of homeland spark songs for Soraya CD
by Ramiro Burr, March 2005 - San Antonio Express-News
Colombian pop singer Soraya returned to her homeland seeking inspiration
for her new CD, "El Otro Lado de Mi."
The result is a mix of her familiar pop tunes and new socially conscious
"It helped me a lot to return to Colombia," Soraya said in a recent
interview from her Miami home. "I started being a musician when I was 5, and
what always inspired me was that amazing music down there. There's the
guitar-based music, the storytelling music, the cumbias and more.
"And I went down there just to kind of, not remember, but just to lose
myself in that again. And I met some amazing musicians. And I made a
friendship with Alma de la Calle."
Alma de la Calle is the pen name of Maria Amparo Amaya, a poet who shines
shoes on the streets of Bogota. Soraya found out about her after reading a
story in Miami's Spanish-language daily paper, El Nuevo Herald, about Amaya
winning a national poetry contest.
She became fascinated by
the poet's story.
"She's a grandmother now, a shoeshiner by day, a very poor woman," Soraya
said. "But as it turns out, she's an amazing woman. And all these things
started to come together in Colombia, and that lit a fire in me again and
reminded me of what really mattered as a musician, and that's what I set out
Soraya was so fascinated by Amaya that she wrote the song "Alma de la Calle,"
which details the poet's struggle to survive on the tough streets of Bogota
and finding escape through reading and writing.
As on the rest of the songs, Soraya balances her vocals with emotive wails
and light whispers. Her yodeling evokes comparisons to the Cranberries'
For Soraya, "Alma de la Calle" is about much more than a poor woman.
"It depends on how you read it," she said. "It is a statement about a
particular human being whose name is Alma de Calle, but it also represents a
whole part of our social fabric that gets ignored," she said.
Soraya also is helping Amaya with her lifelong dream of building a library
for her community.
Another tune with political undertones is "Gotas de Perdon." Riding rock
guitars and urgent percussion, the song describes the struggle to find
sanity in a world beset by political wars, crime and poverty.
"It was not the first time that I thought about it, about writing about such
political themes," she said. "But it was the first time that I thought I had
risen to the challenge well enough to record these songs. That wasn't easy
because, sometimes, those songs could be a little bit, 'Oh gosh, what's this
person trying to say? Who does she think she is?' But I thought that for the
first time, I was up to the challenge, so I wanted to do it."
Soraya can emphathize with people who struggle. In 2000, she was diagnosed
with breast cancer. She canceled her tour to fight the disease, along the
way becoming a spokeswoman for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
The 12-track "El Otro Lado de Mi" also features traditional Colombian
guitars and percussion instruments, including the tres, the tiple, the gaita
"It all made sense to me. It just all clicked," Soraya said. "I thought that
it was also a way to give the music a different coloring. It was a way to
give it roots. It was a way to make it feel as organic as I was feeling it
inside. And it just felt right."
Soraya was born in New Jersey to Colombian parents. Growing up, she heard
everything from American folk singers to Latin roots music. Among her main
influences are Sting, Fleetwood Mac and Peter Gabriel.
The album was produced by Soraya and her longtime producer Sebastian Krys,
who has worked with Carlos Vives and Gloria Estefan.