It’s a rare voice that can coax a girl away from the lord of the underworld, but Alejandra Ribera has the magic inked on the inside of her right wrist so she won’t forget.
A simple mantra is etched there. “Escuchame,” translated from Spanish to mean “listen to me.”
While her tattoo is mainly intended as a reminder to go within for guidance, the inner voice she has discovered is compelling enough to sing a lost soul like Persephone back to the light. This month Ribera is bringing her unique performance style to Evergreen Theatre in Margaretsville, the Atlantic Jazz Festival in Halifax, and the Chester Playhouse.
Ribera has an eclectic range that picks up influences from jazz, French cabaret, Mexican folk, and then infuses the mix with a captivating performance style. Her voice has a raw, emotive quality that some have compared to Edith Piaf, Tom Waits, and even Joan Armatrading.
Watching her perform is a roller coaster journey through the phases of the heart, complete with its visits along the spectrum of dark and light. “Good Night Persephone,” an original alt-pop piece, is a foray into the dark charm and attraction within the catacombs.
According to mythology Hades, the lord of the underworld, kidnapped Persephone and carried her to the catacombs to be his bride. In retaliation Persephone’s mother Demeter, goddess of the harvest, brought winter to the land until Persephone was returned to her.
A clever mix of the eloquent and mundane, Ribera’s song explores the catacombs while leaving enough light to guide Persephone home. Ribera says the heart learns by enduring its own seasons, when it’s most quiet and dark it’s most receptive to the light.
“The darkness is a real teacher, to be in a place of struggle and darkness will open your eyes to the light around you,” she said. “It’s like a sculpture, you have to chip away at the negative spaces to create something new.”
If we push away the darker aspects of our selves, we are planting the seeds of our own undoing and will return to the season later. She added that it’s best to listen when the heart is called to the catacombs.
Being off-course is simply part of the heart’s journey home.
One of her favorite cover songs Viente Anos, a Spanish ballad translated to mean Twenty Years is the heartbreaking story of the changing love-scape of a long-married couple. Ribera says she’s reluctant to sacrifice the emotional nuances in translation, so she sings the number in Spanish.
“It’s difficult to translate, if only you loved me like you did you did 20 years ago when I used to be your dream,” she said. “And now I’m a reminder of the past. This song is heart-breaking and it touches me so much when I sing it.”
This year, after four years of performing, Ribera has decided to record NavigatorNavigateher, a CD sampler which includes eight of her own songs (including one in French) and her version of Cielito Lindo, a Mexican folk standard sung in Spanish.
Since the CD release she has performed on CBC Radio and on a dozen college stations, Toronto area festivals, performances in a dozen local bars, clubs, and cabarets, and has a regular runs of dates at the Cameron House in Toronto.
Alejandra Ribera will be performing July 10 at the Atlantic Jazz Festival in Halifax, on July 12 at Evergreen Theatre in Margaretsville, and at the Chester Playhouse on July 14. For tickets to the Evergreen show visit www.evergreentheatre.ca, e-mail: email@example.com ; or phone (902) 825-6834 . For more information on Alejandra Ribera visit her site at alejandraribera.com