Calcúra is an editorial visual journey through Sardinia. Through a series of conversations and photographic stories Acre has created a showcase of the Sardinian creative scene.
Several voices have been involved, and each of them represents an interweave, a root in the soil that creates intimate worlds waiting to be discovered.

Sardinian songwriter and producer based in London, Chiara Floris aka BLUEM, relives her homeland and the memories that bind her to it in a musical tale that creates a nostalgic, evocative and enveloping universe. This is BLUEM, whose name is inspired by the title of the jazz standard sung by Billy Holiday, Blue Moon. Chiara takes us through unique sounds, personal lyrics and melodies as minimal as they are intense.  We interviewed her last August during our trip to Sardinia X Calcùra.

bluem calcura sardegna
Courtesy of BLUEM

Tell us about who you are and how the BLUEM project came about.

I am BLUEM. This is a project that was initially in English, and I started writing songs from the end of 2018. I had also started to do some research in terms of content and sound because it was a time when I was feeling some nostalgia towards my land, Sardinia. So I decided to make a project that musically reflected what I was experiencing at that time here in London, precisely in this room. Meanwhile, I started to think about everything I missed about Sardinia that I wanted to use to be represented. 

From what you have told us, would you like to tell us how your passion for music came about? What about the other arts? We know from your background that you love cinema, and if you think about Notte, the photographic and visual component comes through very strongly. 

So, I got into music when I was a child, I was eight years old and I started a classical guitar course. I continued until high school, convinced I was a guitarist, in fact until the first two years of university I thought that was my path. Then I moved here to London to study and graduate as a jazz guitarist to be a session musician. Later I realized that I wanted to come up with things of my own, projects, and that my interest was not limited to music in creating.

bluem calcura sardegna
Courtesy of BLUEM

In particular I wanted to sing, but I was very shy and did not want to admit to myself what I wanted to do. Then when I gained courage, I enrolled in Av Sync, music for audiovisuals, so music for film. Hence the motivation why I am so attached to music for film and video art in general. I then also started my own project, I also met the guy who produced Notte con me, Simone d’Avenia. I started to put out the first songs of the project, which were in English, not these in Italian, and from there one thing led to another and I arrived at this. 

Actually, photography is something I have always been very passionate about. My sister is a photographer and also a film producer, she does animation. I also ended up working here in London at The Photographers Gallery in Soho. I had the opportunity to see all the photography that went through here. I also assisted some photographers when needed and this also allowed me to get to know this world even more. 

There I also had the chance to meet the person who took the photos for the Notte album, namely Jasmine Färling. She is a Finnish girl who worked with me at the gallery bar. She is also a very good professional photographer and shcame with me to Sardinia to take some photos from some sketches I had drawn earlier. All I did was remember the places that are most dear to me and that make me feel good while I was here in London.

The places in the photos are in fact places related to my family, places I know perfectly well. In fact I drew the photos one by one before taking them because I knew how and where I would take them. I include everything, be it drawing, fashion, video, photos. I include all art: I’m not into ‘I only see music, I only do music’. It would be very boring and it also limits you a lot as a state of mind. 

bluem calcura sardegna
Courtesy of BLUEM

We wanted to ask you about your relationship with Sardinia and how this might have influenced Notte. Particularly in the relationship between the visual and musical parts of the project.

It always surprises me so much when people see this coherence, this sort of closed circle between the visual part and the musical part, because I was afraid that you couldn’t see it as one thing. It was a very stupid thought when I think about it now, because anyway what I did by combining the musical part with the visual part is nothing but representing my whole person. 

I grew up here musically, in this case I sang it in Italian and it is extremely international in terms of influences. I am Sardinian and extremely attached to my land, often very nostalgic, so I wanted to bring these feelings into the visual part. The link that unites them for me is the song in which my grandmother talks about or Friday. I felt I had put a closure between these two projects that are ultimately the same thing. Let’s say that by the time I finished writing the songs, at the end of that week, I had not thought but only felt, acted.

I needed to get some stuff out, a new project because I hadn’t been able to write anything for a couple of years. When I finished though I started to have thoughts and images in my head. It happens to me automatically when I have a song or do something creative. Images for me are deeply connected to whatever I do. 

By the way, I keep some small mementos of Sardinia in my room, and they are here behind me: postcards of women in costume, roses from the Sartiglia, the mask of su Componidori. I keep all these things here to maintain the link with Sardinia and to help me a bit with nostalgia, even though I have been in London for seven years and am also relatively comfortable here.

Courtesy of BLUEM

Listening to Notte, makes you immediately enter a very intimate and cozy dimension. Would you like to give us a definition of intimacy?

It is difficult for me to give my own definition of intimacy and I understand that people when they listen to it are in the same situation as I was in when I made the record. I was in this room alone, in the flat I was alone. For me, intimacy can be linked to the word search, the search within oneself. That’s what I did in those days and what happens if you stay in solitude for a moment and think about your life. 

For me it’s really about pausing and going inside yourself, because most of the time when we’re working and doing other things we’re not in ourselves. We’re always relating to the world around us and so it’s a different way of living and perceiving yourself. Only when you stop and think and try to get something out, you are in another state being actually intimate with yourself. That’s what I did in those days, it had become a necessity. To be able to allow other people into the space I had created was something that I feared but then gave me so much.

Still referring to the question of intimacy, did it come naturally since you made an Italian record coming from English songs, to bring the concept of home and Sardinia?

Maybe yes, it all came together because being nostalgic I also did a visual project all related to Sardinia and I decided to go back to my mother tongue instead of writing in English. That’s the link between the two, the nostalgia and then the fact that it remained more so essential in the sound as well. It was a choice because I made the record where the sound remained essential. Doing one song a day you couldn’t do any more arrangements, it was already a lot to get a whole song out of one day.

When I then went to do the post-production with Simone, we tried to add a few things, also because being extremely self-critical I thought ‘you have to do more’. In the end, however, very few things were added and I think it was because of the way it happened. If I had gone and changed it a lot I would have distorted it, it would no longer have been the same and people would no longer have perceived it as something so intimate.

sardegna calcura acre magazine
Courtesy of BLUEM

How is taking the project out in front of so many other people making you feel? 

I remain terrified of the live show because I am an introvert, quite shy person. But I am also very happy to do it, I am very happy to step out of my comfort zone. We rehearsed a lot together with Simone. We have prepared something that brings even more to the project. The live show also includes speeches in Sardinian and Italian, said by Sardinian people, about Sardinia and life. These which I took from the documentary Isole made by my sister, which came out a few years ago.

So there are these parts where you can hear the speeches and we play, acting as an interlude between one song and another. I am also happy with the set because with the time we had we did a great job. When we arrived in Sardinia and played for Abbabula it was very exciting. A lot of people told me they were in a kind of trance while we were playing. The important thing is to arouse something and that this something is positive.