Crafting music in silence | Claire Tonna

She has usurped creative energy from her travels to New Zealand, ‘a country of four million people and 60 million sheep’, but singer-songwriter Claire Tonna tells us that she’s glad to return to her native country, as she prepares to perform ‘Most Intimate’, a concert featuring new material, at The British Legion Bar, Valletta on March 22.

Claire Tonna performing in New Zealand with Alan Foukles. Photo by Vincent Young.
Claire Tonna performing in New Zealand with Alan Foukles. Photo by Vincent Young.

What would you say are some of the most important things you've learnt in your musical journey so far?

The musical journey has taught me to be responsible in what I deliver. Music and words have a huge power to influence and even change the listeners' perspective of life, or of themselves.

I've performed in prisons, in mental hospitals, in homes for the destitute, and I've noticed that the right songs with the clear messages of courage, strength, confidence and self-respect actually had a positive effect in these spaces, occupied as they are with people who are marginalised and vulnerable. The shift in emotions during the performance was palpable.

My musical journey has also taught me how to approach music with a sense of 'mastery' - working to my best ability and with experienced, talented collaborators and ensuring that concerts are well-organised and thought out. All of this, while maintaining my integrity: both as an artist and a human being. I've been through the stage in my career where I prostituted my voice indiscriminately - now I just want to share it when it feels absolutely right to do so.

Given that you've lived and worked as a musician in New Zealand, how would you compare that experience to the Maltese scene?

I have to admit that I find it very hard to compare New Zealand and Malta - they are poles apart, in a very real way. New Zealand is a wilderness of silent creativity and spirituality. Unlike Malta, New Zealand is a young country, housing four million people and 60 million sheep. People are spread out far away from each other; so making contacts, organising concerts, meeting musicians, and becoming familiar with the music scene can be challenging and time-consuming.

This is the opposite of Malta, where everything is concentrated in a circumference of 27km, all artists are almost cousins, it is so easy to get things going, to collaborate, to meet all those involved in the arts and to observe different venues. It's easy to make things work... all the while against the background of a historically ancient country with a strong mystical element.

However, I most certainly can't complain about my musical experience in New Zealand. I was warmly welcomed by top music venues in Auckland. Tickets to my shows were sold out, and the audiences were clearly enthusiastic and appreciative. While my New Zealand concerts were overall fewer in number than compared to my European ones, I would say that it definitely made for a more profound experience overall.

The experience also had a directly positive impact on my creative process. Because again, unlike Malta, New Zealand is swallowed by silence. I think it is a space to dream and reflect on your inner life - it is a place where you can be honest with yourself. The material I have written there is powerful and overwhelming, and I will be sharing some of it on the March 22 concert at The British Legion.

Sexuality is clearly an important part of both the album and the upcoming performance, as you describe it. What led you make this such a priority?

I see that many things in life are priority not by our own choice, for example breathing is a priority not because we decided to but because it is by nature, and in the same way I see sexuality.

Sexual energy is actually the most powerful healer we have in our body, the most sacred, and somehow the most repressed especially in the culture we have been raised in. I think we have been scared of its divine power and beauty and its long been misinterpreted. Sex is actually the bridge that makes us feel God, the link between heaven and earth. 

My album, 'The Port', is actually a metaphor for womb, or vagina, because it is all about the uterus of life, the water that makes us, the water we cry, we drink, we orgasm... life, and when I sing this is the place my voice emanates from: 'the uterus of life where the water hides its heart'.

Claire Tonna will be performing alongside José Goruchapa (cello), Mario Sammut (piano), Michael Galea (drums), Sean Decelis (guitar), Justin Galea (backing vocals), Maria Mar (spoken word narration). Tickets are at €8 (€10 at the door). Bookings (from St James Cavalier):, 21 223200