The New Female Voices of Argentina

By 01 August, 2011

This year has seen new releases from Soema Montenegro, Violeta Castillo, Julieta Sabanes and Luciana Taglipietra. It’s almost as if the death of Mercedes Sosa has left a huge space that the female singers of Argentina must try and fill.

Yet if you were looking for a big influence on these singers it may not be Sosa herself that acts as the biggest inspiration, but an artist like Juana Molina who has developed her own style, allowing her to become a truly worldwide artist while still producing a very personal, unique music. So, despite the fact that we have grouped together all of these singers for this article, it should be noted that each one really deserves their own article, for these are some really distinctive voices and ones that may well be around for some time yet.

Soema Montenegro

Soema Montengro released her second album Pasionaria (her first international release) this year. It exquisitely highlighted her incredibly powerful voice, a tool that she uses to fill songs with both profundity and joy. Musically, Pasionaria embraces multiple genres from traditional Argentine folk and milongas to Eastern influenced chants and improvisations.

It’s hard to believe that this is a singer who grew up in the Buenos Aires suburbs. Her voice, lyrics and choice of instrumentation all bring to mind an artist in tune with the land, a feeling that led France’s Pinkushion to say “…she is a musician of course, but also a shaman…her magic has gone through time, and settled in the soul of the singer, finally to be offered to us.”

Pasionaria is available from Western Vinyl. Her first album Uno Una Uno was released by Noseso Records.

Violeta Castillo

We’ve already mentioned Violeta Castillo on the site, but she deserves another mention. This year she released Uno and Otro, two EP’s that highlighted a great new talent. Both releases showcase Castillo’s own take on pop music, taking in a number of indie, folk and Argentine influences while also adapting them into her own unique vision.

Our favourite of the two releases is Uno which starts with the flowering goodness of “La Batalla del Movimiento”, before moving through the country whimsy of “La Madera”, “Alfiler”‘s hazy pop, “Bolsillo Secreto”‘s exquisite harmonies and ending with “Trenes”, all in just over 10 minutes. Castillo knows that the secret to a great pop song is to leave the listener wanting more and this is exactly what she achieves on this release. The fact that she also does it with such a great voice and arrangement is testament to her talent.

Uno and Otro are both available on YoConVoz Records.

Julieta Sabanes

Julieta Sabanes followed a slightly different route to success, performing regularly in Buenos Aires until she gained some international notoriety after appearing on the French compilation Have A Good Night #4. Following this she recorded her debut album eStar de Camisón, which has now been released in both Argentina and Japan.

eStar de Camisón is a thing of simple beauty, relying on the charm of Sabanes’ voice, minimal instrumentation (normally just guitar or piano, percussion and keyboards) and melodies that are a fraction more indie/pop than folk. At times the songs sounds like a cross between Aimee Mann and Joanna Newsom, with a personal touch that should ensure she gains fans from all countries, whether they speak Spanish or not.

eStar de Camisón was released by Arriba Producciones in Argentina and Beans Records in Japan.

Luciana Taglipietra

On the same label as Violeta Castillo and an occasional co-conspirator, Luciana Taglipietra is perhaps the odd one out as far as vocals goes. Her phrased vocals often remind me of Nico, especially on “Trompete” – the opening track from new album Diagrama de Ben which has an echo of the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” about it, but they are also raspish, in a John Lennon vein.

On Diagrama de Ben she has a band including guitars, synths, bass, drums and percussion and they achieve a full sound, especially on highlights like “Si Las Cosas” and “La Música”, which has one of the most joyous vocal melodies I’ve heard in a long time. On the final track “Natural” she also suggest a new direction with the kind of violin riff that you’d normally associate with Andrew Bird or Final Fantasy. Either way, it’s a very promising release that builds on the more rock-based sound of her debut release Los Domingos.

Diagrama de Ben and 2009’s Los Domingos are both available on YoConVoz records.

Maricel Ysasa

Maricel Ysasa didn’t release an album this year. Her last, and only release, was 2009’s Nacerán Las Hojas on Noseso Records. Yet, she did star in one of the new releases from Vincent Moon’s Petites Planetes series, where she was captured performing in various spots around Buenos Aires. There is something very unassuming about Ysasa’s music that could result in it passing you by. However, if you stick around you will find that you soon fall in love with her sound.

The experience touched the film-maker Vincent Moon so much that he had this to say about the recording: “Maricel lived most of her life an hour away from downtown Buenos Aires, in a city so full of sadness that the mere fact of wanting to make a film there would tie your throat. It was so oppressed, this little piece of Argentina, it seems ready to crumble at your feet and tell you for hours its misfortune. The first songs were freezing us on the spot, the music was so beautiful that the contrast was all the more dramatic.”

Nacerán Las Hojas was released by Noseso Records

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