Translated by Teresa Santos & Luis Guzmán
" I know nothing in life but to sing"
The Colombian singer possesses a devastating attitude onstage. This contrasts enormously with her slow, calm and generous conversation, in which her convictions clearly come across. While visiting Argentina to introduce the Songbooks, recorded with Fernando Tarrés & La Raza, she spent a long time with us talking about her beginnings in Colombia, the duet she had with Iván Benavides, her move to New York (and not to the United States, the explanation to which you will find below), her work with top-level jazz musicians, her duet with cellist Erik Friedlander, her commitment with Fernando Tarrés, her groups Palenque and Despecho, her feelings on uprooting, the challenge of reinventing songs, comments on the socio-political situation in Colombia, and a lot more. Onstage she captivates us. And off it… she does so even more.
I should acknowledge that, in general, the first association to come to my mind when thinking about Colombia is soccer, with Pibe Valderrama first on the list (the writer remembers an Argentinean song that goes “what will become of us when Valderrama disappears?”). But a much stronger connection comes to my mind thanks to the noble task of two other Colombian soccer players, the great, untouchable, insurmountable and fairly deified Viveros and Bedoya, two of the participants of the glorious feat of the Argentinean team Racing Club, champion in 2001 (after a 35 year drought and several frustrations; observe in the image the downpour of ticker tape the moment the team comes on the field) when in Argentina everything collapsed.
This, of course, aside from my limited political and social knowledge, and from the adventures of a Mr. Rodrigo Díaz de Carreras who, according to Les Luthiers, arrived to these lands a year before the "official" discovery of America, baptizing the region as Rodrigombia. We also know that the weather and the people we have eventually contacted, are warm.
Our first meeting with the Colombian singer Lucía Pulido was some years ago in Notorious, located in the heart of the Argentinean Federal Capital. We saw her tiny, isolated, shy, introverted figure... until the moment she went onstage. There, a tsunami wave pinned us against the back wall. The impact was huge. Following Madonna Ciccone, we asked ourselves: "Who is that girl?" Lucía Pulido formed, in her native land, a duet along with the guitarist and composer Iván Benavides, under the name of "Iván y Lucía". The duet lasted 13 years and they recorded three albums between 1986 and 1991. In 1994 she migrated toward the Great Country in the North (although further down this nickname will come across as slightly exaggerated) where she recorded "Lucía" in 1995, published by the label Sonolux and distributed by Sony. She began to collaborate with jazz musicians, such as Ed Simon, Erik Friedlander and David Binney.
She performed numerous concerts in theaters, universities and clubs in New York. She participated in various festivals, and in 2000 recorded “Cantos Religiosos y Paganos de Colombia” (“Religious and Pagan Songs from Colombia”) along with the Japanese percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. In 2004 she recorded “Dolor de Ausencia”, a selection of Latin-American ‘broken-hearted’ songs, and one year later her collaboration with Argentinean guitarist and composer Fernando Tarrés would begin to take shape. "Songbook I" and, a year later, "Songbook II" were published in Argentina by the label BAU. There, Pulido and Tarrés found other Argentinean jazz musicians in order to (re)interpret traditional Argentinean and Colombian songs with extremely attractive and intricate arrangements.
At the moment, Pulido is immersed in several parallel projects: "América Contemporánea – um Outro Centro", with the Brazilian pianist Benjamim Taubkin and musicians of different Latin American countries; the project "Colombian" for voice and cello, with the New York cellist Erik Friedlander, based on poems from different Colombian poets; classical songs of ‘despecho’ performed with resident musicians in New York City; and a project based on Colombian traditional music and on songs composed for her voice -with contemporary arrangements- with her ensemble "Palenque", with whom she has a recorded CD ready to come out in 2007.
In December 2006 she visited Argentina again for a series of performances with Fernando Tarrés & La Raza, interpreting themes of the first two Songbooks and working towards some from the third Songbook, which will also come out in 2007.
We met outdoors on a warm December afternoon. I quickly verified that her devastating presence onstage immediately contrasted with her slow, generous, respectful and… warm way of speaking. She seduced us the same way she did with her tsunami wave presence; though with other weapons. The only few words we had previously exchanged were exclusively to coordinate day, place and time of the interview. A priori, everything was a profit. And you know what? ... It really was.
Well... again in Buenos Aires...
Here I am... very busy, trying to enhance the work of singing...
Is it work to sing?
It is work to sing.
Let´s see... How is that?
It is really more work to try to sing... to open doors so that what you do, not necessarily be welcome but exist. This entails an effort at many levels and is a part of the work of singing, although it is not the singing itself.
That is to say that it would be a prior work so that the singing arrives.
Exactly. It is a kind of pre-production task.
And what happens when the moment arrives to sing?
The enjoyment begins there. One reaches the peace of knowing that you have not only been able to make concrete but also share what you have worked on. What happens from then on no longer depends on you. People welcome it or not.Do you consider yourself a singer or an interpreter?
I think I am both things; interpreter because I am not a composer and I re-invent the songs. And singer, because I am in a constant search for the sound of my voice, thought as an instrument.
What instrument would your voice be?
Well... the voice...
Do not tell me that the voice is the most perfect instrument... (laughters)...
Of course not... There are different instruments that have affinity. For example... for me it is important to feel colors that do not fight among themselves; there are timbres I like more than other ones. One thing is to like them and another thing that they work together... The color of the cello, of the woods, goes well with the voice... with my voice, in this case. The percussion does also.
You talk about the cello and you have worked and are going to work again with Erik Friedlander...
It is more a project of his where he invites me to participate.
But it is you two alone.
Yes... he composes for cello and voice.
And you take it as if there were two cellos or two voices?
For me they are two voices, like two colors. When I talk about the voice as an instrument I am talking about the color. It means that the voice has something perhaps no other instrument does, individuality. You listen to a trombone and you probably recognize who is playing it because of his or her style; but in the voice there is something unique that implies it cannot be the voice of another person. The voice has a special personality and is different if you compare it with other voices.