Ladama is a band that came together from four different regions. They are Lara Klaus (drummer, Brazil), Daniela Serna (percussion, Colombia), Mafer Fernanda Gonzalez (bandola player, Venezuela) and Sara Lucas (guitarist, United States). Their lyrics are filled with political/social messages, their sound is joyous. If you understand their languages, you may be inspired to take some sort of social action. If you don't, it all sounds beautifully rhythmic and melodic. In this discussion, they share their origin story and explain the messages behind some of their most powerful songs.Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): Let's talk about songs and songwriting. Can you talk me through a few of the songs you're most proud of and tell the stories behind them?
Sara Lucas: Should we start with "Confesión" because it was the beginning?
Daniela Serna: "Confesión" was the first song we wrote together when we were "One Beat," which is a program sponsored by the State Department, where we met in 2014. This was a space to create freely, and Maria and Sara were very interested in writing something in Spanish. Sara was learning Spanish back in those days, and I was kind of a bridge between the two of them because Maria was quoting ideas in Spanish and I was explaining to Sara in English.
It's a song about women's solitude, and how that is something normal that we should love and embrace instead of being afraid of that. How as a woman, you are connected to the moon, and you have dreams and you want to love, but at the same time, if you are alone, it can be hard to do, but it's really important.
Songfacts: And you covered the song "Compared To What."
Lucas: Gene McDaniels.
Songfacts: That shows you can play soul music.
Lucas: What's really interesting about that song is that it started with Pat (Swoboda) playing in five in our rehearsal space, and I just started riffing because I wanted to find a way for us to get into it, and then Lara came in with her crazy drumming - amazing drumming - and then we started playing pika pika, which is an Afro-Coastal Caribbean rhythm from Colombia.
Songfacts: How did you know that you would make a great band?
Mafer Fernanda Gonzalez: I met them in this residency, and I just told them, "Guys, you are perfect to come to my country and share with the kids in Venezuela and the kids in my neighborhood. They have to know you exist as an example for women."
In my country, they have an interesting situation because they get pregnant really early - like 12 years old. So I said, "Guys, you have to come to my country." And then we decided we can share music in a beautiful and collaborative way as professional musicians, educators, pioneers. Then we started to think about being a band, not just a project. I think it was from the beginning.
Lucas: Yeah, I think the ideas exchanged beyond the music, that's why it works and flows so well.
Songfacts: Where does the inspiration come from?
Lucas: It comes from a very organic place that Maria was speaking to where you bring women together to share their unique strength, powers and possibilities to create a Pan-American idea of what it means to work across these cultures.
Songfacts: Is there prejudice in some of the Latin American countries where women are not supported in forming a band?
Lucas: Well, people are like that here too.
Lara Klaus: Nowadays, we can see that we aren't the only ones doing a girl band. It happens, but it was really continental from the beginning. The whole point behind it was political and social because maybe people in our countries do it, but they are not conscious about the repercussions this can have, even in politics. That's something we have in common as well, so musically and socially speaking we come from music from Latin American traditional range - from Cumbia in Colombia, Joropo in Venezuela, Brazil and the United States - but we want to go beyond this range. We have different influences and we are very conscious that we have a voice for the next generation to give them the possibility to create different societies because our societies are very unequal for women.
Songfacts: Let's talk about one of your other songs.
Klaus: "Elo" which is a song in Portuguese. "Elo" means "bond."
Some of our songs we write together and sometimes I write a song, and when I bring it in we arrange it together and it becomes a Ladama song. But "Elo" I wrote because I wanted to do something with a traditional rhythm from my region, but it became another thing - it has all the other flavors of each country.
But in "Elo" we wanted to bring this idea of making a bond, making a connection and working in collaboration in what we do, so it's about making a bond, enjoying life as a group, as a community.
Songfacts: What's another song that has a message that could get missed?
Lucas: We have a song called "Atravessadora" which in Portuguese means "middle person." And that is a song about the idea of living life in a state of limbo, where you have to decide against your inner moral compass to potentially survive in a world that does not help or benefit from the status quo. The whole song is a question: Are we going to repeat our past by trying to save ourselves? And what does it mean to save ourselves? What do we do?
Songfacts: How much does the current political climate impact your music?
Lucas: A lot. Also, because we are a band of people from different countries, we're watching that but we're also watching the rest of the world.
Klaus: There's a movement in Brazil right now that is racist, homophobic, anti-democracy. People are moved by hate. I think this wave of hate makes people get excited, so I think we are living this right now.
December 6, 2018. More info at ladamaproject.org
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