The Storyteller

By Audio Pervert - 10/09/2019

A fair amount of Spanish mainstream music is entrenched in traditional structures and heavy nostalgia. Post-modern spanish music is a potpourri of flamenco, jazz, fado, classical, rumba and colloquial forms. Transforming again and again as one travels across the Iberian peninsula, shifting through Catalunya to Basque to Valencia to Andalusia. Like interweaving layers, stories upon stories, myths upon fables, personas and eras by-gone, tales of sorrow and the dance of joy, shape the narrative of many spanish voices. Off the thousands of singers, very few are revered and adored as Silvia Perez Cruz. Her songs can be heard in seven languages in eight albums and dozens of singles till date. Within a career span of less than 10 years, she has emerged as one of Spain's most exalted singer song-writer. Her narratives often cited by the media as an essence of modern spanish folklore. The Iberian heartland dotted with histories of furious singers and folk bands. For now, Rosalia and her 'adidas branded flash-trap' can be ignored (hype muted) as we turn our focus on song-writing, experiences, history, nostalgia and the art (and need) of telling stories.

In 2012, Silvia Perez Cruz recorded her first solo album, 11 de Noviembre, which was consequently nominated for 'album of the year' in Spain and France simultaneously. The countryside resonated with a voice which sounded very different from the tide of industrial pop and rock. The most popular single "No Te Puedo Encontrar", received a Goya Award for 'best original song'. Since then, her career as rocketed into a touring artist, composer, poet and recently as an actress. For Silvia Perez Cruz, stories are the essence of her compositions and the lyrics. "The story must speak for itself... Resonate with people... How we tell it or what it sounds like flows later from within ..." Perez comments in a recent interview on television. Her mother Glòria Cruz Torrellas taught her to play the saxophone and piano, later introducing her to dance and to sculpture. Her father Càstor Pérez Diz was a self-taught guitarist and both parents imbibed a legacy of folk songs and literature. Born in Costa Brava Catalunya, early on Silivia got the taste of overlapping forms such as Copla, Bolero, Flamenco and Fado.  While graduating from Catalan College of Music in Barcelona, she received classical training studying the piano and saxophone, eventually receiving a degree in vocal jazz. While in Barcelona, she and three other women founded a flamenco group called Las Migas. "My mother was the initial source of inspiration, with the stories and folklore she told me while I was growing up. The more languages I learned, the more history and folklore I came across... " recalls Silvia in an interview with NPR in 2012.

"She approaches music with a  complete vision of sorts" says Fernandez Miró (Raul Refree), guitarist and music partner. Silvia and Miró co-produced her ground breaking album 11 de Noviembre in 2012 and many concerts around the world. "She's not thinking just about vocals or melody or sounds separately. She's thinking and transmitting everything." Rooted in Flamenco and Rumba, the two strongest music traditions that run the entire length of the Spanish Mediterranean coast, also reflect profoundly within Silvia's music. However she strives for change, invoke new forms within old structures. Why should flamenco always adhere to given roles and aesthetics?  "It was a sound that really did not exist in Spain, and based on our limitations, which created a more accessible type of flamenco. After hundreds of years, we cannot singularly define what flamenco is any more..." claims Silvia in an interview with a magazine based in Sevilla.

"The black rooster was big, but the red one was brave
The red rooster is brave, but the black one is treacherous..."

One of her most popular songs titled "Gallo Rojo, Gallo Negro," speaks of the atrocities committed by the dictatorship of Franco and the Catholic Church in Spain. The lyrics deeply symbolic and resonating with an audience which has long suppressed the effects of civil war and fascism, however strong the sentiments of valour and independence that remain alive in various parts of Spain. Cruz learned about the tale, which inspired the song when she was part of a concert to honour the remaining members of the International Brigade - a contingent of unorganised soldiers who went to Spain, to fight against Franco, just before the out-break of World War II. "The civil war and three decades of dictatorship caused profound conflict, changing the mentality of people as well as the landscape of the country. The following generations quickly forgot the horrors, yet the stories, the history, songs and poems remain in circulation allover the country. I often find such threads as a source of inspiration to my lyrics" states Silvia in an interview in 2011. " I found amazing inspiration and energy in the works of La Mala Rodriguez. The honesty and credulity of her work struck me hard.."

Beyond the contemporary limits as a singer and song-writer, Silvia has traversed into dance, theatre and feminism. Reaffirming her maternal roots from which she initially drew inspiration from.
'Grito Pelao (Screaming Fight)' talks about desires, insemination and very intimate feminine pains, which are not usually ventilated in public. Is it just a claim to ride the wave? "The work is born of the desire to be a mother and the journey that it entails." she comments along with Rocío Molina, her partner in the production of Grito Pelao. The tremendously emotional but often suppressed narrative as explained by Rocío Molina "The claim is a possible reading, yet more important is sharing the trip. The first months I did not want to explain, that I was pregnant, nor the subject of insemination, the multitude of emotions, as eventually dancing helped and healed me..." The constant presence of Molina's mother, Lola Cruz, adds to generational symbolism. During the live performance, with characteristic intensity the almost overwhelming voice of Pérez Cruz builds up, like a kaleidoscope...

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