Indiara Sfair – Harmonica Player of the Month

By Jaine Rodack

Written by Jaine Rodack on . Posted in Blog: Harmonica Articles, Harmonica Players

Her name is Indiara Sfair. To get an idea of how her music affects people, you need only read some of the comments posted under her various YouTube videos. Among them, this sampling from Improvisation in C minor, a video we’ve posted just below. It can’t get much better than this:

“Cannot stop listening to this, over and over again. Incredible…”

“She’s saying so much without talking OMG”

“I never heard harmonica played like that before. I’ve got goose pimples!”

“Great,wonderful, excellent, magically!!!”

“Just heard you; never forget you…”

Indiara Sfair – Improvisation in Cm (Backing track by Arthur Sowinski)

Song Key: Cm
Harmonica: Hohner Marine Band 1896 in Bb
Playing in Third Position

“This video is very special to me,” writes Indiara. “It brought me most of my Facebook and YouTube followers, and beautiful messages from people all over the world. I really appreciate that work!

“I spent a lot of time playing over the backing track (which I found on YouTube) to create those phrases. I decided to call this song “improvisation” because it did not have a specific theme that was repeated during the song. It sounded more like an improvisation.

“From this video I started to use a lot of guttural vibrato.”

Regarding the visual side of the video, Indiara writes, “For this clip we used three cameras and took several takes. Leonardo Lima is credited with the filming and editing of both image and sound.”

We wanted to know more about the amazing Ms Sfair, who kindly responded to our questions, in words and music. In some instances, answers have been combined for flow and clarity.

Q: Where were you born and raised?

A: In South America. My city is called Curitiba, in Brazil.

Q: Did you live in a rural area?

A: No, Curitiba is a big city with approximately two million people. But I’ve always loved rural areas.

Q: Were you the only musician in your family / group of friends?

A: My family is really a musical family. My father was a blues singer, I have a gramma and an uncle who play the piano very well! My stepfather was a great guitar player. My brother is a drummer, and my mother has always encouraged us musically and artistically.

We used to have a little piano at home, guitars, flutes, a little drums, and every time my mother found a different instrument and she could buy it, she would bring it home. And the school that I studied [in] all my life prioritized the learning of music and the arts in general.

Q: What kind of music were you listening to?

A: I grew up listening to a lot of blues, rock ‘n roll, new age, Brazilian music… My parents have great, eclectic musical taste.

Q: Was there any place you could go to hear live musicians, or was it all music you heard on the radio or on albums / the Internet, etc.?

A: My mother always took us to places with live music. And my parents and my stepfather always had a lot of hippie musician friends, so we were always in touch with live music.

Q: Who were your favorite artists or inspirations growing up?

A: As long as I remember having an inspiration, I would certainly say Eric Clapton and David Gilmour. I know that they are not harp players, but they were always the artists I admired the most! I am crazy about their songs! But speaking about harp players, my favorite, for sure is Carlos Del Junco! I love the melodies of his songs.

Eric Clapton Robert Cray – Old Love by Indiara Sfair & Ricardo Maranhão

Key: Am
Harmonica: Hohner Marine Band 1896 in G
Playing in Third Position

When asked what her favorite gig was, she said it would have to be playing with Ricardo Maranhão ─ “the person I have the greatest musical affinity [with]. We played together for eight years, two, three or even more times a week.”

Sfair says it was Maranhão who helped her develop her own way of playing the harmonica. Recalling the making of the above video she says, “We recorded five takes live, all together in the same track, and it’s the harmonica solo I like the most. It was totally improvised and I was inspired.”

Q: What was the first musical instrument you played? (Piano, guitar, harmonica?)

A: I am not sure, but I think it was a little piano, those for children.

Q: When did the harmonica come into your life?

A: I got my first harmonica from a friend when I was fifteen years old. It was a birthday present. He knew I liked blues and musical instruments, so he decided to give me one. He could not guess that he was giving me something far more valuable than a harmonica.

Q: What kind was it?

