IR: Who introduced you to the music of Chavela Vargas?
AC: Life. As a child I would go to record stores and check out the world music section, from the Middle East, to India and places where they used voice and instruments differently; they are songs so powerful that you don’t need to understand what they say. It is an emotion, a feeling; That’s why I love music so much. It’s the reason I do it. They are not the popularity lists, that is the least of it. Doing what makes me happy is the important thing. And Chavela, her story, her documentary, the way she empowers women; she didn’t change her way of being for anyone, she simply consolidated herself as what she wanted to be. In his voice, in the amazing songs he made, you could feel his heart hurt, no matter what he said. I have a lot of respect for him. It’s not about how many notes a singer hits, it’s about emotion, giving your heart on each recording, that’s why I also like Etta James, Nina Simone and singers who left their soul in their voice like Celia Cruz.
IR: How was your first contact with feminism?
AC: Through music and the example of other strong women. Feminism is lived in many ways. As a girl I saw what my mother went through, she gave up her career to become a housewife, to make her marriage work, and it did her no good. Not on a personal level, not as a woman. That instilled professional ethics in me and encouraged me to never put myself in the situation of depending on a man. From a very young age I decided to be strong. I was never in a hurry to get married, I always wanted to work and sing. I started when I first saw the movie of the rebel novice, when he sang he looked free. In my childhood I felt trapped and escaped through art and movies, thinking or looking out the window. I learned great lessons from my mother. I learned from him his kindness and good heart, he taught me to be a genuine person. It was difficult for her to end her marriage, many women never leave it and I feel very proud of her. That’s where “Oh Mother” comes from, it’s a tribute to her. It is important to talk about your battles because you never know who is going to listen or who is going through the same thing. I live to inspire, that’s why I dedicate myself to this. Having been in the industry since I was a child has allowed me to see that men always get their way, we live in a world where men rule. I went through a lot of shit and I couldn’t talk about it. So I learned about women’s values, I learned to do things for myself and to make sure that I work to have enough power, to dictate the rules. Now we have platforms with greater reach, we can raise our voices and unite. Now we celebrate different bodies, people celebrate our life choices, we are living fully and we don’t have to apologize. That is very important. My work shows that I have made the right decisions.
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Christina Aguilera sings in Spanish again and connects with her Latin roots