JUNE/JULY 2006

Juana Molina

[SONGWRITER]

“I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY EARS.”
How Juana Molina learned to listen carefully:
Imitating television commercials
Listening to songs in English
Listening to the sound of a loose manhole cover
Playing in coffeehouses
Working with Daniel Melero
Acting on television

Juana Molina is an Argentinean songwriter whose fourth album, Son, teems with the lush atmosphere of her home outside Buenos Aires—it is a record touched by the symphonic chatter of birds and insects, which would overtake the songs altogether were it not for the hushed power of Molina’s voice and her delicate production work.

Before she was a singer, Molina was best known in South America for her comic skills on the Antonio Gasalla show and her starring role in the comedy series Juana and Her Sisters. She abandoned the small screen in 1996, determined to write and perform her own music.

This interview took place by phone on April 5, 2006.

—Josh Kun

*

THE BELIEVER: When I first heard your music, I worried that you were going to get lost in an unfortunate marketing shuffle in the United States, that because your music colored outside the lines of so-called Rock en Español on the one hand, and so-called electronic music, or even world music, on the other—you weren’t overly “ethnic” or “folkloric” or anything like that—that you couldn’t easily be sold at Starbucks. I was worried that you were going to get lost in the machine, and I’m so thrilled that you haven’t.

JUANA MOLINA: I wasn’t afraid at all because I didn’t know any of that existed before I made the records. The Americans and the English are so spoiled by having everything done in their own language, and I didn’t understand that that was so important. I didn’t realize it until I was playing live, because I could feel that people were enjoying it but also, at the same time, were a little bit lost because they were watching me, looking at me singing all of the time, without understanding anything. I grew up that way—I grew up listening to music without understanding what they were talking about, and I didn’t care, because I was enjoying the music. So, once in a live show, I said, “Well, you know, I grew up listening to foreign music all my life, and I never understood a word of what you were saying, so welcome to my world,” and everybody laughed, and I felt something—it was a little bit like breaking the ice, and everybody started to feel more comfortable afterward. They maybe understood this different way of listening to music.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Josh Kun is the author of Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (UC Press) and a professor of English at UC Riverside.

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