In many ways, folk music reflects not just the past but also the present. Songs passed from generation to generation often speak of current struggles, proving that some injustices never truly change. For many Latin American folk songwriters, the relationship between the past and present is evident as they add their own tunes to the popular repertoire while respecting the language and history it provides. Chilean songwriter Paz Court intends to follow this tradition with her newest album, La Fuerza.
Musically, Court is up to the challenge. So far, her career has been characterized by demonstrating as much range as possible, having been part of the groups Tunacola and Jazzimodo in which she explored pop and jazz, respectively. Meanwhile, she’s explored many different sounds in her solo career with indie-folk on her 2018 record El Veranito de San Juan. Now, she’s ready to take on folclórico with a few tweaks of her own.
Dialogue between experimentation and tradition is what makes La Fuerza stand out.
You can hear the overall vibe of La Fuerza from the get-go on the first track, “Canto de Ordeño”—a Venezuelan llanero song written by composer Antonio José Estévez. In it, Court keeps the melody as close to the original as possible but that’s about as trad as she gets. The instrumentation becomes more complex as synths and electronic textures come into the mix before giving way to close harmonized voices courtesy of Mexican folk group Ampersan. That dialogue between experimentation and tradition is what makes La Fuerza stand out.
The other non-Court penned track in the album is “Ausencia,” originally written by the legend Violeta Parra. There’s an obvious admiration for the work of Parra; both delve in folk songs to pen their own sentiments through the style. Parra’s tune about a lover who went away doesn’t differ much from the rest of the songs, placing Court’s compositions in a tradition of Chilean folk songwriting. The songs of La Fuerza tend to explore oppression and resistance through the language of poetry, another throwback to the Parra Dynasty and La Nueva Canción of the ‘60s. On “Pajarillo Negro” she talks about the abuse of women throughout the years through a metaphoric tale; the lyrics are highly evocative and the music helps paint a vivid picture.
She’s ready to take on folclórico with a few tweaks of her own.
La Fuerza was produced by jazz musician Esteban Sumar and mixed by Enrique Larreal, known for his work with Ricky Martin, among others. The music was brought to life by Court, Sumar, Andrés Landón and Andy Baeza as well as guests like El David Aguilar, Fernando Milagros and Natisú. Together, they dial a sound that takes cues from traditional Panamerican forms of music like huayno, tonada chilena, vals peruano, son huasteco yet aided by electronics and rock instrumentation to give it heft and a bigger sense of drama.
Like Natalia Lafourcade’s Hasta La Raíz, Court’s record deals with traditional forms of Latin American song in a modern context. But, unlike the celebrated album by the Mexican songwriter, La Fuerza takes said song forms on a more intense, emotional journey. Considering the sentimental weight of the album, it’s easy to sense Court’s love for theater and dance and should come as no surprise to learn that she plans to present a theater production based on the album.
La Fuerza deals with millennial pain through a line of songs from Latines who have dealt with it through music. Like the struggles it depicts, the sound of folk music remains the backbone of many Latine artists. Paz Court is giving us her own interpretation in 2020.