LAMC Showcase at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn

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Girl Ultra

LAMC Showcase at BRIC

Celebrate Brooklyn

Mala Rodriguez, Ana Tijoux & Girl Ultra

July 13, 2018

by Ernest Barteldes

On the Celebrate Brooklyn night of the 2018 edition of the Latin Alternative Music Conference, the audience was presented with three very different female voices with very distinctive styles that gave us a glimpse of what is going on in the Latin music scene.

Mexican R&B singer Girl Ultra (Mariana de Miguel) opened the proceedings backed by a simple band that featured keyboards, bass and drums, and she sang mostly original material. Early on the set, there were some technical problems with the keyboards, and instead of interrupting the set, she just began to improvise with the bassist and the drummer for about five minutes, creating music on the spot to the delight of the crowd, who got the chance to see the artist in an unfiltered format, just being creative with whatever she had in her mind at the moment.

Girl Ultra’s music is clearly inspired by contemporary R&B with a retro feel – she clearly draws from the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston but does not have their vocal power. She does, however, have tons of creativity with her vocals, and uses her limitations to her advantage. I believe what we heard was a diamond in the rough – she has great potential as an R&B singer, and I’m hoping to hear her more down the road.

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Ana Tijoux

She was followed by Chile’s Ana Tijoux, who has evolved incredibly from the first time I saw her at an earlier showcase at Central Park Summerstage. She started out with a Spanish-language song written in the 1970s that she said was “relevant to our times,” and was very vocal against the current U.S. administration. During the set she alternated between her earlier rap hits (which included her signature hit “1977”) and more melodic material. At one point, she brought in a violin trio for a tango-inflected tune called “Asaltemos a Un Banco” (“Let’s Rob a Bank”) which was followed by a “Somos Sur,” socially conscious number which she described (in Spanish) that “is about what Latin America is – it’s not a postcard, it’s about where we live. Our culture comes from the streets – to be Latin is all about the places.” Another tune talked about how the rich put the poor down by denying them access to education and dignity, inviting the listener to “join the fight” against racism and blind capitalism.

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Mala Rodriguez

Closing the evening was Spain’s Mala Rodriguez, who came accompanied by a DJ and two female dancers in very skimpy white outfits, delivering a set of dance-inspired music that seemed a bit out of step with the more acoustic nature of the previous sets, but audiences seemed to dig it – like in every LAMC night, it was an opportunity to hear diverse voices and get a feel for the direction of pop, rock and other genres within the umbrella of Latin Music.

Chicago and West Coast Beat: Gracias a La Vida, A Tribute to Violeta Parra

By Ernest Barteldes

Violeta Parra was one of the greatest singers and songwriters to emerge during the
“Nueva Cancion” (“new song”) movement in South America, and was incredibly influential not only for her contemporaries but also to many fans and musicians who came after she took her own life in 1967.

Parra is arguably best recognized for “Gracias a La Vida,” a song that celebrates the gifts of life – the tune was recorded by luminaries like Mercedes Sosa, Brazil’s Elis Regina and countless others.  The lyrics speak of gratefulness and the happiness of being in love, but some interpret the words as a suicide note.

The tribute will feature Ilaipu, an Andean group formed in 1971 that had first-hand experience of the excesses of the Pinochet regime:  after wrapping up a tour in 1981, they found themselves barred from their own country due to the political content of their lyrics. They lived in exile for almost the remainder of the decade, when the dictator finally stepped down in 1988 following a successful opposition campaign to strip him from the presidency.

Also on the bill is Colombina Parra (a niece of Violeta’s), who started her career as a punk/grunge singer-songwriter in the 1990s.  Her style did evolve, and now she incorporates various acoustic and regional elements into her music – an example of that is “Volvamos a Encontrarnos,” a sensual tune in which she almost whispers the vocals with the backing of percussion and acoustic guitar.

The Chicago concert is part of a four-day event entitled “ Gracias a la Vida: The Rebel Spirit of Chile’s Legendary Voice, which celebrates Parra’s legacy with field trips, film screenings and lectures.

Saturday, April 18, Old Town School of Folk, 4544 N Lincoln Ave · Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall; 773.728.6000; 7:00; $30