Between Santiago's mainstream music scene dominated by reggaeton and Cumbia, its alternative music scene becoming famous through politically minded hip-hop, and its classic music scene idolizing activist folk heroes, one can easily miss a multitude of independent musicians that fall somewhere outside these categories. Enter Laurela, an undiscovered gem in Santiago's budding music scene.
Courtesy of Loreto Awad
Originally from Valdivia, Loreto "Laurela" Awad moved to Santiago in 2015 to study music. Aside from a handful of singing lessons encouraged by her aunt when she was young, she is completely self-taught and in some regards, a blast from the past. With lilting vocals accompanied by the double bass, guitar and flute of her Valdivia-based band, Ensamble Laurelillo, it isn't hard to imagine stumbling upon them performing in a dark, smoke-filled speakeasy during the swing era.
While listening to her band Ensamble Laurelillo, or her solo work, an attentive listener may pick out her primary influences such as Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Joni Mitchell, but at the same time her sound is very much her own. Her vocals are fluid but controlled, relaxed but powerful and undeniably beautiful.
Although her solo project with guitar or ukulele in hand could certainly fit right into the contemporary singer-songwriter niche, it is also heavily rooted in classic folk traditions.
She refers to her style as "romantic," and "sentimental." There are no synthetically produced beats or auto-tune, no distortion, or effects. It's acoustic, organic, honest and from the heart. Perhaps that's why it's such a breath of fresh air. "When I play by myself, I always record using cassettes." To Laurela, the lo-fi approach is "valorization of an artist expressing their feelings." It is emotion, raw and unfiltered.
In that way, her music is reminiscent of a different era transporting the listener back in time before digital recordings and high speed internet.
Courtsesy of Loreto Awad
Laurela's first EP, which she hopes to release by the end of the year, was originally conceived during her travels in Thailand working as an English teacher. "It's hard to communicate when you can't speak the same language as most of the people you meet. I ended up spending a lot of time with other foreigners and by myself. In those alone times I would write, just lyrics." When she returned to Chile she began to put music to the words.
Courtesy of Loreto Awad
The central theme of her EP is a character named "Esther," somewhat of an alter-ego or future self. "I imagine myself in the future with more wisdom talking to me and telling me everything is going to be alright. When I'm singing I like to go out of myself. I like to change characters, and every experience gives me new characters."
While she has aspirations to be play music professionally, for now she is focusing on finishing her degree in music. If you are lucky, you may stumble upon Laurela playing sets at local bars with her friends. But make no mistake, when she is ready she will take Santiago by storm.
Don't forget to keep your eye out for Laurela's EP "El Rey de lo Incierto" which she hopes to launch in October or November. Also check out her videos on Youtube and bask in the beautiful glow of pure musical expression.