On Finding Mariana Secca and Joy

by Dom Jones

All photos by Dom Jones

All photos by Dom Jones

I met Mariana Secca in a class called The Artist Entrepreneur last semester. It was a 9am class, so needless to say, most of us weren’t very energetic upon arrival, but there was always a smile on her face when she came into class. I had never heard her music, and because Berklee is filled with musicians, I didn’t feel any special inclination to listen to it beyond the class… until she added me on Facebook, and I came across one of her live collaboration videos. When I watched that first video, I understood what was special about Mariana, a fifth semester student, majoring in Pro Music with focuses in Performance and Music Business. She and I sat down to speak just a few minutes before her Caf Show this past weekend.

“I’m going to do a mix of originals and covers, covers that I’ve posted to Facebook. I’m doing that because… because I just love the voices of the people who sing with me.”

This statement goes to the core of Mariana as an artist. A big collaborator, you can find plenty of videos of her singing songs with all different kinds of Berklee students on her Facebook page. They always seem very happy to work with her and filled with joy to collaborate, an attitude that is sometimes lacking on campus. There is never one star: these collaborations make the music the star and the musicians the vessels, which is what makes them all so striking. I ask her the one thought she wants her audience tonight to leave thinking:

“I think, like any other artist, I want them to feel my music. I want you to feel my music. Even in the Portuguese songs, even though you may not understand the words, I still want you to feel what I’m saying. I still want you to feel my sound… very honest.”

She continues to talk to me about wanting to create a familial space at all of her shows, and my curiosity grows around what this mariana3experience will entail. Most Caf Shows are about glitz, lights, action, and the name on the show being the center of attention. What
she describes to me is divergent from that trend. What I witness is amazing: the crowd vacillates between pure adoration and happiness and utter musical community. Several times during the night, she invites not only friends to join her on stage for songs, but the entire crowd to sing along with her, teaching parts from her microphone. Entranced, the crowd obliges her requests to sing along, giggling, sighing, and some even tearing up from the experience. As I look around the space, I realize something else: it’s the most packed Caf Show I’ve ever been to at Berklee. Downstairs is filled with people and the upstairs balcony is lined with even more people, all filled with joyous feelings towards the music being played.

mariana4When Xenia Manasseh joined Mariana on stage for a couple of tunes, the room went dead silent. We weren’t just listening to the sound of joy or talent or skill, we were hearing the sound of true musical kinship, as though they have been singing together for years and years. Their live rendition of “Searching for a Feeling” was just as enrapturing as it is in this video. The crowd cheered loudly when Mariana announced that Xenia would stay on stage for another tune. “This year, I really discovered my artistry, and that’s what the album is really based on,” Mariana tells me, sharing that she’ll be recording her debut album entitled “Maro” (her nickname) this coming June.


 Launching into one of my favorite Lianne La Havas tunes, “Wonderful,” Mariana again invites friends to join her for the song. Their rendition is so moving that I see audience member sitting on the ground in front of the stage waving their hands, tearing up, and Mariana has turned the entire Caf into her living room and all of us into her treasured guests. Though she invites us to help prepare the musical meal, it is we who await the next slice of fantastic bread that she will pull out of the oven of her voice. This happens again and again throughout the night, with the accompaniment of a phenomenal band, who are just as joyous as she is. She tells us towards the end of the show that at the strike of midnight, it will be her birthday. Expressing how homesick she is, and how difficult it is to spend her day away from her family, she thanks the crowd for filling in that space for her. When the show ends, no one leaves right away. The audience stands around smiling, greeting one another and Mariana, and then (as if on cue), everyone launches into a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Truly by finding her sound and herself, after a treacherous week of midterms, she has caused all of us to find the joy again.



About the Author

Dom Jones is a dual major in Music Business and Songwriting, and her work has been published in Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Blavity and Ebony.com. She released her debut album, Wingspan, in 2014 and her follow up EP, Blackbird in 2016. Find out more about her at iamdomjones.com