Magaly Solier is better known as an actress in Peru, having starred in Claudia Llosa’s Madeinusa and the more recent La Teta Asustada (Milk of Sorrow), which is nominated for best foreign film at the Oscar’s this year. Her childhood dream has always been to be a singer, however, and she recently drew eyebrows (and made Tilda Swinton cry) when singing a song in Quechua during her acceptance of a Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival.
Warmi, her first album, is mostly in Quechua, so even the most prolific writer about Peru can tell you exactly the meaning of the lyrics since he doesn’t speak more than a few words of Quechua. Rather I can describe the experience and feeling that the music presents. It’s exotic, strange, eerie, sensitive, and wonderful at the same time. The charango, quenas, and violins are common throughout the album. The songs are similar to sad huaynos played throughout the Andes, though Solier’s voice gives almost a poppy element to them (I usually hear them from middle aged women and old men).
The album name is Warmi, which means “Woman” in Quechua, because it’s about women who have stood up for themselves and to adversity,” Solier has been quoted as saying. Solier is from Ayacucho, where the Shining Path led a war of terror and death that plagued Peru for decades and to some small extent is still going on. Whether she mentions this specifically or not, this is part of her music.
Porque me miras asi, or “Why do you look at me like this?” is one of the few Spanish songs on the album and one of the best. Ripu Ripusajmi is a protest song that tells the story of a girl escaping from the physical abuse of her father. The songs ring of Susana Baca and Afro-Peruvian music, rather than of popular Peruvian culture that has generally prefers Aerosmith and Metallica (and other washed up 80’s bands that are now playing in Lima). It’s far from popular music that you’ll hear on the radio and I admit I can’t listen to the album much – it’s intense – but the songs have staying power.
*The album is unavailable outside of Peru
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.