A: It was a very good diatonic harmonica of a Brazilian brand, called Hering. Its cost benefit was incredible, very cheap and the sound was really good!

Q: And what kind do you play now?

A: After I first tried a Hohner Marine Band 1896, I never wanted to play with another harmonica. For my style, this harmonica fits perfectly. I think it has a clean, bright sound and it’s the easiest to play in my opinion, I always recommend it to anyone who’s starting playing harp.

Q: Were you self-taught or did you take lessons?

A: I tried to play by myself and take some melodies by ear, but I didn’t have the notion of the several keys of the harmonicas, so I couldn’t do much. Years later I began to learn from Benê Chireia, a great harmonica player from my hometown.

Then I took classes with several different harmonica players. I love it; each one has a different style and way of teaching, so I always find it productive to learn from several people.

Q: When did you start playing music for someone other than yourself?

A: I think as soon as I started learning an instrument. I already liked to play for others ─ even playing badly. (She adds a smile here).

Q: What and when was your first paying gig?

A: It was about six months after I started learning playing harmonica. I played very badly, but I got together with a great friend ─ Ricardo Maranhão ─ and formed a blues duo. That was in 2009, and the duo’s name was Double Blues.

Q: When did you start playing in the USA?

A: I got here in late March 2017 and went straight to Nashville to play in jam sessions at the blues clubs.

Sfair would go on to become part of the Milk’n Blues band.

Q: Anyone in particular who gave you the opportunity to show what you could do?

A: I would say it was the bar owners who opened the doors for us to play the first time.

Q: When did you start playing outside your local area?

A: When our band started getting better known, we began to get invitations to play in other states. The band was called Milk’n Blues and is still active.

Q: How old were you?

A: I was twenty-nine, I think.

Q: Do you only play your own music, or mostly your own?

A: When I’m playing in clubs, with [the] band, or even with the blues duo, most songs are covers. In festivals, most are original songs.

Walking Blues/Robert Johnson – Indiara Sfair e Guilherme Tosin by Amir Sfair Filho

Song Key: G
Harmonica: Hohner Marine Band 1896 in C
Playing in Cross Harp

Indiara says that prior to shooting the video, the vocal track was recorded by her uncle (Amir Sfair Filho) on an iPad, without the benefit multi-tracking or even an external mic. Once the video had been filmed, the team decided to re-record the audio, laying down each instrument and vocal track separately. Incredibly, after comparing the two versions, Sfair and Tosin agreed that they liked the first, far simpler track better. Sometimes “simple” trumps “studied”.

Q: What are the biggest differences between US and other countries’ audiences?

A: Blues is a musical style that has long been a part of American culture. So I found the [US] audiences very receptive and generous with the performances. But overall, in any country, it depends a lot on where you are performing.

Indiara Sfair – Recording Session for the Lana Banana Studios – California Highway

Song Key: Cm
Harmonica: Hohner Marine Band 1896 in Bb
Playing in Third Position

Q: What’s the best part about being on the road?

A: I really like new places and meeting people, trying different foods, playing for a new audience, I feel very inspired. Especially when you get paid to do these things.

Q: What’s the hardest part?

A: Being away from family and people we love; not having a routine can sometimes make us tired physically and emotionally; there are situations that haven’t been dealt with before and you must adapt to it. But most of the time it is great!! I love to live that way.

Q: Ever think of giving up before it all came together?

A: No, I never thought of that. I know it’s a very arduous road, but I’ve always had that certainty inside my heart. There is nothing that makes me as accomplished and happy as music.

Q: Do you remember seeing your name in the paper or on the Internet for the first time?

A: Yes! It’s a wonderful feeling! I felt very famous. (she adds a smile here).

Q: Hearing your music on the radio for the first time?

A: That’s what we work for: To reach people with our music! So when this happens, we feel very accomplished.

Q: Biggest thrill?

A: I would say the best moment was when I had the opportunity to share the stage with an idol, Mr. Buddy Guy, it was a moment that I will never forget.

