Thursday, September 25, 2008

chavela

I believe it was Kim of Boston who introduced me to Chavela Vargas -- no more than a month ago. In that time, she has become a fixture on my computer at work. When the vagaries of life impinge, I turn up the volume and suffer through the unfairness of life -- but with élan.


I had never heard of her before Kim's introduction. And I know why. She is one of those iconic singers who embody a national spirit. Think of Maria Severa Onofriana of Fado fame. "World famous" in their art in their home land. But, outside of their country, as unknown as grace at a miser's convocation.


Of course, some national icons make the cross-over leap: Édith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald -- Noel Coward (just kidding). But not yet Chavela -- at least, not to that extent.


After all, Kim is an aficionado -- a true advocate for Chavela. And she deserves the advocacy. Even at 89, with the voice reduced to a croak, there is force and charisma. Far more than merely the remnants of a pretty voice. Chavela still sings with the embodiment of sorrow and strength.


I began with her 2003 concert at Carnegie Hall. (You might enjoy reading a review of that performance.) If you want to hear some samples of that recording, you can do so
here. For those of you who have not yet been introduced to the music of Chavela, you have a treat in store. Without knowing Spanish (and I sit in the front row of that class), a lot of the story disappears in the magic of her telling.


When my linguistic skills improve, I look forward to visiting in depth with Chavela. Until then, she helps to fill my days with the mystery of Mexico.

21 comments:

Michael Dickson said...

When I think of Maria Severa Onofriana, I have a Zen moment. A blank mind.

Michael Dickson said...

That music link to Rhapsody will not play in Mexico. You will run into this down here on occasion. It is really annoying.

Anonymous said...

i will listen to her when i get a chance-thanks for the tip. speaking of linguistic skills, how is the spanish coming along? you haven't mentioned it lately.

off on my morning walk. have a great day!

teresa

Steve Cotton said...

Michael -- I agree. Fado is as close to a Zen experience that most of us will experience. And thanks for the Rhapsody tip. I will try to find another link. Amazon, unfortunately, had no audio clips.

Teresa -- My Spanish studies have suffered at the hands of my house repair projects. I realized that last night as I watched the video clips on Bliss's blog.

glorv1 said...

I love to listen to Chavela Vargas, especially her rendition of LLorona. She did come out in Frida in the bar scene, to sing that song. She is wonderful.

Steve Cotton said...

Gloria -- How did you discover Chavela Vargas? I am interested in hearing how people are introduced to music.

Larry Prater said...

Chavela Vargas was born in Costa Rica, lived most of her life in Mexico, now lives in Spain, where she says she enjoys more freedom. Salma Hayeks Frida is worth watching just to see Chavela Vargas. She used to live near here, in Ahuatepec. Pedro Aldomóvar got her to move to Spain.

CancunCanuck said...

Fabulous, thanks for the introduction! The link didn't work (I'm with Michael, frustrating to get the message that we can't watch or listen to something if we are not in the states, grrrr), but youtube is a great place to listen and see her. Just lovely!

Nancy said...

You tube has a lot of video of her.

glorv1 said...

Steve, I first knew of Chavela when she made her movie debut on Frida, the movie. I did a little research on her and listened to more of her music and found that her voice is like no other I've heard.

Steve Cotton said...

Larry -- I knew Chavela was from Costa Rica, but I did not know she was currently living in Spain. I have not seen Julie Taymor;s Frida. I may rent it this weekend. Anything with Selma Hayek is a winner in my eyes.

Cancuncanuck -- I added a link for Borders. I hope it works.

Anonymous said...

Hola Steve,

You are too kind, and thanks. I'm glad you liked Chavela. In Mexico she is regarded as a goddess.

Fond regards,

Kim G
Boston, MA

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- On this blog, we give credit where credit is due.

Jonna said...

I LOVE Chavela Vargas! I have a lot of her songs, as many as I could find, on my iPod.

The story I heard about her is that she is a dyke, a contemporary of Diego and Frida and perhaps a one time lover of Frida's. She was also an alcoholic and when Pedro Aldomóvar went looking for her because he wanted to record her, he found her singing for booze in small cantinas in DF. He convinced her to come to Spain and dry out. Basically, he gave her a new life. He gave the rest of us a chance to hear her sing.

I first heard about her reading an interview with Lila Downs. BTW, you should also check her out. She too is an incredible singer. She sings in Spanish, Mixtex (I think that's right, it's spoken in Oaxaca and is her mother's first language) and English. I went to see her live in Guadalajara several years ago, fantastic!

Steve Cotton said...

Jonna -- Thank you for the additional information about Chavela. I wish I knew the language better because I am certain the lyrics are as layered as the music is simple.

Laurie said...

Chavela has a unique sound. I found samples tht worked on itunes. However, my favorite music from this part of the world is from Rhythms Del Mundo. You can listen to a little of it at rhythmsdelmundo.com It's popular music with a blend of cuban. I can't get enough of it.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks, Laurie. I will take a listen.

Calypso said...

Jonna is right about her sexual persuasions not that there is anything wrong with that ;-)

Chavela Vargas' music will grab you and NOT let you go. She is iconic and a National treasure of Mexico (she came here when she was 14).

She is to Mexico what Bob Dylan is to the U.S. - gotta LOVE her!

Steve Cotton said...

John -- I particularly like the Carnegie Hall CD because it is live. The audience is part of her performance. I like the Dylan comparison. Very apt.

Anonymous said...

I would second Jonna's comment on Lila Downs. I have her album "La Cantina, Entre Copa y Copa." and I can highly recommend it. You can find out more about her at: http://latino.myspace.com/liladowns.

Regards,

Kim G
Boston, MA

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- You continue to expand my horizons.