suffering and super sensitivity that never affected me so much in my life. Many times I am strong in every level and manage to see beauty in everything, however this year I couldn’t. The death of a very close and intimate friend, the unbearable suffering of people in mental hospitals and homes I sang in while in Calcutta (Nov 2011 – Feb 2012), extreme sensitivity that kicked my physical health and emotional state, my travel companion attacked and raped while she was with me and some financial difficulties all helped to make the album what it is. Well what happened was that all this suffering made me experience the aspect of life that I reject: sadness.
This sounds rather sad…but is there any positivity in The Port?
I accepted this ‘suffering’ concept with love - I no longer could say that suffering is bad - I started seeing suffering as something that makes me whole – a strength as well. From this enlightenment I came to a state of bliss, I felt whole: each moment I was feeling my joys and my pains one – I no longer could separate fear from love or pain from joy – all became one. The Port helped me to transcend suffering and unite all with the womb of life, the womb that gave me this body, this conscience, this mind to live and love. I started feeling the uterus of life – the fountain of life that born life to all, from the first minutes of life form till today, I started feeling this centre of life, this water that lives in our body and gives life to all. I came to realize that my weakness and my strength is the same thing - the sensitivity – empathy - the ability to feel so much the pain of others and of myself and so do something about it.
How did you go about writing the songs?
I was singing different and playing different from before. I woke up in Morocco and started playing and singing the words and I just wrote them on a paper after I sang them so to keep them on record. I knew that a shift happened to me. I knew that these will be the songs for the album I wanted to do one day. During this enlightenment, I was with a very close friend of mine and a very special woman that I met in Calcutta. Her name is Maria Mar. She is a divine writer. We wrote together. She gave me some of her work that spoke of transcendence of suffering which we experienced together. Works like Metanoia and Your Mother Said are her words, which she wrote as a song form so I can sing it. I came to Malta with a diary of drawings and words that accompanied the chords I had in my fingers.
Do you feel like a striking song such as Metanoia sums up your insights on life?
Metanoia says it all. It is a Greek word meaning meaning ‘becoming’ ‘transforming’ ‘a moment of enlightenment where you see all one and perfect. I do believe that we are nothing - that life makes it all – we do nothing on our own – and life makes all for our happiness. It.helps us discover the inner and outside beauty that we all are, in so many ways. One can take the example of the butterfly. It only lives 12 days and it does it in a flight of joy. It doesn’t count. It does not try to live the past or the future it only lives the present moment – and that is the only moment we actually live and build our whole life.
Sometimes, we are trapped by traumas from the past or doubts from the future, yet when we put our senses in just the present moment, all the fear is gone and we experience the ability of enjoying every moment as it is and in this nothing we become everything
Age of No Age shows a very metaphysical attitude too.
Age of No Age is my personal experience. I woke up at 3am in Morocco. I couldn’t sleep due to Ramadan celebrations. I picked up the guitar and started these chords and started singing this song – as it is now. I didn’t plan the song; it came out of me like a blessing. When I stop my mind from thinking, from obligations, and just put all my attention on the silence I become still. In peace I start feeling all one – a state of perfection Krishnamurti called “the dimension called Love”. This dimension saved me and will save all humanity.
The Language of Love reflects your sensitivity. Would you agree?
Back in February 2011 I was in Malta and I held an event at called ‘Singing Heartbeats and Diaries”, where I sang the unsung.. I took all my intimate diaries of my travels and experiences and sang them all. The first page of my diary was the first words I sang and it was this song. I do agree that it reflects my sensitivity. I believe that we are all sensitive because we all feel however some of us are more empathetic. We feel a bit more the pain and joys of others too.
What is Cygna's role in this album?
Mario Sammut (aka Cygna) gave me a master product. He produced, mixed, engineered and mastered the album and also created all the orchestrations and additional instruments involved.
I have known Mario for the past 20 years, and he understood what I wanted. He captured all the places and spaces of where the songs were born from and transformed them into sounds and orchestrations. Mario has been recording me for the last 5 years (besides the collaborations we have done together earlier in 2007) so he has mastered incredibly the way to capture my voice.
He completely strips all the outside and physical body of my voice and captured it raw: in its formless state : its soul essence. I cannot think of no one else better for me to record my voice. He gave my voice a tribute by showing the voice's inside outside: through sound.
Also Mario is a master at really understanding the voice's nature and what it wants to say, so somehow he painted its emotions by sound, being a master and perfectionist in his work, and an incredible friend I couldnt think of someone else to produce me the album.
He also did brilliant work with the recording of my guitars, he made sure to capture the movement and emotion of my fingers and engineered a unique sound from my classic guitar; both of us didn’t want the normal 'folk steel acoustic sound' so he recorded the guitar from different means together (cable, mic, other recording equip) so to capture a complete 360 degree soundscape of the guitar, the sound he finally recorded and mastered was just awesome : innovative : we both loved it.
He is a master in orchestrations and it was like working with the best orchestra musicians in the world. There were times where he conveyed the aura of water flowing, with the cello, he brought the sound of a butterfly wing right there. He just understands perfectly what I meant and created the exact requirement : of course hours and hours of work to get the perfection he is so brilliant at. He also provided me the music for the orchestra musicians that will play with me in New Zealand for the launch.
What led you to go to New Zealand?
I’ve always had a calling for New Zealand and the Mauri land, it was always a country I knew I would land in. Maria Mar the is from New Zealand , we have an ambition regarding a project on Calcutta– involving with her writing and my voice and the album will be launched there. I am going to be touring in New Zealand and in Australia –the Australia tour will be during Feb – March 2013.