Photo: Jenny Mottar
Berta Rojas is a classical guitarist on a mission to take the music of Paraguay to new audiences – and now she’s been rewarded with a nomination in the Latin Grammys…
You’ve just released your new recording, Día y medio with jazz saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. How did you put the programme together?
The goal for the CD was to create a tribute to the music of Paraguay including the work of Agustín Barrios Mangoré and the music of folk traditions. There are also compositions that were written by foreigners but dedicated to Paraguay, as in the case of ‘Quisiera ser’ which was composed by the Argentinian Mario Clavell as a tribute to the music of Paraguay. I wanted to do this recording because I still believe that, even though there are beautiful tunes in the music of Paraguay, it remains largely unknown.
How would you describe Paraguayan music?
There are two different types of music. One is light and rhythmical – and that’s the polka or Galopa. The second is, according to the Argentinian composer and guitarist Juan Falú, one of the most romantic genres of Latin American music – the Guarania. So in Paraguayan music you have both elements: the romanticism and lyricism of the Guarania and the lightness of the polka. The music is simple and beautiful and I’m sure it will capture the heart of the listener.
Your background is in classical music and Paquito D’Rivera is a jazz musician – did that create any difficulties for your recording?
Paquito knows both worlds very well – in the same year he won a Grammy for jazz and classical. And for me too, I think an understanding of the world of popular music is important for classical musicians as it can give your music a different kind of energy.
Have you got any more recording plans in the pipeline?
Actually yes, today we were working on pre-production for my next album. It might surprise you but it’ll include a suite by a British composer, Vincent Lindsey Clark and it’s been written specially for me. It opens with an English interpretation of the Paraguayan Galopa. It’s very beautiful – my mother keeps asking me to play 'that English Galopa one more time'.
Berta Rojas’s new recording ‘Día y medio’ is out now (listen on Spotify here) and the winners of the Latin Grammys will be announced today, 15 November, at a ceremony in Las Vegas.