Juana Molina’s week is over, but there will always be more things to talk about her, especially since her career is always developing and offering us new things. I’m very happy with the result of the week and would like to thank Hendrik for giving me this space. Thanks to all the readers too! I know it has been a long week with many, many posts and information, but I felt it had to be this way if I truly wanted to honor Juana Molina.
I’d also like to thank my friend Cüyén who has helped me translating Juana’s lyrics. Besides, we often talk about Juana and I’m sure many of the ideas that I wrote this week probably came out of those conversations.
Thanks also to all the journalists who interviewed and wrote about Juana! You probably noticed that I’ve quoted her a lot, and that’s because she knows how to express herself very well. I know that I’ve included many interviewed from Spanish-speaking publications, so if you want me to translate the whole interview, or the lyrics of a song, just let me know! You only need to get in contact with me and I’ll be more than glad to translate or keep talking about Juana Molina.
This is my email: email@example.com
And I also have a Tumblr and a Twitter account. You can also read what I write at The Singles Jukebox, The MWC and (in Spanish) in Dance to the Radio.
That’s all! I hope you enjoyed it as much as me!
DAY 1. Monday
DAY 2. Tuesday
DAY 3. Wednesday
DAY 4. Thursday
DAY 5. Friday
DAY 6. Saturday
DAY 7. Sunday
"Final feliz" from Wed21
We’ve got to the end of Juana Molina’s discography – up to now! If you listen to “Ella en su cuaderno”, the opening track from her debut album, Rara, and compare it to “Final feliz”, the last track from Wed21, it’s hard to believe that it’s the same artist. And still, “Final feliz” wouldn’t have existed without “Ella en su cuaderno” and everything in between.
The first chords from “Final feliz”, so lonely and vulnerable were present in Segundo and Tres cosas, the playful vocals in Son, the always creative layers deforming the sound in Un día. And even though she says that she discovered the electric guitar in Wed21, in Rara it was already there – it’s true that probably because of producer Gustavo Santaolalla. Looking backwards, Juana Molina’s discography makes sense because it’s coherent. It’s constantly developing, and for that reason, we can’t know what will happen next.
Well, that’s the story of my life. It’s something that I still have to deal with. But the thing you have to think about is the time you waste by not doing what you want to do. I think about the many, many years that I wasted because I didn’t dare to play music. There’s nothing that will repair that. Time has gone. Years pass by. And I started what I always wanted to do 20 years later [than I should have]. Twenty years is a long time. When you’re young, you can’t understand that. But not doing the things we don’t dare to do—it’s because we’re paying too much attention to what others say. And the question is: Who cares? Because if you don’t do it, someone else is gonna do it. And if someone else does or makes a thing you’ve thought about before and didn’t do, you will really hate yourself. You just have to make sure that what you’re doing, or thinking of doing, is a true passion, and not something that someone else wants you to do, or something that’s just fashionable. But once you discover what you want to do, do it as soon as possible.
Juana Molina on starting to write music late and getting over being insecure about herself (interviewed by Julianne from Rookie)
Juana travelled a long road, but her story has a happy ending. She knows what it’s frustation, not being accepted and feeling miserable; she knows about it all. But she also knows what it is to go after happiness and her true vocation. She has succeeded and now, she encourages us to do the same. Listen to her words because they are wise and have a lot of experience in them.
"Te regalo esta canción", a song for Mother’s Day.
Today is Mother’s Day in Argentina and I thought it would be nice to remember this song Juana Molina recorded with her father Horacio and her sister Inés for her mother, the actress Chunchuna Villafañe… when she was only five! When Juana is asked about her influences she mentions many times all the music that her parents listened to when she was a kid – from jazz to The Beatles and Schubert. His father, a popular Tango singer, was also very important in her music formation, since he taught her to play the guitar.
This is the story of “Te regalo esta canción”, as told by Juana to María Moreno from the newspaper Página/12:
“One day we recorded a song with my dad that was called “Te regalo esta canción”. He told me that it was a gift for mom for Mother’s Day. Dad showed it to me at home, but he must have known or perceive or guess o just in case, that I wouldn’t be able to sing it in public, because when we went to record to the studio, he made all the technicians hide – I could sing with him or my sister, but with no one else. I remember that day perfectly, it was a big salon with a very intense spotlight and around us singing, everything was dark. Then, walking thought Santa Fe Street – I must have been five years old – I heard the song coming from a record store and it gave me an attack. An attack! 45,000 copies have been sold for Mother’s Day. Inés, who was very small, is on the other side of “Te regalo esta canción”, back then she only talked.
They then took us to a TV show to sing it. I don’t know if it was for Sábados Circulares or something alike. It was live and the only thing that I remember is a close-up of dad’s shirt with a […] jabot. I had to start saying: “I have to make a gift/ it’s for Mother’s Day/ it doesn’t have to be very expensive/ nor very nice nor very big/ but my moneybox/ is already empty/ even though I know that daddy/ will give me a little hand/ ‘Daddy! Daddy, come!’”. But I was speechless. Meanwhile, he kept singing his part: “Well, my little princess/ now we are alone/ and the question I can guess/ in your lively eyes”. And I had to answer: “What do you think, Daddy? / What could we buy for her? Something simple and nice/ something that she could like”, but I kept trying to rip off the picot of his jabot. I didn’t open my mouth during the whole show and I think that it must have left me dumb forever. That was when I was five, and later, when I already played the guitar a little bit more, I was playing at home, and when I wanted to sing, I remember that the hand stopped, I couldn’t combine singing with playing. Then I have a kind of fog, that’s why I can’t remember in which moment I could.”
