Pop: Riffs

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The First and Last Records Bought By Hanitra, lead singer with Tarika

First Record

Rosa Paradise: "Sahondra"

This is a Madagascan record which uses a flower as a metaphor for love (Sahondra is the name of a wild flower in Madagascar). Sahondra is my sister's name, so it was like screaming and chatting about my sister. Rather than the usual slow and melancholic love song, it's a love song with a happy beat; a merry, driving-along pulse.

I was very young when I first heard this and it stayed in my mind, mostly because of its squeaky, high-pitched vocals which I thought were two women singing in harmony. I sung along and found out, years later, it was two men. Which is funny, because thinking it was women is why it affected me so much.

Me and my sister would sing along. We developed a really quick instinct, which is essential to singing in harmony, and then I had to have my sister in the band. Everyone in my family would sing. It was almost a problem if you didn't find your harmony. We didn't have electricity and would sing in the dark, only joining in when you found a harmony. It's how you learn; there are some really strange, weird harmonies, but they fit and feel comfortable.

Last Record

Emmylou Harris: "Portrait"

It's the first time I have bought music on the Internet, which is pretty wild. The reason I brought this is crazy: Emmylou Harris's was the first foreign record I ever sang, but at the time I didn't know the words, so I would sing along to the harmonies phonetically. She has a beautiful voice and my family would make a five-part harmony when listening to her.

When I got this box-set, I realised it had all the songs which I used to harmonise. Even so, her songs were always easy to pick up for my particular kind of harmonising.

We got to peek at her last year when Tarika were at the Edmonton Folk Festival in Canada. To find out the meaning of the songs and to meet her was not a shock - it emphasised what I have always thought about Emmylou Harris: I always thought she was an angel-like lady and sings beautiful harmonies, and what I discovered is they are about love, landscapes, pain and many emotions I can relate to. Even if I had never met her, I would have considered her up there in my higher spirit place. A beautiful lady singing beautiful songs.

Tarika are performing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1 (0171- 960 4242) on 11 November

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