Intimate Strangers (Biophilia Records)

Sara Serpa and Emmanuel Iduma

Released December 3, 2021

New York Times 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2021

Arts Fuse 2021 Jazz Critics Poll Top 10 Vocal Album




A collaboration between Portuguese vocalist-composer Sara Serpa and Nigerian writer Emmanuel Iduma, drawing inspiration from Iduma’s latest book, A Stranger’s Pose, a unique blend of travelogue, musings and poetry. In a combination of music, text, image and field recordings collected by Iduma during his travels, Intimate Strangers explores such themes as of movement, home, grief, absence and desire in what Iduma calls “an atlas of a borderless world”.

Intimate Strangers, which premiered in 2018 as a John Zorn Commission at National Sawdust, is an interdisciplinary musical performance that portrays writer Emmanuel Iduma’s travels in several African countries.

Taking Nigeria as a point of departure, it describes several encounters the writer has along his journey from Lagos to Sarajevo along the coast. The journey takes unexpected turns, resulting in reflections on the sea, the desert as well as natural and artificial borders he is faced with. There is beauty in these encounters, even when they describe love and loss, grief and longing, displacement and war, privilege or apathy.

While Emmanuel represents himself, Sara Serpa along with the voices of Sofía Rei and Aubrey Johnson are simultaneously narrators, storytellers and spirits that travel along, opening several emotional doors through the piece. With music composed by Serpa, it features also Qasim Naqvi on modular synth and pianist Matt Mitchell.

Like echoes from a distant reality, Intimate Strangers aims to reflect on how we see the other and how we describe hospitality and humanity for future generations

Intimate Strangers is made possible with the support from The NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre by the City of New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment in association with the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Track Listing:

1. First Song 03:12

2. Lokoja- Okenne 05:21

3. How Do You Know Where To Go? 05:21

4. Bamako 02:30

5. Lejam 05:02

6. The Poet (feat. Onesiphore Nembe) 03:40

7. God’s Time 05:03

8. Kidira 03:00

9. Le Bout Du Monde 03:47

10. Note to Nephew 02:00

11. In Due Course 04:23

12. Night 03:23 

13. For You I Must Become a Tree 03:58


Sara Serpa: voice, composition
Emmanuel Iduma: text, spoken word
Sofía Rei: voice
Aubrey Johnson: voice
Matt Mitchell: piano
Qasim Naqvi: modular synth


Sara Serpa, a Portuguese singer whose voice is both small and bold, has spent the past few years immersing herself in the shocking history of Portugal’s colonial misadventures on the African continent, and responding through music. On “Intimate Strangers,” she collaborates with Emmanuel Iduma, a Nigerian memoirist and critic, who has written in evocative detail about the experiences of migrant laborers on the continent today. Through him, Serpa found a way to explore the present-day legacy of colonialism, while usefully decentering her own perspective. But the music remains distinctly Serpa’s: cool-toned, vocal-driven, abstract and yet immediately beautiful.

Giovanni Russonello (New York Times)