Auto-biography of a Commitment
The minute you dare to define yourself as a woman songwriter and guitarist you are confronted with a sea of incredulous faces. Could this possibly be “a job”? Any woman brave enough to pursue such a career is going to suffer from the anxiety of entering some commercial music market to be able to survive as an artist. The activity of writing songs and playing guitar aiming to gain a level of proficiency and beauty seemed to be bound to an equal level of sales on your account. Due to the constant bombing of the models of success, you get the pressure of your parents, friends and collegues that are also trained to believe in this competitive, cruel, capitalist, patriarchal paradigm as if it were actually “the real and only world where we name achievements and failures”. So, yes, I had fallen into that trap for many years and this biographical story wants to tell how I moved from that delusion to another world of thought.
I survived the experience of some years at the Conservatory´s martyrdom in Madrid and later I pursued a BFA at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. There I devoted myself to a prolific dilettantism doing music for animation movies, theatre, film, contemporary dance, with a specific degree on multi-focus guitar performance. When I came out of these diverse academic experiences I started playing in all kinds of venues: big and small theatres, international large festivals and little cafes, schools, hospitals, residencies for elders, churches, libraries, universities, parks and museums, through countries like Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Germany, France, England, Holland, Indonesia, the US and Canada. Whoever is interested in my teachers check the bottom of this page.
I had just finished a BFA at Cal Arts and I went to Mexico where I got a job as a teacher of music aesthetics and guitar at the Casa de la Cultura in Tijuana. I invented and constructed The Music Box (La Caja Sonora) for the Children's Museum of San Diego together with the Mexican artist Carmela Castrejón. It was an interactive musical installation, a huge sculpture conceived as a musical instrument. That was in the mid 90's. We travelled to together Spain thinking we were going to repeat the success of the Music Box in Spain. But it did not happen. Way into the 2000s I remember being at times very tired and disappointed at the songwriters' scene in Spain that I found very competitive, cruel and unfriendly. I produced my first record called Paradoja (Paradox) mixing my songs with jazzistic arrangements. An A&R from Sony Music revealed the true mystery of my supposed failure: “The problem with your CD is that it must be listened to”. They were not looking for something that required any effort. It took me 7 years to deliver another record, Nanas Urbanas (Urban Lullabies). Whoever is interested in the story about how I convinced a multinational record label to pay my CD, check my blog here.
I decided to try New York. The National Dance Company of Spain was performing and BAM, I don't know how I gathered the courage but I found myself going thorough the back stage door of the Brooklyn Academy of Music ready to leave my CD to the attention of the programmer. Four months after this event I received a call form the programmer of BAM who requested to hear me play live, so he came to Spain to attend a mini recital I made up for him in my neighborhood and soon after I was performing in the same program where people like Concha Buika or Macaco (who where top lists in Spain) played in New York. A five stars hotel and my picture in a luminous publicity screen on the very corner of Lafayette Avenue. This event was the closest I have ever felt I was to that dream of "success".
It was 2008, the concert at BAM had taken place and I was back to normal life as if nothing had happened. We never know when things that did not bring the desired fruits produce other events that do become real turning points in our life. I was feeling very high thinking that absolutely anything is possible if I was able to be in the middle of New York having played at BAM. I then met the great Argentinian guitarist Juan Falú at El Taller Latinoamericano and saw the opportunity of playing for him when it was actually his recital. That was another of the significant "guitarrazos" that opened the door to the International Festival Guitars of the World in Argentina and I ended up participating on 3 of their annual meetings. That New York trip was very rich since my dear friend Bernardo Palombo (the director of El Taller Latinoamericano) supported my third CD project named at that time Subversiones de MúsicaTradicional (Subversionsof Traditional Music), that later turned into Juniper.
On this very same trip I had contacted the manager of special projects of the Town Hall, Kyra Popiel, who had offered me to play for children at a public school in the Bronx. That performance for Latino and black teenagers that had never exited their neighborhood, and for whom BAM was just as far away as Spain, sowed the first new seed in my heart. Right after my encounter with the children Kyra invited me to meet her master Don Manuel Rufino who was holding a ceremony with sacred plants over the weekend in the woods of Pennsylvania.