Q: When did you go into the recording studio for the first time?

A: It was in 2011.

Q: Was it to record your own music, or with someone else?

A: It was to record an EP for a band I used to play [with] called Tic Tac Joe. We had two harmonica players in that band. It was really fun.

I haven’t recorded my own album yet. I’m writing the songs to record it in 2018. But I already recorded a CD with two bands that I used to play [with]: one in 2015, and another one in 2016.

I’m also working on a harmonica method for beginners that will be available on my YouTube channel.

Q: Do people characterize your music the way you would?

A: I do not know if it’s the way I would characterize it, but I’ve really liked what people say about my music. There are some specific things about it that I could only realize and develop better after hearing comments regarding it.

Q: Do you put your music in a specific groove?

A: I couldn’t tell, but I would say that the music I play sounds a lot more blues than any other musical style. One of the characteristics is the melodic way I like to play. I really love to create melodies.

Indiara Sfair – Beatbox + Harmonica + Loop Station

Song Key: E
Harmonica: Hohner Marine Band 1896 in A
Playing in Cross Harp

“I really enjoyed making this video,” writes Indiara, “but it was very hot up there! I had to record the audio before[hand] because we would have very little time because of the low light, coming through a transparent roof tile and for a short time during the day. And it was VERY hot up there!”

Q: Anything about your style of playing that you think fans and players of the instrument would find interesting?

A: I like to play with clean sound, the only effect I like to use is a little reverb. The sound of the microphone that I identify myself [with] the most is the Shure SM58. I like the slow guttural vibrato and I really enjoy exploring melodies and themes in the songs. Usually I play many times over the same backing track and record the melodies that I like the most, that is the way I create my songs.

Q: What does the harmonica mean to you?

A: What I love most about this little instrument is that it can really cry and express the feelings in a very true way. Harmonica is [a] small but very rich instrument, you always find a new way to play, a new effect!

Besides having a musical meaning, it represents in my life, the realization of everything I have always dreamed of.

It has shown me that with dedication, love, work, we can reach our goals and be recognized for it. The harmonica brought me my greatest achievements, brought me many friends and gave me a career. It permeates all areas of my life: financial, emotional, social [and] professional.

Q: Where would you like life to take you?

A: I’m very close to my family; we are always together. [And so] I wish to be happy with my family, regardless of location and situation. But speaking of music, specifically, I wish that what I write can bring good feelings to people who listen to it. I want to reach out to a great number of people and travel a lot to play live for them.

Q: Any quick tips / tricks you have to share with someone just starting out on harmonica?

A: Playing a little every day is better than a lot once a week.

Q: And for an intermediate-level harmonica player?

A: Finding your own way of playing… I think the beautiful thing about music is to touch people in some way, and I believe the best way to do it is by playing something that is true for you. I don’t know if I do that, but I try.

Indiara Sfair & Harry Hmura – Time (Rehearsal before a show)

Harmonica: Hohner Marine Band 1896 in A
Playing in Third Position

This video clip was recorded the day Indiara had a show at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago. She says Harry Hmura ,the guitarist of the video (and the guitarist of the HALO video game) had asked her to record harmonica in one of his songs.

“He is an exceptional musician,” she writes. “I liked the solo I recorded for his song, so I invited him to record a video of that. After the video was ready, we didn’t like it, and decided to record it again… So we met another day to record it all over again … it was exhausting but it was worth it.”

To learn more about Indiara and her music, check out her Facebook page at www.fb.me/SfairIndiara, YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/c/indiarasfair or follow her on Instagram @indiarasfair.

Comments (2)

  • Tim Z

    |

    She’s fantastic ! And beautiful with and without a harmonica!

    Reply

  • THOMAS CHIRBAN

    |

    Wow!!!! This girl has got it going on. I grew up in Chicago, hanging around the blues bars when I was old enough. I think she is great!

    Reply

Tell the harmonica world what you think...

(Spamcheck Enabled)