“It’s pretty unusual to turn up to a gig with a bassoon and declare that you make EDM!! – but it’s worth it.”
S.A.A.R.A. (Sara Belle) is a London born and based, producer, composer, bass player and singer making genre defiant EDM that has roots in electro, indie, new wave and funk. She is excited to share her third single release, ‘Deliverance’ (out March 24, 2022) which is a rally cry to not give up on what you are looking for in life and love.
This release features the bassoon, played by Thomas Porter (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Red Note Ensemble (bassoon & contrabassoon), and challenges perceptions of electronic dance music (EDM).
“S.A.A.R.A is completely defying expectations”
- Record the Resonance
“A sultry blend of jazz, dance and classical elements.”
- Get in Her Ears
“One of the most interesting sonic symbiosis ever seen!”
- Roadie Music
S.A.A.R.A (Sara Belle), picked up the bass guitar and began her career in music serendipitously when invited to join her first band, City Lights (garage-rock), formed at her north London secondary school. Learning the ropes on the Camden gig circuit she soon grew to develop her own signature style on bass that led her to working with an array of other projects including Ezra Bang and Hot Machine (guerrilla-funk), Ash Walker (trip-hop) and Westerman (alt-pop). Working with such a broad range of artists inspired Sara to become more involved in songwriting and production in addition to playing the bass.
After the breakup of her last band and following a ten-year hiatus, Sara found herself no longer able to dismiss the need to explore her own artistic agency. “It got to the point where the pain of remaining stuck, trying to ignore this creative calling within myself, outgrew the fear of taking the leap and embarking on the journey to discover my own sound” says Sara regarding her decision to enrol on an MA in Experimental Music in 2016. During her studies she became interested in the listener’s experience of sound, exploring how to create subjective compositions by constructing immersive, interactive sound installations. Through this, her confidence as a composer and producer began to grow, her focus now on creating tracks that feature a rich palette of sounds and inspire the listener to dance.
Grounding her practice in experimentation emboldened Sara to operate outside convention, choosing to create electronic dance music that honours a breadth of influences including Gil Scott Heron, Sly and the Family Stone, Fela Kuti, Little Dragon, Bjork and Kate Bush. With a loyal, growing fanbase (1K+ on Instagram), she has been featured as Woman of the Week by Lydia Greatrix on Gorgeous FM with her music premiering on the Super Nova Radio Show by Lucas Gil on Glitter Beam Radio and The Outerglobe show by Debbie Golt on Resonance 104.4FM & Threads Radio. Onstage, S.A.A.R.A delivers electrically charged shows that command the audience to dance. Tickets to her first hybrid show at October Gallery on the heels of her debut release, ‘Grace Jones’ (September 2020) sold out in 48 hours, with 800 viewers joining the livestream. In November 2021 she supported Dele Sosimi’s Afrobeat Experience at the Jago, London, signalling that the band are fast growing into the must-see live act of 2022.
We had the chance to interview Sara in March 2022.
BB: Hi Sara! Thanks for taking the time to talk about your new release featuring the bassoon! For those readers who may not know very much about you, how would you describe your music and the type of musical artist you are? Sara: The music we make is the result of having a breadth of influences – almost to the point that deciding on what kind of music I wanted to make felt like an impossible task. One week, my sights would be set on making something with punk spirit and six guitars and the next week I wanted to make drum and bass!!
Things started to crystalise much more when I was studying an MA in Experimental Music. I began to approach making music as a way of experimenting with sounds and thinking about what I wanted to communicate sonically and the effect I wanted it to have on the audience. On creating this project, I knew I wanted to create live performance environments where people would want to dance - to physically interact with the music. I also wanted to explore the intersection between electronic/ digital music and instrumentation, in the form of programmed beats and synth, with ‘analogue’ music – originating from a physical space such as an instrument. Working with woodwind instruments brings an irrefutable corporeal element to the music we make.
I would certainly describe myself as an artist that has her feet firmly rooted in experimentation as part of the creative process. Creating the current release and the previous two singles was the result of much trial and error however, I am so pleased with the results – I found myself making music in a way I didn’t know was possible.
BB: How did you first learn about the bassoon? Sara: I love watching orchestras perform live and knew a little of the bassoon from seeing it amongst the woodwinds – it's such a strange and impressive looking instrument sitting between the clarinets and the double basses. In a way, it perfectly represents the midpoint of my journey from being a clarinettist to becoming a bassist!!I
I also recently found out that the intro to Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles was played on a bassoon - that is certain a song that was on rotation at home growing up - my mum is a big soul fan.
BB: Can you share the story for how you decided to have a bassoon featured in your music? Sara: On my meandering journey to finding my feet musically, I worked with a band that had bassoon in line up and instantly knew that this was for me. I love the deep and warm texture it has sonically and feel it works well interplaying with the bass, which I play.
I had met Thomas through a friend of mine and knew that he played bassoon. I think I asked him about 75 times to join my band before he gave in. He’s an excellent and highly skilled musician and brings a huge amount of life to the bassoon parts in the arrangement.
BB: What inspires your music?
Sara: Freedom in self-expression is a big factor in inspiring me to make the music I make. I found, through experiences with previous projects, that it was hard for me to fully explore my ideas as there were bigger, more experienced… more male voices in the space. But it was the perfect opportunity to observe and learn about writing, recording, producing and performing. I am also inspired by the sense of freedom I experience when I create music as, being a woman of colour, there are not many spaces where my voice and ideas can/ will be freely heard. Leading this strange, experimental project that is loud and rambunctious yet also has skill, poise, and the delicateness that the classical elements bring to it, spurs me on to further explore, experiment and challenge myself.
BB: What do you hope for audiences to feel when they are listening to your music? Sara: I wish for our audiences to experience freedom and empowerment through our music. Just the very act of dancing, in my opinion, captures both those things as when you are knee deep in your favourite groove, there isn’t much space for feeling anything but great. I also wish to share the notion of never giving up on the journey to find the thing that brings you joy, peace and happiness – whatever it may be. When writing our current release, ‘Deliverance’, I was thinking about how I had tried to ignore, for nearly a decade, this creative calling within. I’m so glad that I decided to tune into that inner knowing and start exploring it without compromise in order to make the music that I do now!
Experimental EDM composer S.A.A.R.A releases Afrofuturist ode for those in pursuit of happiness.
Following her critically acclaimed second single ‘Forest’, genre defying EDM artist/composer S.A.A.R.A releases third single ‘Deliverance’, a rousing, Afrofuturist dedication to not giving up on finding what you are searching for in life and love. Blending electronic beats, synths and lush woodwind, S.A.A.R.A continues to challenge the boundary lines between experimental pop, afrobeat, EDM and new-wave. With a vocal delivery reminiscent of Blondie’s Debbie Harry and an instrumental arrangement that pays homage to Fela Kuti and Charles Mingus, ‘Deliverance’, feels contemporary and nostalgic in equal measure.
Set for digital release on March 24, 2022, this offering from London based bass player and producer cements her unwavering stance to challenge the hegemony of the music industry.
Written by S.A.A.R.A
Produced by S.A.A.R.A, Mackadena and Adriano Desire, Tracking Engineer Michael Frayer
Vocals, Bass, Keys - Sara Belle
Flute - Rebecca Speller
Tenor Sax - Nick Evesham
Bassoon - Thomas Porter
Drum programming - Mackadena
For more information about S.A.A.R.A. and her music, please make sure to visit her website.