Clarice Assad

My Singing Story

I was born in 1978 in a modest rural part of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The country was still a dictatorship at that time.  During the first seven years of my life, there was an oppressive energy in the air, felt by everyone. As the switch toward democracy started to happen in 1985, rapid and rambling changes took place. My mother and grandmother had both been living pictures of that era.  
My mother was pure democracy.  Though raised to become a housewife, she also decided to be one of the first women in her hometown to have the courage to dress in men's pants, to smoke cigarettes and to pursue higher education and, eventually, to work.  These were not morally good, lady-like behaviors and, to make matters worse, she was also the only woman in her family of nine siblings to obtain a divorce.  

My grandmother, was definitely the dictator. Headstrong and authoritarian, she married too young and had nine children.  She was a very creative person but had been very repressed during her younger years.  So a great sense of frustration took hold of her and she began inflicting her personal disappointments upon those around her, especially, of course, the women.  She was probably not too happy to see all these women having opportunities in life other than marriage and children, a choice she did not ever have for herself.  I cannot imagine what it must have felt like for her.  

As values in our society were changing, I found myself living in a universe of strong dichotomies.  There had been constant battles over whose ideals were right or wrong.  The fights, the yelling, the combats filled the air daily.  And, because of the vast size of the family, it was impossible, as a child, to be heard.  If you happened to be a child, it had felt as if you did not exist.  So, no matter how much or what I wanted to say, or how loud I’d try to be, no one cared.  At some point I became so frustrated, I stopped talking altogether and just started to sing.  

From this point forward, whenever I felt conflict was about to arise, I would make music.  Lyrics and melodies would flow out of me in order to immediately express some funny remark about a situation which was clearly not funny at all when it occurred but, perhaps, because of its humorous nature, people became amused and stopped fighting for a second.  

Before long, my entire life had become a soundtrack. Music represented emotions, people’s expressions, gestures. Everyone in my family had a theme.  Even friends of the family had a theme if they were cool enough to have one.  Sometimes a request would come whenever a guest walked through the door for me to start singing about whatever it was I had thought of them.  As a result, for a while, there was no fighting and no talk of dictatorship or democracy.  We seemed to be living in our own little European feudal system and I was its pocket sized troubadour, walking around from home to home making music happen.  

And that is how I became a musician.  It was not a matter of anyone telling me practice and become a virtuoso.  No one cared enough about that, as they were too busy fighting.   I went willingly out of my own need for expression.  And, as time went by,  as music became a more intrinsic part of my life, filling that need for expressiveness to such a degree that it literally crippled my ability to express emotion through words even to some extent today.  Sometimes I struggle to articulate the simplest things.  Writing this has taken over 24 hours of my life to complete, for example. :)

Most importantly, I believe I have learned to appreciate music and its power from a very young age.   I realize that, in many ways, music has saved me more on more than one occasion.  My emotional connection with music through singing and composing is strong, as a result, and it makes me an ever grateful person to have this this gift in my life.  Without music, I’d never have been heard and I’d still be screaming out loud, losing my voice, instead of possibly having one.