People from all over the world emigrate to Canada. Yet, musically, it’s not easy to gain success, singing in their mother tongue. 2017 Polaris Prize winner for best album, Lido Pimienta, sticks to Spanish and crosses musical genres along the way.
In a radio interview, Lido Pimienta admits her mother was afraid she might turn into an activist at an early age. That was when the family still lived in Colombia. Once they left the country and moved to Canada, Lido Pimienta let her energy burst into the aether with her first release Color in 2010. Seven years later, with her sophomore album La Papessa, she won one of the most renowned prizes of the Canadian music industry. Today, her art, music, and performances border activism as she openly speaks out for minorities in Canada.
Combo Chimbita – No Regreso
Chancha Via Circuito + Lido Pimienta + Manu Ranks – La Victoria
Kaleema – Mineral
Nakury – Necesario
Macha Kiddo – Jony(La Romi)
Balun – El Espanto
Mula – Laberinto
Nina Dios + Lido Pimienta + Ceci Bastida – Tambalea
Rebeca Lane – Ni Una Menos
Chancha Via Circuito – El Señor del Flautín
Mas Aya + Lido Pimienta – Hoy
How did you start off as a musician?
My dad would have me and my sister at four years of age singing ABBA songs in the middle of the living room for our relatives and neighbors whenever there was an electrical blackout in our area, which is still fairly common in my home city of Barranquilla. Since then, performing in front of others has come very naturally to me, and music has always been an obsession. I always say that music chose me. At school dances, I couldn’t follow choreography, but I could play the drums. That led me to playing live with bands in all kinds of styles, from metal to traditional Afro-Colombian music. It formed me as an artist.
You’re a visual artist as well. How did this come about and can you balance music and arts, do they coincide at all?
As with music, art has always been a big part of who I am. My connection to colors and shapes is directly attached to my indigenous blood and the traditional weaving of my people, the Wayuu of northern Colombia and Venezuela. My music and art are one, and even the way I write my songs follows a pattern that I would follow in any design or work of art that I create.
You were 19 when you came to Canada in 2006. Coming from Colombia, originally, what were your first thoughts about Canada?
I arrived on a very cold winter night, so my first encounter was pure shock at the violence of the snow and the wind. Later on, I found it isolating and scary because I did not see myself in anyone around me. It was hard to fit in because my personality is very strong. I was very outgoing and friendly and loud and that would make people uncomfortable. It was only when I started finding art kids who thought I was funny and talented that I became more free and fearless in this country. I have not looked back ever since.
What’s the music scene like, these days, in Toronto? How would you describe it?
Toronto is fertile ground for music of all styles and narratives. The scenes that are not represented in the mainstream are of course the best. Toronto is blessed because it is so diverse and our music scene reflects that. What needs to happen now is for Canadian media to dig in a bit more and support our artists before they decide to move to the United States.
During your shows, you call women to the front, women of color to the first row. What does this reconfiguration of the space reveal?
It reveals that we are ready to take over our present and future. It reveals that we are waking up from a deep liberal sleep, where oppression is considered a thing of the past. Our generation has a responsibility to rebuild and correct the construct of feminism. Giving priority space to oppressed people is one of the many ways we can truly reach equity and justice, and that is how re-configuring the space is a healing process and progress in my eyes.
“Toronto is fertile ground for music of all styles and narratives.”
To some, Canada is a counter model to the Trump-era of the United States in that it’s more welcoming and liberal. How do you see this?
Canada has way less people than the United States, thus making the outrageous racist attacks coming out of here not even as alarming or shocking. Canada has a brutal history of mistreatment of indigenous people. There are communities in Canada without access to water or health care. Indigenous children are committing suicide at a shocking rate. Indigenous women going missing or being murdered. So I do not see Canada as a “better country” than the United States; we just have a different number of oppressed peoples living and trying to survive in a white supremacist system.
In this context, do you have a mission as an artist?
My existence and survival is my mission; by default, those in tune with what I represent follow me and I stand with them.
Going forward, what can we expect from you in the future? Any new projects lined up?
I am working on a new album titled Miss Colombia as well as a new series of artworks and photographs to go with the music.
Tell us a bit about the mix, why did you choose this selection of tracks?
The music in the mix is very inspiring to me. I am inspired by music made by women at different stages of their career who are creating right now and this playlist reflects that. I want to inspire whoever listens to the mix, and hopefully they find new awesome artists that they would otherwise would not have access to.
Some artists withhold singing in their mother tongue when they migrate to another country. Yet, their language is part of them and the new culture they find themselves in, as well. With Lido Pimienta, Canada has found a strong proponent for the Spanish speaking music community. For more info on her current tour dates, check her agency Paper and Iron Booking and swing over to her Blog for more of her illustrations. If you’re in Berlin, catch her at Torstraßen Festival’s Super Sunday this weekend.
Delve into our mixtape section for more fine tunes and conversations.