Where did your love for music begin? How did it evolve into a career?
My earliest memories are filled with music and of my mother carrying me on her back. She sang to me constantly, pointing out the birdsongs on our way. It’s [the memory] still so intense, I have no choice, I have to sing.
Where did you learn to speak Quechua and why is it so important to you to sing in this native language?
I learned Quechua in my native community, Qala Qala, in Potosi, Bolivia, where I didn’t hear or speak a word of Spanish before I was seven years old. It’s the best language I have to sing about the harmonious relationship of man and nature in our world. Quechua is a very old language, deeply connected with the earth. So I began to write my own songs in my language, singing about the culture of our people and our core values.
How would you describe your voice and music to those who may not have heard you?
Quechua pop music. My melodies reflect the songs of nature, of falling leaves, of ants talking with one another, the silence of the mountain, the power of waterfalls, the birds. My voice can be high pitched. It’s a kind of tradition in my area, that I further developed while trying other styles or ranges that my voice allowed. Now I’m performing with a new ‘rock’ combo, featuring electric guitar, piano and drums, which also allows a soulful new reading of older songs I used to play in a traditional way with flutes and bombos,
You have a strong sense of social justice, why or how does your music help express or support those views?
Yes, as an indigeneous women born in the 40’s in Latin America, I know what I’m talking about. Don’t stop singing about discriminations is my way to show support to these ideas. For instance my song ‘Warmikuna yupay chasqapuni kasunchik’ means “Women, we have to be respected”, I’ve been singing this song for a couple of decades but there is still a lot of work to do in that area.
How important is music for passing down and preserving culture?
In the early 90’s I recorded 5 albums in partnership with Unicef in Bolivia, it was the Yuyay Jap’ina campaign for adult literacy. They were songs in Quechua to help explain how literacy in native tongue will help to preserve culture and knowledge. Yuyay jap’ina means “reclaim our knowledge”. I will play some of those songs here in Adelaide, one is about weaving “Sumaq awaq warmi”, another is about birth of the lama “Tillpi tillpilla”and so on.
What are you most looking forward to on your visit to Adelaide and Australia?
The people, seashore and vineyards!