Silvia Perez Cruz is a classically trained musician from Catalonia, Spain. She sings in seven languages, she plays piano, saxophone and has a degree in vocal jazz. On her new album, "Granada," she reimagines classic songs from around the world - songs that have a story to tell. Betto Arcos has this profile.

BETTO ARCOS, BYLINE: It seems like Silvia Perez Cruz can do it all. On her latest, she sings an iconic Catalonian folksong called "El Cant Dells Ocells," made famous by cellist Pablo Casals.


SILVIA PEREZ CRUZ: (Singing in Spanish).

ARCOS: She also sings a lead from the mid-1800s by Robert Schumann.


CRUZ: (Singing in Spanish).

ARCOS: And she tackles the Edith Piaf classic, "Hymne a l'Amour."


CRUZ: (Singing in Spanish).

ARCOS: The common thread running through all these songs can be found in the stories the lyrics tell.

CRUZ: (Through translator) That's why I've always said that style is not what matters to me, but the result. The song has to have a story that I believe in, and I can make it my own. I think I have that influence for my mother. My mother is a good storyteller, and she's always believed that songs are stories.

ARCOS: Her own professional story began at the Catalonia College of Music in Barcelona in 2004 when she co-founded a flamenco group called Las Migas - The Bread Crumbs - with three other women.


ARCOS: Perez Cruz says none of the four musicians were the best players or singers but that helped them take a different approach to flamenco.

CRUZ: (Through translator) I think that's the best thing we did. It was a sound that really did not exist in Spain, based on our limitations, which was to make a more accessible type of flamenco.

ARCOS: She went on to record an album of duets with a percussionist, and before long, Perez Cruz became the buzz of the Spanish music scene. Javier Colina, an acclaimed jazz bassist, invited her to record an album with his trio. Colina sent her a CD of classic Cuban songs with a note telling her to listen to the lyrics.

CRUZ: (Through translator) Of course he liked the melody and the harmony, but he selected them because of the text and the stories they told. He said to me, don't study the songs listen to them at home. Let them keep you company until they stay with you.

ARCOS: They did.


ARCOS: In 2012, it was time for Perez Cruz to record her first solo album. She asked guitarist and producer Raul Fernandez Miro to help her.

RAUL FERNANDEZ MIRO: She has a complete vision of music - not just - she's not thinking just about vocals, about the voice. She's thinking about everything.


ARCOS: Fernandez Miro says when it was time to pick the music for their new album, they chose songs with stories they liked. But they had to figure out how to unite such a wide range of material.

MIRO: I think that if you don't know that they come from different styles and they have different languages, I think you can see the record as a whole thing, which is something that we were looking for. Like, not to be impressed by playing so many different styles - just to play them the way that we want to play.


CRUZ: (Singing in Spanish).

ARCOS: "Gallo Rojo, Gallo Negro" is a popular song from the Spanish Civil War. The lyrics say the black rooster was big, but the red one was brave. The red rooster is brave, but the black one is treacherous. Perez Cruz learned the song when she was part of a concert to honor the remaining members of the international brigades who went to Spain to fight against Dictator Francisco Franco.

CRUZ: (Through translator) At the concert, these men were singing the songs in their own language with tears in their eyes. This song made a big impression on me. They stood up with their arms raised, that I thought, these people have lived through so much. It's good that I can sing and help them remember.

ARCOS: It's just one example of the way Silvia Perez Cruz comes to understand the stories she sings. For NPR News, Betto Arcos.


SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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