Paying tribute to an exceptional artist demands an exceptional work of art. Chilean singer, songwriter, folklorist, social activist, poet, and visual artist Violeta Parra would have celebrated her 100th birthday this year. In her new recording, El Gavilán, vocalist, songwriter and producer Sofia Rei celebrates her legacy by approaching her music with the imagination and daring that characterize Parra’s work.
Sofía re-imagines Parra’s music in a contemporary setting featuring the eclectic and adventurous guitar of Marc Ribot who has collaborated with John Zorn, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and many others, and with the surprise participation of guitarist Angel Parra, Violeta’s grandson and a member of the Chilean rock group Los Tres, on one song. It is, in essence, the classic folk voice-and-guitar format, but framed here by both, electronics and traditional instruments. Besides providing all vocals, Sofia also plays caja vidalera, a hand-held single head drum from Argentina’s northwest, and charango, a small, five double string guitar from the Andean region of South America. The results — spacious and almost minimalist, the vocals layered and sculptured with samplers and pedal effects — illuminate Parra´s work from unexpected angles.
The set includes classics such as “Casamiento de Negros,” “La Lavandera,” “Maldigo del Alto Cielo” and “Run Run se fue pa’l Norte,” but its heart is Parra’s little-known masterpiece, “El Gavilán,” an ambitious work originally intended for ballet, vocalist, choir and indigenous instruments. It´s an astounding piece, written in the late 50s, before her best known songs, and in it, Parra mixes elements of Chilean folk tradition and 20th Century classical music. It´s a remarkable piece for a self-taught musician, and especially so for one who, up to then, had worked in the folk idiom. The closing track, “Run Run se fue pa’l Norte,” was written by Parra about Favre, nicknamed Run Run, who left her to start a new life in Bolivia. Sofia’s subtle arrangement sets it to a landó, a Peruvian rhythm. The cloud of sound, at times luminous and ominous, is by guitarist Angel Parra who has “his own contemporary approach to Violeta’s music” says Sofia.
Sofía Rei – All vocals, charango, caja vidalera, body percussion & wine glass.
Marc Ribot – All guitars.
Angel Parra – Guest guitar.
All arrangements and Production by Sofia Rei
Sofia Rei’s third album, De Tierra y Oro, has received two Independent Music Awards in the World Beat category for Best Album and Best Song in 2013 and has been featured on CNN, NPR’s Tiny Desk, WNYC’s Soundcheck, The New York Times and many more.
Sofia describes the album as a series of “philosophical wanderings” -songs that draw on a wide range of South American folkloric influences and bracingly modern sounds, with her powerful voice in the forefront. The album was produced with her longtime bassist and collaborator Jorge Roeder and co-producer Fabrice Dupont.
The textures run the gamut of contemporary to traditional: from layered and effects-treated vocals, electric guitars, loops and drum machines to Bolivian charangos, Paraguayan harps, Colombian marimbas, Argentine bombos, Peruvian cajones and more.
Rei’s vibrant multi-tracked vocals and use of reverbs, delays and harmonizers make “De Tierra y Oro” a bold departure from her previous work. Singing in Spanish, Rei tells stories that reflect her diverse travels and experiences: a cock fight in Cartagena, a nightmare in Buenos Aires, a love letter in New York, a haunted man in the Andes.
Sofía Rei – Lead, backup vocals and loops
Eric Kurimski – Acoustic guitar, semi-acoustic guitar
Jean-Christophe Maillard – Electric guitar and Spanish guitar
Jorge Roeder – Double bass, electric bass & charango
Yayo Serka – Drum & percussion set with bombo legüero, congas & cajón, Peruvian cajón, Flamenco cajón, udu, claps & percussion loops with dust remover spray, bells & breaths
Facundo Guevara – Percussion set with bombo legüero, congas, cajón, hi-hat, chas chas, maracas, chekere & caxixis
Samuel Torres – Congas, alegre drum & guache
Diego Obregón – Marimba de chonta, cununo & guasa
Morris Cañate – Tambora
Nestor Gomez – Maracas
Fernando Martínez – Snare drum
Malika Zarra – Backup vocals
Celso Duarte – Charango and harp
Josh Deutsch – Flugel horn & trumpet
Ryan Keberle – Trombone
Produced and arranged by Sofia Rei and Jorge Roeder, Sube Azul, recipient of the Best Album in the 2011 Independent Music Award in the World Beat category is a fully formed synthesis, reflecting Sofia’s immersion in modern and progressive jazz while also responding to the pull of ancestry and the appeal of organic, pan-musical connections.
A native of Buenos Aires, Sofia brings to bear the folkloric traditions of Argentina and its regional neighbors (Peru, Colombia, Uruguay), tying together diverse influences in a program full of complexity, melody and romance.
The songs speak of heartbreak, individuality, special characters in Sofia’s life, the challenges of life abroad. There are tributes to Argentina’s copleras (female folkloric singers), and comments on what Sofia terms “the end of the utopia of the upcoming Latin American revolution.”
And yet even as Sube Azul spans the continents, it transcends its origins and gathers force as a self-contained narrative, more than the sum of its parts.
Sofía Rei – Vocals, caja vidalera
Anat Cohen – Clarinet
Celso Duarte – Harp
Dana Leong – Cello & trombone
Leo Genovese – Piano, melodium suzuki
Geoffrey Keezer – Piano
Juancho Herrera – Acoustic & electric guitars, cuatro venezolano
Eric Kurimski – Acoustic guitar
Diego Obregon: Tres
Jorge Roeder – Double bass, electric bass
Yayo Serka – Drums, cajón, bombo, udu
Samuel Torres – Kalimba, congas, capachos, caxixis, shakers, maracas, percussion effects
Juan Medrano Cotito – Cajón, quijada, cajita, guapeo
Jorge Pérez Albela – Cajón, donkey jaw
Morris Cañate – Tambor alegre
Ronald Polo – Tambora
Nestor Gómez – Llamador, maracas
Ojalá -Sofia’s debut album- presents a rainbow of poignant melodies, involved orchestrations, folkloric textures and all-around superb musicianship, centered around Sofía’s rich, full-bodied, dolorous vocal instrument.
Singing in Spanish, Portuguese, or English, Sofía pursues a cross-pollination of traditions reflected in her original compositions and arrangements.
Ojalá has received incredible critical acclaim and has been chosen a TOP 10 Album of 2006 by the “Jazz Journalists Association.”
Sofía Rei – Vocals
Dan Blake – Tenor and soprano saxophones
Adam Schneit – Alto saxophone
Jason Palmer – Trumpet
Leo Genovese – Piano
Jorge Roeder – Upright bass
Richie Barshay – Drums
Jorge Perez Albela – Percussion