For the second installation of 5 Preguntas interview series, I invited singer/songwriter Marta Gómez, whom I recently featured in one of my posts, to answer a few questions and she graciously accepted. The interesting thing is, that I’ve mentioned her name among some of my friends and just when I’m about to explain more about her, they say “yeah, I know who she is, great music!” There might be a correlation between my friends being South American and the music Marta makes but when I ask how they know her, they tell me “from Putumayo”, to which I momentarily (albeit jokingly) wonder if they mean the world music label or the southern department of Colombia. Sure enough, you can find her on the first track of their Women of Latin America disc.
1. How did you choose your musical style? What attracted you to South American indigenous folk?
I was in contact with Latin American folk music since I was a kid through my choir conductor Florencia Borrero. She has been an essential person in my life and it is thanks to her that I sing and compose. She introduced me to a lot of rhythtms from the south.
But as a teenager, I wanted to sing pop and rock (in Spanish) so I dedicated a lot of years to discover the music from Fito Paez and Charly Garcia, rock from Buenos Aires. It was only when I traveled to Boston to enter the Berklee College of Music where I really realized I could not offer to sing pop or rock better than an American, but I could surprise them with my roots, with the music from my part of the continent. That it when I fell in love with the sounds of folkloric music and it is a one way ticket. Once you discover the beauty in the simplicity of those rhythms, you never go back to explore anything else.
2. While searching out indigenous folk, was there a particular style you hadn’t heard before and that you fell in love with, let’s say, from a particular South American country? If so, what was it?
Sure.. I did not know too many rhythms. I was familiar mostly with Argentinean folklore, zambas, chacareras, tango and milonga and with some Colombian styles as cumbia, vallenato, bambuco, pasillo and valsas but that was it! I did not know Peruvian music or Chilean music, or Bolivian music and I just keep feeling in love each time I discover a new rhythm. The combination of patterns, of influences, in Peru, for example, it is fascinating how you find the mixture between African sounds and indigenous sounds. I am telling you this is a path that never ends…
3. Why do you think Colombians are always near the very top of the World Happiness Index (the annual list of the happiest people in the world)?
I think we tend to misunderstand the term happiness, especially from the North American perspective and movies etc. I guess to be happy is to be able to enjoy the simplicity of life as it presents itself in every single moment of every single day. Maybe due to the horrible civil war that my country has lived from over 40 years now, my people understand better than others that nothing lasts forever and we try to enjoy more each instant because it is very probable that it wont last. I guess that could be a way of looking at it but it is true definitely that Colombian enjoy things more, you go there, you take a taxi and you can spend half an hour talking to the driver about anything, and he would always tell you he is fine, they almost never complain about life, they feel lucky to be healthy and they trust the future will be better, maybe because they have seen worse, too.
4. If you could easily teach all North Americans, for example, one thing about Colombia, what would you want to teach them?
That is a very difficult question… let me think…I would teach them precisely to enjoy life more, to connect to other people, to talk more. Colombians love to talk, to dance, they talk dancing, moving their whole body, that’s what I would teach about Colombia, the capacity of its people to enjoy life as it comes.
5. Can you describe something simple that you miss the most from your country, like a certain smell, taste, sight or feeling?
That, on the contrary is a very simple question for me… I will tell you what I miss the most, being in a sofa with my nieces Natalia and Camila, they are sitting on my lap and they are telling me the stories about their school, their friends, vampires, the world cup, the enviromental issues, anything…and I close my eyes and I smell their hair and I see their eyes and their gestures. That is what I miss the most every single day I am away.