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A unique interdisciplinary project melding powerful film imagery with music, inviting the audience to reflect on history in a visceral way.

The Latest Update

Final update: Studio sessions complete!

Posted on August 28, 2019 by Sara Serpa

Dear followers and friends,

it is with great joy that I announce that the Recognition studio sessions (for which I was awarded a New Music USA Grant), are completed. This project , featuring myself, Zeena Parkins, Mark Turner, David Virelles, and Pete Rende as engineer,  is a self-released album, and all the funding will be used towards studio and musician’s fees. 

Recognition is scheduled to be released in early 2020. I will keep you updated!

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Recording of Recognition – studio time!

Posted on July 6, 2019 by Sara Serpa

I am thrilled to announce that the studio time with Zeena Parkins, David Virelles and Mark Turner happened last week.

We spent a full day recording the music for the film. Now, there will be one more studio day to mix the music.

I will keep you posted about the next phase of this project!


In September 2016 John Zorn invited me to present a performance at The Drawing Center, combining music and visuals. My initial idea was to create a video using family photographs, performing written music with its viewing. Noticing my persistence in going through family albums , my mother handed me several boxes of super 8 films my grandfather made between1961-1964, capturing the daily life in Angola and  trips to Portugal. This changed the direction of the project.

I spent two weeks watching silent movies, trying to make sense. After this, I spent two other weeks working daily with Bruno Soares, a Portuguese videographer, manipulating and editing this footage, to fit the narrative I wanted to present. After this process, I wrote music for the film, featuring written material, spoken word and improvisation. “Recognition” has been performed live at Winter Jazz Festival, Alwan for the Arts, The Kitchen and the Drawing Center. It is my wish now to create an audio archive with this material, to record this music, aiming for a film/music release on digital platforms in 2019.

Upon my relocation to the United States I was forced to look at my country on the subject of race, that is highly debated in America, as opposed to Portugal. As a heritage from the dictatorship and the propaganda of the Luso-tropicalism theory in 1951, the common belief is that Portuguese were “good colonizers”, because they were humane, friendly and pro-miscegenation.

In exploring the Portuguese colonization of Angola through a familial lens, this performance advances the question: how can I create a performance/ piece that makes us reflect collectively on a historical fact as a human tragedy?The colonial project was based in a white supremacist and racist ideology, and its infrastructure relied on the discrimination, exploitation and oppression of the local communities.

My work seeks to present a form of resistance to the homogenization of European colonial narratives, particularly in a moment of rising nationalist and white supremacists movements.This piece aims to continue the debate on privilege and the (in)visibility of the colonized people. The visuals used are highly personal – through my grandfather’s lens, I deal with my own connection to this era of Portuguese history.

The texts of Amílcar Cabral, censored, and murdered by the Portuguese regime, during colonialism, expose the daily experience of racism and inequality, resisting the silenced occupation.

Associated with music, the silence is broken, inviting audiences to immerse in a self-reflection process. Empathy and emotional contagion during music listening are crucial to this piece. Listening (opposed to silencing) means to deliberately channel attention toward a sound.

I am applying to a New Music USA grant to be able to record this project in June 2019. The audio recording features my voice and compositions , Zeena Parkins on harp, Mark Turner on saxophone and David Virelles on piano. We will spend two days in the studio. This project will be a self-released album, and all the funding will be used towards studio and musician’s fees.

Project Media

Interview about Recognition
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Features: Sara Serpa

This is a short video that features an interview about this project, with music and images from the first performance of Recognition. It features myself, Mark Turner (saxophone) and Zeena Parkins (harp). It gives an idea of how the project developed, and how it looks/sounds like when it is performed.

Recognition 1 minute trailer
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Features: Sara Serpa

This is a 1 minutes promotional trailer of Recognition. The music is performed by myself, Mark Turner (tenor saxophone) and Zeena Parkins (harp), with excerpts from the film I put together with my grandfather’s footage. It shows images from Angola in the 1960’s: the life of the white settlers, black workers, military demonstrations and landscape.

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

2 updates
Last update on August 28, 2019

Project Created By

New York, New York
A native from Lisboa, Portuguese Sara Serpa is a singer, composer, improviser, that through her practice and performance, explores the use of the voice as an instrument,  working in the field of jazz, improvised and experimental music, since moving to New York in 2008. Described by JazzTimes magazine as “a master of wordless landscapes” and by the…


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