The ceiling was the brick construction our area is famous for known as boveda, in which bricks are manually placed end to end in an arch over a room, seemingly supported by nothing. In reality they are supported by the physical force of an arch, invisible but beautiful. The bricks enclosed a spacious hardwood-floored hall with 35 or 40 people sitting on long cushions spread around in a semi-circle facing inward, away from the wall of windows overlooking the lake and towards a guitar resting on a cushion.
Standing behind the cushion was a lithe young woman with a brilliant smile and a tinkling laugh, her long lean body emphasized by a floor length black and white vertically patterned dress. Yanin Saavedra, singer, songwriter, adventurer, explorer, had returned to Ajijic for a one-night-only farewell concert at the Villa de Angel, a combination 4-star hotel and meditation center.
Yanin developed a devoted following for her music in the years she lived in Ajijic. She organized concerts at her house, sometimes bringing in celebrity talent like Jaramar, sometimes full bands packed into the corner of her living room, sometimes just herself singing with one or two accompanists on bass on and guitar. Other times she filled local venues like La Mescaleria to launch new songs or her album, Busqueda.
Wherever she went, joy followed. Whether it was a ‘Capella, full band, a duet with a friend, Yanin was beloved by musicians and audiences in Lakeside. But then she left.
A breakup influenced her – as it does with so many artists – to look for new horizons. The horizons she found stretched over the ocean on the coast of Southern Mexico. Yanin left her friends, home, and audiences behind to replenish herself. But like all good millennials, she kept us all close on Instagram and Facebook. And her music was always there.
The concert last weekend was another goodbye, this time to look for new horizons in the USA. She grew up in Mexico and has lived in France, so moving to the US will add another facet to her personal diamond.
We got a look of that facet in the music she gave us under the arched brick ceiling. She led us in boisterous songs, she inspired us with familiar chants and mantras, she played softly while we lay prone on the cushions and closed our eyes, and she stood us up to feel the rhythm she can coax single-handedly from a guitar. It was, as it always is with Yanin, a concert like no other, a night of joy wrapped in music.
But it was a bittersweet joy. She made no promises for new music, much less a new album. She will be very far away – more than the three-hour flight that has separated her from her music lovers for the past months. But that is the way of artists, of musicians — the good ones at least. They find their own path, their own place, their own star. Then they gift us with what they have found with Spotify and Bandcamp.
But discovery takes time for any artist. It takes days of songwriting that lead to nothing useable; it takes weeks of no songwriting until an idea appears that is on; it takes the pain of loss, the surprise of discovery, the high of love, the courage for change.
Almost every artist I have known in the years I have been on the radio and writing reviews and following bands, I have seen this – the power of change and the courage to do it and to use it to bring forth songs. In my own career, moving from Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, to a small town in the mountains of central Mexico brought me new music to understand and love and new stories to tell. And, of course it brought me Yanin.
Patrick O’Heffernan writes reviews and stories about music
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