GRAMMY Award-nominated Latinx artist Sofia Rei is an ever-traveler perpetually seeking new expressions for her innate gift as a vocalist and songwriter. Produced by JC Maillard (Angelique Kidjo, Richard Bona), Rei’s latest recording, UMBRAL (Cascabelera Records; Release Date: June 4, 2021), takes her deep into the mountains of the Elqui Valley in Chile to capture intimate portrayals of a woman fighting for her place in the world. Rei set off on a solo trek across the rugged Eastern Chilean terrain with two backpacks of recording gear, and a mind overflowing with the complexities of modern life. UMBRAL results in a masterpiece steeped in folkloric tradition and digital futurism.
Rei set off on her travels to the Elqui Province with a charango in hand ready for an uninhibited excursion to record unorthodox vocal sketches in the form of loops based on a series “Cinco Poemas Cínicos” (“Five Cynical Poems”). Incisive and imaginative, Rei’s poetry responds to heartbreak, deception, and disappointment with unrestrained candor. Her self-sufficient compositions originate from a vocal layering structure allowing each work to stand on its own.
La Otra (single)
On April 30th, Sofía Rei releases her new single La Otra, a preview of her upcoming album Umbral. The song is based on a poem by the great Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral. Gabriela was the first Latin American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. Sofía found her poem “La Otra” (the Other Woman) on a trip to her hometown, the Elqui Valley in Chile. Over booming drum beats and chirping flute embellishments, “La Otra” is an exciting tribute to Mistral with instrumentation based in Colombian dance music.
“I felt that it was describing me and the exact landscape I was witnessing. It really hit me and inspired this song. My interpretation, which I am not sure if it was her intention, was that she was describing a process of rebirthing, transformation. ‘I killed a woman in me—the one I did not love.'” The song since then suffered many transformations. My dear collaborator JC Maillard did a brilliant job with the production and brought it to a whole new musical dimension. I hope you have a few minutes to listen to it, I really have a special connection with it.”
Negro Sobre Blanco (single)
In her most recent project, an exhaustive exploration of the voice as an instrument of texture and expression, Sofía Rei breaks away from the established continuity of her work, creating a daring new soundscape that blends South American folk with pop, electronic music and improvisation.
Sofía, armed with two back packs of recording equipment and her charango on a soul-searching trip to the Elqui Valley in Chile, created the core of her newest musical venture "UMBRAL" (threshold), culminating in the inception of the song "Negro Sobre Blanco", a saying in Spanish that means to put things into perspective. The song describes a moment of despair, hope for clarity and resolution and was built almost exclusively from vocal loops, based on an Afro-Bolivian saya rhythm, mixing traditional instruments with electronic samples and produced by JC Maillard (Lisa Fischer, Angelique Kidjo, Richard Bona, Toure Kunda, etc)
In 2018, an important story reaches its final chapter. For a quarter of a century, John Zorn’s Masada has been a consistently exciting and influential presence in the landscape of adventurous music, involving renowned artists such as Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, Metheny, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Pat Metheny and many more. With this third and final songbook, The Book Beriah, the legendary composer concludes his exhaustive exploration of new Jewish music with ninety-two compositions over eleven albums, presented by some of the world’s most accomplished musicians.
“The fabulous voice of Sofia Rei has graced several Zorn vocal projects, from the acappella quartet Mycale to the dynamic Song Project, and here she interprets eight compositions from The Book of Beri’ah – the third and last book completing the Masada legacy. Richly layered yet austere; emotional but also meticulously structured; sung in Spanish but framed by global references, the music in Keter (Crown) speaks as much to the imagination and daring of vocalist, songwriter, and producer Sofía Rei and saz bass player, guitarist and producer J.C. Maillard as to the possibilities hidden in the source material by John Zorn. The eight compositions featured in Keter were drawn from The Book Beri’ah —the third and final installment of Zorn’s Masada project, created in 1993 with the goal of expanding established notions about Jewish music.” – Tzadik Records
Sofía Rei – Vocals, loops & charango.
JC Maillard – Saz bass, vocals.
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.
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.
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.
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.”