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 characterized Parra’s work.
Sofía re-imagines Parra’s music in a contemporary setting and records an album in duo with eclectic and adventoruous guitarist Marc Ribot and with the surprise participation of Angel Parra, Violeta’s grandson. Sofía 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. It is still, in essence, the classic folk voice-and-guitar arrangement, but framed by both, electronics and traditional instruments. The results — spacious and almost minimalist— illuminate Parra´s work from unexpected angles.
Sofía built most of the song arrangements with only multilayered vocals sculptured as loops with effects and a wide range of textures creating a sonic landscape unique to each composition.
El Gavilán” is a thirteen-minute composition from Parra, closer to atonal academic music than to Latin American folklore, in which the pain and desperation of a devious love take flesh in a dissonant sonority and lyrics that resemble babbling, as if nothing was left to say other than what this disruptive and mourning music expresses. “El Gavilán” is also the piece that inspired this project. Violeta Parra’s body of work is a heritage to which one always returns, as her figure is the symbol of multiple artists: a woman, Latin American, a revolutionary, a lover. Firm and sensitive, militant and suffering, a compiler and a creator.
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
“Rarely does one come across a volume of work that is so quintessentially spectral that it stops the breath and suspends the heartbeat. Sofía Rei’s album, El Gavilán is one such volume.” - Raul da Gama, WORLD MUSIC REPORT