You Cannot Not Know Her: Ely Guerra on Chavela Vargas
On November 27, three of today’s most exciting female singers—Ely Guerra, Eugenia León, and Tania Libertad—join forces for the first time to pay tribute to the late, legendary Chavela Vargas in an evening of traditional and contemporary Mexican song.
We spoke to the performers to discover what Chavela Vargas has meant to them in life and career. Here, Ely Guerra explains how she has listened to the great Mexican singer for many years and how she will always remain an inspiration.
What was your reaction the first time you heard Chavela Vargas sing?
Ely Guerra: Listening to Chavela in a recording is amazing, but seeing her and listening to her performing live was an unforgettable experience. I always listened to Chavela when I was young, but I had not seen her until I was older. I've always found something in her expression that gives me strength that allows me to continue building my own path as a singer and songwriter. Chavela is a great mirror to look at oneself ... perhaps. I cannot stop separating the fact that we do the same thing—to belong to the world. I do not want to stop seeing her as an inspiration. Chavela is great and I want to be like her.
For someone who has never listened to Chavela singing before, how would you describe her voice and her singing style?
Ely Guerra: Chavela is a classic, you cannot not know her, there must be Chavela Vargas in your musical map. Her love for Mexico, her deep voice, her truth as a singer is simply the wonderful encounter with a unique artist. Chavela is a beautiful animal to admire.
Which of Chavela's songs is your favorite?
Ely Guerra: I certainly have chased Chavela with a thousand songs, but I never exclude "La Llorona," a piece that I play in her honor in a 5/4 arrangement (unlike the 3/4 original). I produced this arrangement with sounds concerning with my usual alternative music style by the hand of my colleagues Hernan Hecht, Demian Galvez, and Milo Froideval.
Artists: Alondra de la Parra featuring Ely Guerra
Arranged by: Lev Zhurbin, Elizabeth Guerra, Camilo Froideval, and Hernan Hecht
Label: Sony Music
Publishing: Homey Company
Did you know Chavela personally? Could you share some anecdote of your experiences with her?
Ely Guerra: I did not know her in person. However, we had were in contact through third parties regarding projects and musical moments that unite us. Something that connects me with her even more—with love—is that she always made me feel that we were close friends. I always received her blessings through those who contacted me on her behalf.