Languages of love

Maria DeBarros

Singer Maria DeBarros was born in Senegal to Cape Verdean parents and moved to the United States with her family when she was young. Now she’s based in the Los Angeles area, and she’ll be bringing her eight-member band to Northern Nevada to play a worldly blend of Latin and African music at the Oats Park Art Center, 151 E. Park St., Fallon at 8 p.m. Oct. 15. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. For information, call (775) 423-1440.

You’re originally from Senegal. How old were you when your family moved to New England?

I was 12.

How’d you take the transition?

Let me tell you. [laughs] I was really excited about going to Rhode Island because I wanted to come to the United States, and it was September 1974. … It was so cold. In Africa, you put your clothes out to dry. So I took my pants, and I put them out to dry, and the next morning, I go to grab it, and it was totally frozen.

Was that when you started playing music?

I sang a lot because my mom was already singing in the house, and I already dabbled in playing the guitar, but it wasn’t till I was about 18, 19 that I met a lot of Cape Verdean musicians, that I got into singing professionally. I’d never thought of it that way before.

You speak six languages. How did you learn them all?

I was born in Senegal and raised in Mauritania [in northwest Africa], so I spoke French in school, I spoke Portuguese and Portuguese-Creole at home, and then I spoke two African dialects with my friends. Then I came to the U. S. and learned Spanish, English and French-Creole.

What sort of effect has knowingall those languages had on your musical style?

I would say that the only language that influenced what music I learned was Spanish, because I fell in love with Julio Iglesias. I started learning to sing it. That was my first love of the Spanish language. And then when I came to L.A., that’s when that love affair cemented into a full-blown thing, wanting to learn everything that there was about Mexican culture and Mexican music. I just fell madly in love with it. Also because I’d left New England, where there’s so many Cape Verdeans. I got married, came here, and there were no Cape Verdeans in L.A., so no ties to my roots, and I kind of adopted the Latin culture.

You sing a lot about love. Are your songs about romance based on your own experiences?

No, not really. But I’m a very romantic person. I always was. I watch Spanish soap operas. The excuse is that I’m keeping up with my Spanish.

I love to talk about harmonious things. I’m a real positive, sunny kind of person, so I like to talk about those things, and I think that music is so good for the soul; it goes beyond just listening to a song. It’s very spiritual. I can’t even explain it. The kind of relationship I get with an audience is a very special thing. I value my audience to no end.