This ceremony transformed me forever. It happened that I ceased to feel isolated searching for a place in the world, I was revealed the certainty that I am not circumscribed exclusively in the perimeter of my body or what we commonly think as “I”. The world appeared as an extension of the self where all the wonders and disasters and all the transformations take place: the musical phenomena, a marvelous synergy where the frontier between audience and musician gets vanished, and there is no separation anymore, no solitude. This is the greatest sensation of peace I ever experienced. That is how I profoundly understood the real sense of my musicianship, my mission in life as a service to others, because only in the realization of this ceremony, the ceremony of our existence vibrating together, music suddenly shows its unifying power.
Marketing my music and becoming famous belonged to an illusory theatre of the ego that was gone. Nothing made sense but to surrender to this new mindset, and play wherever I was requested, with the sole purpose of bringing about peace and healing. The feeling of being “successful” no longer had anything to do with money, fame, or media exposure. I began to do just what I loved to do and reject absolutely anything that I did not love and that was the only thermometer of “success” from then on.
Many things began to get clear. And I came to meet Marisol with whom we dreamed a project about music education for peace building. If we were to believe in the possibility of a new world there was a very clear place where to start: children. Children are not just these little human beings that run in parks and schools. When I say children I also mean the "inner child” a state of being that lives ineveryone of us and never dies if we still nurture its soul. We definitely need a magic school to get back our feet back to the track of humanity, solidarity, freedom, beauty, awe, we needed poetry, lullabies, we needed to recover the soul of traditional music from the world that brings about the best qualities that makes us human. Marisol´s work for peace inspired me profoundly, her existence in my life as my partner filled my life with love and passion, all was part of the new insight the new track in which my life as a musician evolved.
In my Songwriting Workshops the first question I ask to everyone is always the same: why do you want to write songs? What is the ultimate purpose of playing and singing for others? Giving birth to the project of the Enchanted School was the result of the turning point of my life that began with the ceremony. From the classical ego-centered isolated and outcasted artist to a totally new concept of what music is good for and what is my mission.
Education for Peace through Music would be the title of our main purpose behind the Enchanted School project. Already in my Urban Lullabies record I had foreseen the idea that adults need to be lulled and also awaken in their childhood, constructing peace in the world is based in recovering the values of innocence, empathy, confidence, creativity. These are the main medicines to heal violence which appears to be the result of isolation. Rosalia Mowgli y La Escuela Encantada (Rosalía Mowgli and the Enchanted School) came about to fulfill all these principles. Originally, it was intended to address only children and teachers at schools, with a couple of fantastic musicians, David Larrinaga and Luis Galvez, “Punto”. Marisol's work for Peace building inspired us to broaden the aspect of the “school” concept taking adults onto the playground, specially women, in order to use music as a tool to work against gender violence.
Art only has meaning if it works to recover our own health and the health of Mother Earth. Rosalia Mowgli is a name I adopted after the inspiration of my beloved author Kipling whose reading printed something in my soul when I was a child: a deep connection to this creative gap between a civilized being and a daughter of salvage wolves. We are all evolving in a non-lineal way, although the format of Before and After has given me a way to display this story of myself, a life that tries to see the path to come from darkness to light and that has chosen music as a vessel.
*My main teachers
It is important to honor the main actors of my education as a musician and as a human being. Any attempt to make a list appears to be unjustly incomplete due to the quantity of relevant characters and my innate spaciness: my early teachers Alvaro Bedoya in Colombia, Anri Shibata in Madrid, Stuart Fox, John Bergamo and Miroslav Tadic in California, from Argentina and Uruguay Carlos Carli, Patrick Petruchelli, Raul Carnota and Juan Falú whose inspiration and support had been crucial in my career. No less important along the years were other great masters as Hector Oliveira, Eliseo Parra and Xavi Lozano, never far from music but closer to spiritual and health matters Don Manuel Rufino, Hermano José had been people who left profound prints on this endless path of learning.