Seeing Juana Molina Live
I went to see Juana Molina live four times, and each of them was unique. In all of them, I discovered something new about Juana Molina that got me to feel nearer to her. She has the ability to make you feel that what you’re experiencing belongs only only to that moment and that outside the venue, no one knows what’s happening.
(The picture was taken from her Facebook page)
Why would you see my face? You see a photo with a face, and, OK, this is her face. OK, What’s next? [laughs] Unfortunately you can see pictures of me everywhere, and I don’t like pictures in general, I hate to be photographed. If you’re posing for a photo there’s definitely something wrong already, and if it’s the cover of your record you’re definitely posing. There’s parts of me that you can see, so in some spirit there is ‘me’, but for me it’s a bit silly to just have a face staring at you.
Juana Molina on album covers (interviewed by Kier Wiater Carnihan from The Monitors)
There is something that characterizes every Juana Molina album: in her covers, she appears but doesn’t appear. She has worked with Alejandro Ros to choose either pictures or drawings of herself in which she is deformed – one might even doubt if it’s indeed her — but each deformation can represent the sound of the album very accurately.
In the drawing of Rara, she doesn’t seem to be comfortable or confident; Segundo shows her quiet and subtle sound by hiding behind a wall of hair, in Tres cosas she is portrayed as the shadow of a witch because the sound of the music is ethereal and enchanting; the cover of Son is a tapestry made by her grandmother in which there is no space left — the layers — but at the same time the colors are very soft — the nature; the cover of Un día is a perfect symmetry, which, rather that harmonious looks a little bit strange; finally, she reaches eerieness in Wed21, in which her face was deleted and replaced by the album title.
"Sin guía no" from Wed21
There are two things that fascinate me about “Sin guía, no”: the lyrics and the hugenes of the sound.
Like a typical Juana Molina song, it starts rather normal, a little bit spooky and tense maybe, but that is the general sound of Wed21. Notice that just like “Eras”, this song has an actual chorus. But, while the chorus of “Eras” was made for English-speaking fans to sing along to it, “Sin guía no” gave us, Spanish-speakers, the pleasure to have a catchy Juana Molina song. If you try to separate the vocal melody of the chorus from all that surrounds it, you could even call it joyful!
The hugeness of the soung starts after the lonely bridge when the layers start showing their true potential. The construction happens fast – even less than a minute! – and without even noticing it, it becomes this giant monster with its own entity. The sound is desperate for freedom, ready to encircle and devour everything in its way.
Such a perfect sound was hard to create, as Juana Molina said herself in an interview with Kier Wiater Carnihan from The Monitors:
“’That song was the most difficult one to achieve’, she reveals. ‘I knew there was something in it but I couldn’t make it work. It was one of the first songs I wrote for this album, and I left it for a couple of weeks, then came back, then wrote some other songs, then came back… Then one day I found that guitar riff, and I thought I was in a heavy metal band because the sound was so big; it was through some sort of distortion pedal. Then I found that little guitar [sings the other part] that worked really well with the other guitar, and when I found those two things I could put the song together. I thought it was very energetic too, but I wasn’t looking for something energetic, I was just looking for something that made the song work, because it was very languid and it didn’t move me. So I was like: [slams table] ‘Hey! Come on!’. So I was very happy when I found that, because there was something in the song that I liked a lot, but it wasn’t working until… it did.’
It’s hard to imagine “Sin guía no” being languid, because now there’s no prove left of that!
I think the ‘World Music’ is a label that doesn’t fit anyone. I don’t feel very comfortable with that label. People have already an idea of what world music is. I may be completely wrong, but when I hear ‘world music’ that’s what I have in mind—music from some tribes anywhere in the world or very small groups of people doing their thing. That’s what I understand by ‘world music.’ And I don’t think it’s a good label for anyone, because sounds that are made with similar instruments in different parts of the world sound totally different. It’s like the label of ‘folk.’ Sometimes I get labeled as a folk musician because I’m playing with an acoustic guitar. If I played exactly the same music with an electric guitar, then there would be no room for me in folk. Sometimes it’s necessary to label music in order to help people to know what it is. But honestly, I think that confuses them rather than help them to know what’s about. I’m talking about everyone, not only what I do.
Juana Molina on music genres (interviewed by Araceli Cruz for The Village Voice, 2008)
Juana and genres… that is a complicated theme. What kind of music does she play? As she said, World music can’t fit anyone, because it’s so vague and makes artists look like exotic species from Narnia. Let’s not even talk about Latin as a genre – as a geographical reference it’s of course acceptable. But what about Folk? That seems to fit her sometimes, especially if we consider Argentine folkloric music. I actually think that when she complains about being tagged as electro-folk, is against the idea of folk as “anything that involves an acoustic guitar”, but she sometimes recognizes the folklore – “Zamba corta” is the clearest example, but notice also all the nature that her music encloses.
But what happens now that she plays electric guitar? Does the folklore still fit her? Does it go beyond the instruments? Sometimes I can feel the folklore in Wed21, but to say the truth, I don’t know if it’s really there or if it’s just my ignorance.