The Catalan female group brings to Arriaga the open and inclusive flamenco of ‘Libres’, their latest album that won a Latin Grammy
It has its crumb that the group of girls that started 18 years ago proposing a feminine flamenco permeable to harmonies and influences and with a great global projection has now achieved recognition in the industry with their latest album, cooked independently and produced by their singer , composer and founder Marta Robles.
“Ours has been an obstacle course,” says the Sevillian promoter of Las Migas, a flamenco franchise that until 2011 supported the now revered vocalist Sílvia Pérez Cruz and who won an “unexpected” Latin Grammy for best album in Las Vegas in November flamenco with ‘Libres’. Conceived during the pandemic after an intense tour of Europe, the United States and Latin America, after which its last singer, Begoña Salazar, defected, the fifth installment of Las Migas seasons flamenco with echoes of Afro-American and urban music in songs “that smell of the sea, earth, air and fire, to free loves, to hope and to strong women».
With contributions from figures of the genre such as Tomatito and Estrella Morente (who put their stamp on the Lorca-based ‘Alba’ and ‘Rumba para que te enamores’) or innovative voices such as María Peláe, this January 22 Las Migas will be at the Arriaga theater ( 7 p.m. tickets from 19 to €37). The quartet made up of Alicia Grillo (guitar), Laura Pacios (violin) and her new flamenco voice, Carolina Fernández ‘La Chispa’, will have the instrumental support of drummer Gillem Arnau and double bassist Oriol Riart, at the time co-producer and partner of also guitarist and spokesperson Marta Robles.
-Achieving a Latin Grammy for your first independently conceived and self-produced album will have been especially satisfying.
-Absolutely, because it was not something I could imagine when, after the experience with producers like Raul Refree or Josemi Carmona, I decided to jump into the pool. It has been a beautiful and rewarding process, because I have learned a lot, but also very hard and tiring because I was unable to disconnect. I thought a thousand times about everything because of the responsibility and my level of self-demand. Receiving an unexpected prize with a record made in this way means recognition of years of research into flamenco.
-A flamenco that can be assimilated and that mixes well with other genres such as black, urban, Mediterranean and country music.
-We like that our songs are for all audiences. To do this, we take the part that falls in love with flamenco and combine it with other music that we like. If we call ourselves Las Migas it’s because, like the plate, our flamenco contains many ingredients. As if making a more universal wink, in this album we have drunk a lot of American black female music, which we love. The same has had to do with the Latin Grammy that they have given us there.
-What do you claim to be liberated from on this album?
-We have proclaimed ourselves free of fears and limitations forever. We have been lucky enough to be educated in it and we have applied that way of seeing life to music. In the new beginning that this record represents, we wanted to express it in different areas. There is the consequence of our commitment to independence to succeed in our own way. Also the one that refers to women who don’t have it as easy as us. We refer to them in songs like ‘La cantaora’, about an artist who doesn’t ask for permission to do what she wants. Or ‘Antonia’, about the love between two free girls who want to be seen as normal. And there is also the desire to celebrate freedom, life and nature after the pandemic, which is why there are so many songs referring to the sea, the beach and open spaces that convey the feeling of freedom.
Promotional photo of Las Migas. /
-Those two songs have connected with the LGTB community. Do you feel linked to flamenco women who are openly homosexual or sensitive to gender issues, like Mayte Martín, La Tremendita, La Negri or her collaborator on ‘La cantaora’ María Peláe?
We connect with all of them. Due to her career, art and courage, Mayte has always been a reference. And La Tremendita and I are always pondering and looking at what to do to be heard. These are people whose attitude we greatly admire. We haven’t been much of claiming things in interviews, because we think that our songs and our public image already speak for us and encourage other women fighters to whom we have always wanted to give a voice. In this field there is still much to be done.
-But feminism and gender issues always cover a good part of your interviews. Does it bother you that they are not valued for what is strictly musical?
-It should be like that, but it’s a bit unavoidable. We also consider it, but at the same time we also think it is convenient to take advantage of all the platforms to claim and that people realize that there is still a lot of machismo, discrimination and inequality in music. It’s still hard to make your way as a woman. You just have to see the programming covered at 90% by men. Some don’t even consider touching or collaborating with women.
-Did you always know that you would be an exclusively female group?
-Yes. When we started there were no girl groups, we needed a reference to normalize the idea and serve as an encouragement to other girls. Now, fortunately, there are a lot and it is a satisfaction to have served as a model for colleagues like the Maruja Limón.
-In fact, two of its members sing on your new single ‘La desgana’.
-Yes, Sheila (Quero) and Esther (González). We are classmates and super friends from the same neighborhood in Barcelona and we often do music therapy, we tell each other everything and we like to work together. Since we brought up the topic on the networks, it has worked wonderfully, it was going to go on the album, but it was left out because I didn’t like how it turned out. We decided to give her another chance and she has hit very hard.
-It seems that the female flamenco model that you proposed with Sílvia Pérez Cruz as lead singer has created a school. It is enough to listen to the first Rosalía or to new flamenco artists like María José Llergo.
-It is still a bit daring to attribute that merit to us, but I think so. We were very young and daring, and Sílvia, who had studied jazz, developed with us a very intuitive way of approaching flamenco from fado, jazz itself or Latin and Mediterranean song, which has created a certain school in Catalonia. Besides them, there are a lot of girls who look similar to her, I think Sílvia must be very aware of that.
-His departure or that of his successor Alba Carmona questioned the continuity of Las Migas. How do you assess the almost two decades of his career?
-Not only her departure, but also that of other instrumentalists who have left the group and are just as important to us. Sílvia’s was especially traumatic because it seemed that the project was going to fall apart without her charisma and her super pretty voice. But once we got over it, with Alba we learned to grow and add up with each obstacle overcome, which has hardened us and helped us grow. Las Migas is an open and inclusive project, which will continue despite the changes. The last one this summer on tour was Roser (Loscos, violin), who has been a mother and has been replaced by Alicia Pacios, who is wonderful.
-What plans do you have for this year?
-We have planned an incredible tour that we are very excited about. It will take us a good part of the time, but I want to find a place to record an EP with songs that I already have with Las Migas and start composing and arranging in Menorca a next album that we will record next season.
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Las Migas: «In music it is still difficult to make your way as a woman»