Amarantha, Backstage

It was one of Santiago’s first warm summer nights and almost every chair Patio Bellavista was full, in a city-wide sigh of relief that this year’s neurotic spring weather was finally coming to an end.

Photo by Mary-Lide Parker
Photo by Mary-Lide Parker

Inside, Backstage was bustling. People were finishing delicious-looking meals, chatting, enjoying their wine and waiting for the music to start. Local singer and songwriter Amarantha, otherwise known as Paula Herrara, was about to launch her newly-recorded CD, “11,” produced by Juan Pablo González.

Photo by Mary-Lide Parker
Photo by Mary-Lide Parker

Amarantha walked on stage and greeted the crowd with a big sweet smile, as if tonight the entire audience had been specially invited to share in this particular moment. She seemed like the girl-next-door ready for the school prom with her perfectly manicured nails painted to match her red satin dress.

She began by playing a mix of old and new songs, warming up her guitar along with the crowd. The first two songs were sweet jazzy ballads, one being “Convénceme” (Convince me), which she called a song about “the last cry, or gasp, of love.”

A couple of songs into her performance she asked for the lights to be turned up so that she could see her family, friends and students from the Escuela Moderna de Música, (the School of Modern Music), where she teaches. The third song was a Chilean ragtime lullaby that could have been wafting out of a bar on New Orlean’s Bourbon Street. All that was missing was the drunk outside on the corner and smell of stale beer.

Photo by Mary-Lide Parker
Photo by Mary-Lide Parker

Amarantha was backed by the Power Band: Cristóbal Orozco on drums; Eduardo Martínez on bass; Américo Olivari on keyboards; Felix Molina on guitar; and Celeste Shaw and Daniella Stoddart singing chorus.

The next few dreamy jazz songs were reminiscent of ‘70s singers Olivia Newton John and Lynda Ronstaad. There was a crystal sweet clarity to Amarantha’s voice, apparent in "Donde Estas?" (Where are You?) and "Café con Ustedes" (Coffee with You), from her first CD, "Sueño de Vida" (Dream of Life).

Hailing from Curico and mentored artistically by Pablo Herrera, Amarantha is a story teller. It is for this quality that her song, “Verde y Celeste” (Green and Sky-Blue), has earned her entry into the pre-selection process for this year’s Viña del Mar music festival’s folk music contest. When she plucked out this ballad from behind her guitar, her back straightened, her voice rounded out and somehow she summoned an attention-grabbing force absent from the previous songs. In this moment the audience was watching a songwriter come into her own.

Photo by Mary-Lide Parker
Photo by Mary-Lide Parker

Halfway through the show she had settled in and continued to belt songs out with more power than before, including a moving cover of the Victor Jara rendition of “Deja la vida volar” (Let Life Fly).

Amarantha’s style varies widely as she was able to move fluidly between folk, ragtime, pop, profoundly soulful ballads, soft jazz with a touch of hip-hop and even some disco-esque tunes such as "No sea que" (I don’t know what).

Amarantha, Paula Herraera, whatever name you use, this is a performer on the verge of becoming. Who or what remains to be seen, but her potential as an emerging voice within the Chilean music scene is evident.

http://www.amarantha.cl
Backstage, Patio Bellavista

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