About a month ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Guatemalan musician Gaby Moreno at a venue in New York. It was a noisy place, and the artists who preceded Moreno were drowned out in the thick noise of bar patrons talking and laughing. And then Moreno took the stage, grabbed the mic, and chastised the audience for being disrespectful. Naturally, no one paid attention. And then she started belting out her songs, as if she had the voice of Louis Armstrong trapped in the tiniest possible body. The place went silent.
No matter how many times I listen to Gaby Moreno, I always react as if it were the first time: She's simply breathtaking. Her voice is passionate and stylistically malleable as she glides back and forth easily between bossa nova and bluesy rock. But she's not just a fantastic singer: Her lyrics have depth, a narrative storytelling style well beyond her years, and a passion that outshines her contemporaries. Whether she's confronting the world in "Sing Me Life" or singing an ode to immigrants (with a wink to her dear Guate), Moreno stands out in a sea of audio-enhanced pop, and has already jumped into the ranks of great Latina singers like Julieta Venegas and Andrea Echeverri.
Joined here behind Bob Boilen's desk by guitarist extraordinaire Adam Levy, Moreno sings three songs from this year's amazing Illustrated Songs. So whatever you're doing right now, I suggest you drop it. Moreno doesn't make music you can multitask to; her music songs require full attention. Sit down and let yourself be taken aback. It happens to me every time.
- "No Regrets"
- "Ave Que Emigra"
- "Sing Me Life"
Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait and Chris Nelson; photo by Erin Schwartz/NPR