To understand how talented 25-year-old Mexican singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada is, just watch the first few minutes of her song “Si moi matan” on YouTube. With a single camera and a shoestring budget, the video captures the power of her unique voice and the intense, honest way she connects as a performer, even with a one-person audience.
Estrada, guitar in hand, sits in a large stone courtyard empty except for two chairs and a standing microphone. She sings for another woman, seated directly opposite her, whose identity keeps changing – a young woman with tattoos, an older woman with glasses who begins to cry at the first words of the song, a indigenous woman with a squirming girl on her lap. , a woman whose arms embrace her very pregnant belly.
The lyrics to “Si me matan” speak in a painfully personal way about the gender-based violence that takes the lives of more than ten women in Mexico every day, with Estrada imagining what she hopes people would say about her if she too was found murdered: “Digan…que como todas crecí con miedo/Y aun así, salí solita a ver estrellas” (“They say… like all girls, I grew up in fear/But even so, I’d go out alone to see the stars”). She writes in her notes to the video that she hopes the song will heal the wounds left by indiscriminate violence.
Like her mentor and friend, Natalia Lafourcade, Estrada caresses her native Spanish as she sings, and like jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, she can pick up a note and effortlessly turn it into sublime, otherworldly patterns.
Miami audiences will have the opportunity to see the rising star – who has sold out gigs in Mexico, the United States and Europe – in the intimate, state-of-the-art music space of the Citadel on Friday, August 5.
Estrada hails from Coatepec, Veracruz, a region of Mexico rich in musical traditions. “I grew up playing with my family and with my friends,” she explains in a telephone interview, “going with my family to fandango”, neighborhood hootenannies where the community gathered to sing and dance to son jarocho, the typical folk music of the region.
Her childhood, indeed, was fertile ground for a budding musician. Not only do both of her parents play instruments, but they also make them: “I grew up in a family of luthiers,” she says. “My mother, she makes violins and violas, and my father, he makes double basses and cellos.”
She remembers growing up in her country house in a happy environment.
“The memories I have are of many musicians who came to my house to buy instruments or to repair instruments. My house was always full of musicians playing, trying out their instruments for the first time,” Estrada explains.
During Tiny Desk Concert for National Public Radio, which featured the singer, there is a glimpse of her idyllic childhood. The performance was filmed in the workshop of her parents’ house, where tools and stringed instruments in various states of the assembly line, walls and nature look ready to burst through the windows. Estrada ends the video by singing a haunting duet in the garden with her father, who accompanies her on double bass. It’s a musician’s paradise.
In addition to her parents, Estrada’s main points of reference growing up, she says, were legendary Latin American singers and songwriters. Chile’s Violeta Parra, Argentina’s Mercedes Sosa and Mexico’s adopted daughter Chavela Vargas were the soundtrack of her youth, with a healthy dose of American jazz from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan rounding out the mix. . In fact, Estrada was so passionate about jazz that as a teenager she studied it at the University Conservatory of Xalapa, then went to the United States to immerse herself in the New York jazz scene.
At 19, she was doing backing vocals for Snarky Puppy, among others. But when bandleader Michael League heard Estrada’s own compositions, he helped convince her that she really should chart her own path as a songwriter in Mexico.
Estrada, who says she’s been writing poetry “always,” didn’t initially envision her future as a singer-songwriter. Encouragement from musical guardian angels like League, guitarist Charlie Hunter and drummer Antonio Sánchez helped her realize that singing her own work was a more authentic expression of who she was as an artist than singing jazz. in English could never be.
The Miami concert will feature music from Marchitahis first solo album on Glassnote Records. Marchitawhich received a four-star rating from rolling stone magazine and was featured in the British newspaper The GuardianJune’s list of the best albums of 2022 is an ode to first love and the singular pain felt at its loss. His lyrics are richly poetic: “Cambiaste mareas y corrientes/Dejaste tu nom en el mar/Volteaste la cara sonriente/Y yo, que no supe nadar” (“You changed the tides and currents/You left your name on the sea/You turned your smiling face/And me who couldn’t swim”). The arrangements are sparse, letting the raw honesty of Estrada’s voice shine through.
While Estrada heals the wounds of lost love Marchita, her first love, the Venezuelan cuatro, is still with her. She has said in interviews that when she discovered the little guitar-like instrument at 16 or 17 – it was one from her father hanging around the workshop – she also discovered her voice as a ‘songwriter. What was imposed on the piano, which she studied at the conservatory, flowed effortlessly onto the cuatro. A cantautore was born.
Estrada already feels very far from this difficult moment in his young life which inaugurated Marchita around the world and is determined to make the most of every minute of this hard-earned new period, performing around the world and sharing the stage with musicians like Lafourcade, Mon Laferte and Andrew Bird. As she says in one of her songs, “Sonreír es remedio de valientes(“Smiling is the remedy for the brave”).