Milking the Music
Andrea Echeverrí, organically rocking front woman for the Colombian alternative band Aterciopelados, is milking the groove-mama experience for all it's worth. Three years ago, the artist had her first baby, a daughter named Milagros ("Miracles"). Now she's stepping out with a self-titled solo album dedicated to the joys of motherhood.
In typical Echeverrí style, the lyrics are witty and candid. This time, though, the music represents a softer, more wistful version of her always-sensual and spiritual self, a major shift from the early days of her band. Aterciopelados -- "Velvety Ones" -- have long been icons of Colombian rock. They came together in the early '90s as a punk act and have gradually evolved over the years, moving to Latin fusion and electronica without losing their alternative edge.
"Comparing Aterciopelados' music from before to now is like comparing photographs from ten years ago," Echeverrí says during a phone interview from Bogotá. "Each moment of life requires different types of energy."
Aterciopelados' 2001 album, Gozo Poderoso, was such a delicate and perfect balance of genres that it soared into the Top Ten of the Billboard Latin Album Sales chart and landed the group a performance on the Tonight Show. But after the release of the 2002's Evolución, Echeverrí turned her energies to birthing, nursing, and baby talk.
"[Motherhood] is powerful and strong," she says. "It inspired a lot of songs. It also reflects a natural mental state when you are synchronized with nature, life, and reproduction. You ask yourself a lot of things because you are bringing a new being into a totally upside-down world. It really makes your head work."
It's with that naturalness that Echeverrí explores the sexuality of human behaviors -- like breast suckling. On the song "Lactochampeta," she incorporates the lambada-like rhythm of the Colombian-Caribbean genre champeta to sing about the mutual pleasure that mother and baby receive from nursing.
"Breastfeeding is a rich experience, a completely new discovery," she says. "I treat [the whole experience of motherhood] like love before first sight -- that's the first kick. That's how I describe pregnancy -- the experience of being dizzy, of breathing, trusting that this new person is going to come and be a hero and that she is going to change all that is wrong with the world. These are thoughts all mothers have."
Echeverrí, who once sang that pregnancy might ruin her figure, has made a career out of music for so long that, at 39, settling down in a stable relationship and having a baby seems like a normal progression.
"I belong to a generation whose mothers were all housewives and didn't have the option of doing anything else," she says. "I came from a generation that didn't want to have a baby. I wanted to be economically independent. I wanted to be an artist and to make songs, so all of this came to me at a much later age. I have had a lot of freedom and a lot of time to think. It came to me at a very good moment in my life."
Other songs on the album celebrate the correlation between lovemaking and reproduction, and on the lullaby "A Eme O," Echeverrí credits Milagros with rejuvenating her sex life with the child's father. "It's as if you've unplugged my tubes," she sings.
"Baby Blues" is written expressly for Milagros but still maintains a sexy sway, while the harmony on "Que No Haría" ("What Wouldn't I Do") bounces happily to a twangy guitar as Echeverrí tells Milagros there is nothing in the world that she wouldn't do for her baby.
Meanwhile, on the song "Amortiguador," Echeverrí thanks her partner for being like a great adviser, like a steering wheel and the accelerator that moves her engine forward. "Hug me like a safety belt," she purrs.
"They're all songs that speak of mature love, of loves that remain for many years, of loves that have confronted crises and problems but that are relationships based on respect and fidelity," she says.
It's a traditional but equally sincere message as the ones Aterciopelados have given to Colombia over the years. During its earlier days, the group strove to prove that nonconformists were not just drug addicts and punks with piercings but also hard-working professionals and cultural contributors.
"We showed that a person who lives outside the norm is not necessarily bad, that the person is simply seeking his or her own path and we must respect that path," she explains. "In a world where children are abused and sexually exploited, where couples break up, where the base of society, which is family, is so in danger, this CD has a mission of reconciliation. We're creating a domestic revolution."
And then there's the process that came before baby love -- that of loving and accepting oneself in a hyped up, glamour-centric music industry. The singer hopes that being herself helps her audiences to do the same. During a 2003 show at La Covacha in Miami, a barefoot, au-naturel Echeverrí danced sensually on stage in an oversized caftan to an audience full of surgically enhanced teenyboppers in full makeup, expensive shoes, and well-primped coifs. The contrast was obvious.
Had this crowd of beauty queens grown up with the kind of positive feminist message Milagros is receiving, who knows how different their world would be. In Miami, a shift like that would be nothing short of the child's namesake -- a miracle. The stage from which her mama performs is a launching point for that mission.
"As a woman, I am subjected to the same cultural pressure that all women are subjected to," Echeverrí says. "It's a pressure that turns us into vain, sexual objects, making us vulnerable and not very strong. I personally fought this image. That's why I am the way I am. That's why I haven't chosen a career of perfection. I don't diet, I don't wear makeup, I don't go to the gym. I think it's more important to spend energy on my soul and my spirit, and as long as my body is agreeable and allows me to sing and dance and communicate with people, then I'm perfect. I don't ask for anything else."
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