Guadalajara is a huge city. According to the 2020 census, the Guadalajara metropolitan area has a population of well over 5 million, spread out over 1050 square miles. But despite its size it is a city of neighborhoods – colonias. My favorite colonia is Distrito Chapultepec-Americana, which has nothing to do with the United States and everything to with Hollywood.
Avenida Chapultepec runs through the Zona Chapultepec, a six-lane boulevard packed with nightclubs, restaurants, rock venues, bars, and throngs of young people from the city’s many colleges and universities. The boulevard is bisected by a double-wide meridian graced with lawns, fountains , trees and paths, which on holiday and weekend nights are filled with vendors, taco stands, DJ’s, musicians, and even dancers.
But the colonia’s quiet neighborhood side streets are also full of gems – great hole-in-the-wall restaurants, galleries and artists’ workshops. One of these is Casa Teodora, a quaint, brightly colored haven for artists and students in search of kindred spirits, display space and events in the grounds behind the main building , which have been remodeled into a music venue /al fresco kitchen and outdoor space for celebrations and classes.
It was there Saturday night that one of Mexico’s finest singers, Jaramar Soto, performed at a pre-release concert for her upcoming 16th album, TODAS LAS NAVES DEL MUNDO, due out Feb. 11. Accompanied by three superb musicians – Luis Javier Ochoa Santana on guitar, Alex Fernández Figueroa on violin, Carlos Vilches on standup bass, and Luciano Sánchez Soto on drums – she sang for well over an hour, giving us songs that ranged from original luminous ballads to traditional songs in indigenous languages, to Celtic-flavored indigenous Mexican rhythms.
Jaramar has sung in major venues for thousands of people, so I jumped at the chance to see and hear her standing only a few feet from me, and being able to talk with her afterward.
The experience was inspiring. Her voice was as powerful and heart-piercing as it would have been in the finest concert hall. Her songs – two of which were from the upcoming album and the remainder from her fabulous career – sailed over the 40 or so people (almost all masked) fortunate enough to be invited to Casa Teodora that night. Every note put us in a glowing azure sphere of sound, oblivious to the city around us (except for one airplane, which she stopped the music for). We could have been in Teatro Diana or Carnegie Hall as Jaramar transported us with her voice.
Jaramar’s music is hard to classify. Bandcamp calls it “alternative/world music/fusion”. Some of what we heard fit those categories, some we heard last night could have been in an opera, some in any traditional Mexican celebration, some – although they were indigenous Mexican songs – could have been at home in an Irish pub, especially when she picked up a mini tambourine and her drummer ratcheted up the floor tom and the kickdrum. But the best classification was “Jaramar” and all of it was a delight.
However, all good things must end and eventually the cries of “otra” died down, the band packed up, and Jaramar mingled with friends and fans and posed for selfies and photos.
I packed up my video gear, my wife and I said goodbye and got a hug and we ventured out into the chilly Guadalajara night. As we made our way down Chapultepec Avenida, rock and blues and la música de Banda poured from the clubs, crowds thronged the vendors and food stalls while lines snaked into restaurants. And we were still vibrating with the power of Jaramar’s last song of the night, a heart-stopping version of the classic “La Llorona”, in her voice, a song as big as Guadalajara.
TODAS LAS NAVES DEL MUNDO will be released on Feb 11.
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