Monday, November 4, 2013

Alethia: A Soul with Voice

Alethia Rivera
Alethia Rivera sings at the Gastro Cervecera
Festival  in Morelia, 2013. Photo credit: Celeste Mier

Morelia is an old city with a young soul.  As home to more than ten universities, public and private, the city is full of hipsters and hippies, academics, artists and writers, not to mention the musicians. You can’t leave out the musicians.  If it were as easy to pick out the musicians as it were to identify nursing, dental and medical students in their white uniforms, we'd have a visual reference of how much music is studied, reproduced and appreciated in this city. But it isn't hard to find Morelia’s up and coming musicians. They can be seen on any given night throughout the city performing at street side cafés, restaurants, and pubs. Their music spans blues, jazz, pop, narco corridos, banda, salsa, Latin, trova; Morelia’s musicians cover every genre you can imagine. However there is a voice, so rich and soulful that it stands out and makes one stop to listen. This is the voice of Alethia Rivera, a 29-year-old who was born in Mexico City and raised in Morelia.  I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Alethia one Sunday afternoon while she was performing at Tata Mezcaleria (for a review of that dinner, click here). 
Who is Alethia?
I am a being who loves music and my life revolves around it; music and singing are my biggest passions.

Did you study music?
Yes, I did study. I studied classical piano at the Music Conservatory (Conservatorio de Musica) in Morelia for a year and half and at Celaya’s music conservatory for another year and a half.  I quit studying the piano and music for a time to help support my then boyfriend.

When did you start studying?
When I was sixteen I started studying music by mistake: I walked into the wrong school after I got kicked out of Federal High school Number One, and since there was nothing else for me to do I thought I would study music.

Who are your greatest musical influences?

Billie Holiday. Years before I started singing, I had been studying piano for about a year and I went to a party that some composer friends were having and I heard her voice. I wanted to cry. I didn’t understand a word she was singing. It was if she were babbling, it wasn’t clear to me what she was saying, but I was so impacted by what she was doing and the soul, the feeling with which she was singing. I also really admire Björk and her trajectory as a musician, she doesn’t limit herself.

What has been your experience as a musician making a living in Morelia?

Alethia sings at Tata Mezcaleria with Flavio Menses on guitar.
Photo credit: Celeste Mier
Being a musician you have to be really jealous with how you spend your time, the time you spend learning and preparing yourself as a musician is never ending; you never stop preparing.  It is possible to support yourself as a musician but it is a hard path to follow. I’ve been working as a musician for three years. Well, I can say that I started to “make it”as a musician about three years ago.

Do you write your own music?
Yes I do, I compose, and I like funk pop fusions and  love pop. I had left composing for practical reasons, but I am also in process with Alethia’s Band recording, but I have to admit that lyrics are some of the hardest things for me to write.

What do you see as in your future?
I am excited about the possibilities with Alethia’s band and creating art, not just about doing art but creating it: creating it for the love of creating. The Polanco Jazz Festival is held twice a year and we are special guests for this winter. We’ve had a lot of luck with this since we are such a new band, and it is a gift to be playing in the festival. Eddie Schwartz, the festival organizer had a hunch with us after Celeste (Alethia's manager) got in touch with him, and he said “you guys are in.”  Short term, I think I am heading in the direction of playing festivals, not just jazz, people see it (jazz) as limiting, but jazz is what gives me the freedom to create. My goal is to take my music to festivals in and outside of the country. I’d also like to continue recording, continue experimenting.

On what it is like to be a Mexican musician
I think we have social responsibility since I am the first person who lets others know about my country so that they respect it and respect the fact that in Mexico we are more than the stereotype that they might have of us: not all of us are a cliché of “The Mexican”; we are rational, thinking beings and have many cultures within our culture. Not everything is a War Against Drugs. I think that through art, which is like a filter and also an escape valve, we can show that because of a few, the rest of us have to live through these times.

For more information on Alethia Rivera, please visit her Youtube Channel 
And her Facebook page

Click here for more information on The Polanco Jazz Fest

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