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[Sara and Kamila's] life experiences have developed their extensive musical repertoire.…Each have developed their own style. Now when one composes a new song, the other creates a beautiful and sometimes haunting harmony to go with it…
-Wendy Elliott, The Advertiser Kentville, NS
By STEPHANIE PORTER -- The Express -- St. John's, NL -- September 10, 2003
Although sisters Sara and Kamila Nasr say they don't do everything together, their sisterly bond seems tighter than most. Only a year apart in age - Sara is the elder, at 24. The siblings have been writing songs together for seven years. They've toured the country side-by-side, and released their first CD as Sara and Kamila four years ago.
When Kamila moved from Nova Scotia to St. John's in January 2000, it didn't take long for Sara to follow."I came here to play music and study music," says Kamila. "As soon as I got here, I called Sara and said, `OK, I'm booking us a tour, you have to come.'"That mini-tour hit "pretty much every bar" in the St. John's area in three weeks. During that time, Sara, like her sister, realized she wanted to stay. "I even went to the airport to leave, but I was flying standby," she says. "And when I didn't get on the plane, I thought it was fate and I had to stay."
The songwriters have been based here ever since. That said, they've hardly confined themselves to the province. In fact, though they say they couldn't have recorded their new CD anywhere else, it is in traveling - touring the country, playing folk festivals, their own trips - that they find their inspiration. "We've always written about our experiences, things we see going on," Sara says. "If we just stay still, especially if we're really happy, we don't write as much. "If you write a song on the road, it has to be a quick song. Those are the ones I like better."
Kamila nods in agreement, as she does frequently. The sisters seem to see eye-to-eye on most things, at least when it comes to their music careers. They're both delighted with their forthcoming second recording, Chasing Fireflies. It proves the sisters have grown together as musicians, adding more flavours of jazz and blues - and a host of instruments - to their acoustic folk sound.
'THE ONLY PLACE'
The pair grew up in a musical family, encouraged and inspired by their mother, a music teacher. "We've always performed together, and did a lot of classical music when we were kids," says Kamila. "Then we started writing folk songs and original material. "We have a pretty major commitment to each other musically. We can say, `OK, we're going to do this in a year.' And we'll stick to that. Whereas we might not stick to another job." "We always write with the other in mind," chimes in Sara. "If I try to sing a song without her, it feels like half the show. It's hard to perform these songs solo, and we can't sing each other's songs. "It seems kind of silly, but (Kamila's) always there to do it." It's a successful combination. Sara and Kamila have performed at many of the major folk festivals in Canada. They've won accolades, not only for their songs and music, but also their engaging stage presence.
The duo says much has changed between their first CD, recorded in their sister's home in Argenta, B.C., and their second disc. "This is the only place we could have done this," says Kamila. "It's the only place we know so many musicians, and so many incredible musicians." Although the sisters usually play as a duo or, recently, a trio (with saxophone player Terry Stone), the sisters lined up an impressive list of guest musicians for the CD. Wayne Hynes, Gayle Tapper, Jason Whelan, Adrian Doyle, Neil Rosenberg, Aneiran Thomas, Ed Sutherby, Chris Batstone and more are featured. Most will take part in the CD release party. "We wanted to give people something different on the CD than our usual live show," says Kamila, a multi-instrumentalist (harp, piano, flute, guitar, theramin ). "We layered and really built up the sound. I love it."
Sara and Kamila are already getting ready for their next ventures on the road. They're planning another fall tour as far as Toronto. Then they hope to head to Europe. After that, the sisters say they might start a rock band. "We have to keep changing it up or we'll get bored." Sara smiles, looking at her sister. "It's not like we have any huge dreams of being famous, but we always know that we're going to keep writing. Sometimes we need a break from each other, so we take a break to do different things. "But we both kind of want to be in a dance band."
Singer-songwriters Sara and Kamila Nasr, who grew up in Wolfville, release their second CD, chasing fireflies, on Friday at 8 p.m. at The Music Room, 6181 Lady Hammond Rd., Halifax. Tickets are $8 adults, $6 seniors and students.
By Andrea Nemetz Entertainment Reporter -- Chronicle-Herald -- October 2, 2003
Though Sara and Kamila Nasr play a lot of folk festivals, they don't necessarily see themselves as folk artists. "We call it folk because we don't know what else to call it, it's singer-songwriter stuff," laughs Kamila, 23, sitting on the patio at the Economy Shoe Shop on Wednesday- as Halifax returned to life after Sunday's devastating hurricane.
The sisters dodged Juan. They were in Wolfville, where they grew up in a musical household with their music teacher mother Marilyn, learned to play multiple instruments and graduated from Horton High before following their dream of becoming professional musicians. The day before the hurricane hit they released their second CD, chasing fireflies, at Acadia's Denton Hall before an audience filled with family and friends.
On Friday the album, which features a dozen guest musicians from St. John's where the sisters relocated four years ago, will be launched at 8 p.m. at The Music Room, 6181 Lady Hammond Rd., Halifax. "On every song we're joined by a different musician. Each song takes on its own magic," says Sara, 24, who plays guitar and mandolin. Kamila plays guitar, flute, piano and theramin (an instrument that uses electromagnetic energy to create sound instead of the musician's touch). For the Halifax show, they will be joined by Newfoundlanders Ryan Marshall on bass and Terry Stone on sax as well as Acadia's Ken Shorley on percussion.
