SW Sounds: Fernanda Cunha

We meet Sarnia-based singer and Brazilian expat Fernanda Cunha on this week's SW Sounds.

Established Brazilian singer sets off towards a new career path in Sarnia

Brazilian jazz singer Fernanda Cunha recently moved from Rio de Janeiro to Sarnia, Ontario. (Supplied by Fernanda Cunha)

SW Sounds is a weekly feature that profiles a southwestern Ontario artist and their new music. Listen for it Mondays on Afternoon Drive between 4:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on CBC Radio One.

Two cities, more than 8,000 kilometres apart.

And from a cultural sense, you might say that Rio de Janeiro is worlds away from Sarnia, Ontario.

But that's exactly the journey that Fernando Cunha made when she decided to move from the sunny, sprawling former Brazilian capital to the small, snowy border city.

Cunha is a well-established singer in her native country, with eight albums to her credit. But this fall, the 49-year-old moved to Sarnia to attend post-secondary school at Lambton College.

Tell us a bit about your music.

My music is Brazilian jazz. It's bossa nova, and also I sing some ballads. People sometimes get it confused with Latin music. It's not the same flavour as Latin, Mexican or Cuban music.

What brought you to Canada?

Well, I've been performing since 2005 at festivals all over Canada. I've been from coast to coast to coast — from Vancouver to Iqaluit. I've performed all over the world but Canada is my favourite place. I love the audience, I love the people, I love everything except the weather! (laughs)

And what brought you to Sarnia?

In 2011, I was performing at a festival in Qualicum Beach, B.C. As part of the festival, I performed at some long-term care facilities. And that changed my mind, absolutely. I'm a graduate in psychology, but I gave up psychology 20 years ago to be a singer. But when I was performing at that long-term care home, I said to myself that I've got to do something to put together music, arts and psychology. And I found recreation therapy. I put that in Google, and the first hit was Lambton College! So I said 'whoa, let's find out about Sarnia!'

How would you compare life in Sarnia to your life in Rio de Janeiro?

Yeah, it's completely different! (laughs) It's completely different but Rio is too busy and I was tired of it. I think sometimes we need to slow down a little bit. Otherwise, things are just getting too crazy.

Tell us a bit about your latest record.

With this album (Canta Filo Machado, 2019), I recorded songs by Filo Machado. He's a composer, guitar player and singer from Sao Paulo. He's around 68 or 69 years old with a 50-year career, but he's not known in Brazil. But Filo is very, very talented. I wanted to make a record with his songs to show Brazil that 'oh come on, there's a guy here that's doing something very important that we need to listen to!' So that's why I decided to do this album.

This interview was edited and condensed. Have a listen to 'Perfume de Cebola' from Fernanda Cunha's latest album, as part of her SW Sounds profile:

If you know of an artist or band with new music that we should be featuring on SW Sounds, email or reach out on Twitter, @cbcafternoondr.

More SW Sounds:


Chris dela Torre

Host of Afternoon Drive

Chris dela Torre is the host of Afternoon Drive on CBC Radio One in Southwestern Ontario. He's worked as a host, reporter and producer in several cities across Canada, and has hosted several CBC network programs, such as q, DNTO and The Story From Here.


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