It was several years ago, when I was studying at university, that Pascuala Ilabaca was given a concern that would not leave her. At the time, the now experienced music and composer noticed with discomfort that in the repertoire of the academy the material written by women was almost non-existent.
«I also felt that new themes were lacking, that the rhythms of Latin American folklore are recognized for example,» she now recalls, on the phone from her home in Valparaiso.
But Ilabaca’s concerns could find a solution only last year: in the pandemic and physically away from Fauna, his band and regular companions, the author of «Busco Paraíso» set out to compose a series of songs with themes and female accompaniment.
The result of the project is «Amatoria», an EP released in January and consisting of four songs that explore themes inspired by feminism such as new ways of loving, union between women and self-knownness. All with the instrumental accompaniment of a string quartet composed only of women (Isabel Flores en viola, Daniella Rivera and María Fernanda Prieto on violin and Valentina del Canto in cello), in pieces composed with Simón González.
«For me it was super like taking out outstanding debts, taking off a pimples I had from school. I was looking forward to working with women and I was looking forward to talking about feminism from other, more playful, erotic places; not only from anger or from frustration and the terrible things that happen to us every day,» Pascuala explains of the work recorded in South Studies with engineer Jorge Abarca.
The rhythms incorporated by «Amatoria» were also intentionally selected: in the four songs Ilabaca resorts to ranchera, bolero, waltz and protest song as a way to reimagine them in the context of feminist ideas.
«It happens that the moment the fourth feminist wave settles in with its deconstruction process, it intimately invaded all of us. So that’s when I started to get really upset listening to folklore for the topics that are covered,» she says of her motivation. «I, being a person who loves folklore, began to think about how we will continue to replicate these discourses. Then I was very sorry for this responsibility and the desire to contribute at that point; if I like folklore I have to occupy these rhythms to give new messages.»
One of the most striking within these new messages is the one portrayed in ‘Gomero en Eros’, the album’s last single. In the song, Ilabaca speaks with humor and closeness of masturbation and female self-know-how, concepts that are also portrayed in his recent video directed by Christopher of the Square.
What’s the story behind this song?
What happens is that I feel that in order to get to know each other and know how we want to be loved, how we want to love from here on out, really to be able to open up to imagine new things, we need to experiment. So this record in that sense is well experimental and the most experimental song is ‘Gomero en Eros’ because it’s a rare song, it’s an erotic song dedicated to a plant. It is made in a waltz rhythm, which is also like a classic rhythm to do more fun things, and speaks of self-satisfaction, which is also a very taboo subject in relation to female sexuality.
How do you feel at this point in your career? What does «Amatoria» represent in your story?
I feel on the creative side. I feel that the fruit of the work is being seen; vocal work on the one hand, as a singer. I was used to being on the move, I’m well nomadic, but this year I was able to be at home studying my voice a lot and that shows a lot on the record. I am very happy with the quality of the vocal technique that I reached to record the album, I have been expanding my record more and more, composing increasingly interesting melodies to be sung. The lyrics too. I feel like when I left writing records I was very influenced by the tenth, which had been my school. But I’ve been getting rid of those influences over time. And creatively I’m very satisfied. But on the other hand I feel that culture is so in crisis that I imagine that in the future I will be able to have more recognition for this work. I hope to be able to reap more fruits from this work that I internally feel is very well achieved but that it is difficult to find that recognition for all the political context and the impossibility of showing this repertoire live.