It's the sisters' harmonies that make them so special, says Stone, who joined the Nasrs on a fourand-a-half month tour last summer from St. John's to Vancouver Island and back. "They have the most beautiful harmonies I've ever heard, maybe it's because they grew up together.," enthuses Stone. "When I caught them the first time, it blew me away, the combination of the harmonies and songwriting."
The sisters share songwriting duties on tunes inspired by social, environmental and emotional issues with melodies with jazz, blues and pop elements melding with more traditional folk. "We write individually, but at about the same pace," says Sara. "And we almost alwavs back each other up vocally," adds Kamila.
Last summer's tour, which included appearances at the Trout Forest Music Festival and Blue Skies Folk Festival in Ontario and folk clubs throughout B.C. including dates in Sooke and Steveston. "The audience was there to hear folk music, they really liked our music because it was different. They said we sounded like the East Coast and they bought a lot of CDs," laughs Sara, noting the two started out playing in pubs and bars in St. John's.
The sisters have also played the Winnipeg Folk Festival, ArtQuake in New York City and have opened for Juno-winner David Francey in St. John's. They last played Halifax in late spring at an impromptu show at Salvation on Agricola Street and plan to spend the next few months touring the Maritimes.
Chasing Fireflies is available through Web site www.sarakamila.com.
Folk duo bring their act to town
By HANS ROLLMANN
Kamila and Sara Nasr have more than just their sisterly bond in common, The Nova Scotian-born duo have just released a debut self-titled CD, and are quickly cementing their place in the country's folk music scene. 20-year old Kamila and 21-year old Sara are no novices to the world of music. They grew up in a highly musical family, inspired by a mother who was a music teacher. They began writing their own music about five years ago, and according to Kamila, that's when everything started to change.
"Before that we were playing everything, we were playing classical, and jazz, and singing folk music in the car," she explained. "But that's when we started going to folk festivals and meeting song-writers and finding that inside ourselves."
While they began performing shows around Nova Scotia two or three years ago, it didn't take long for them to find exposure to a wider audience. The duo have played at national gatherings like the Fundy Folk Festival and the Blue Skies Festival in Ontario, and have traveled - under their own initiative and support - from one end of the country to the other, from British Columbia to, most recently, St. John's. Whether traveling together or apart, it's the exposure to different musicians and styles of music which they feel has taught them the most.
"We spend about half our time together, and half our time away," Sara explained. "So when we're away we're always playing with different musicians and stuff, so it's a way that we can keep what we do alive and do other things and come back to it."
"The music that I write is pretty much about my life and the situation where I'm in and it just kind of comes when I'm feeling emotional," Kamila added. "Seeing other performers, going to folk festivals, and running around with a bunch of musicians all the time, it's inspiring … For me, I guess music has always been a healing thing. I write music to heal whatever situation I'm in. So it's either venting, or something to just figure out where I'm at."
Sara finds her musical inspiration in a similar manner. "It's like any kind of artistic thing - inspiration hits you, and if you don't use it, if you don't go right then into a little room and write it all out, you might lose it altogether. So something will come and I'll just know that it will be a song and I'll pick up the guitar and write a song and then, often I don't even know that l felt like that until I hear it in the whole song that I've written. It's like a dream."
Their debut self-titled CD is an accomplishment which led them both closer to their dreams. They've received a great deal of impressive support and feedback since the release of their album, but more importantly it's given them a stepping-stone to build on.
"It feels great." Sara enthused. -"And it changes things...
we can do things like travel to a whole new place and say, "this
is what we sound like." That's possible now. And for us, it's like
we've documented a whole bunch of our songs. That means that we can sort
of move on from there, instead of always having to remember them."
The duo have most recently brought their talents to bear on the local musical music scene. Kamila moved to St. John's two months ago, primarily to learn local instruments like the Celtic harp. Last week Sara joined her for a visit, and the two plan to play throughout the city for the month they'll be together.
The reputation of the city's music scene is what first drew Kamila here and she hasn't been disappointed by what she's found. "My friends... told me about the music scene," she explained. "All my friends were always telling me I should come ... I find the people here are more receptive than in a lot of places. Playing in B.C., and then playing here, I find people are more receptive to our style of music, and... everybody here is a songwriter!" "It's alive!" Sara added enthusiastically, referring to the local music scene. "It's not canned music like everywhere else. I've never been to a city where I've seen so much live music. It's beautiful! I love it!"
The two have an intense schedule of local performances planned, and hectic
though it may be, it's what they love doing best. They've applied to play
at a variety of folk festivals throughout the summer and hope once more
to take their music - and their CD - on the road.
"We're taking it one step at a time," added Sara excitedly. "For me, the thing is that I love the folk scene in Canada. I just have so much respect for so many musicians that I know from here. And I don't want to do much different from that. Just play in this country, and play the festival scene!"
Sara & Kamila [performed] March 17  at The Spur, March 20 and 25 at The Rose & Thistle, March 24 at The Bread Pig, and March 28 at McMurdo's. Copies of their self-titled debut CD can be found at O'Brien's Music Store and Fred's Records.
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