Lucia Pulido’s Cantos Religiosos y Paganos de Colombia (“Religious and Pagan Songs from Colombia”) is old and yet new, traditional but contemporary, penetrating and magical. And honest.
It brings to mind Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s haunting novella, “Del Amor y Otros Demonios.” In the story, the interred remains of a young girl, believed to have been possessed, are unearthed after 200 years; the disinterment reveals that while Maria de Todos los Santos’ body has all but decomposed, her flaming copper hair continues to grow. Maria de Todos los Santos was raised first by her aristocratic Spanish parents, then in a convent. As a child, she was loved by and absorbed the rhythms and spirit of her family’s African slaves. In the convent, she found impossible love with the priest sent to exorcise her demons.
Cantos Religiosos y Paganos de Colombia (Intuition Records) has many of these same elements. It revisits a powerful past that grows into the future, vaunting the rich traditions of Colombia, both black and white (and Amerindian). And like Marquez’s oeuvre, it is about form reinventing itself, as it is a conceptual departure from Pulido’s previous work.
Pulido exudes a youthful air—almost naïve—as she absentmindedly tosses about her long brown (not quite copper-colored) hair. Though small of stature, Pulido is not frail. Her effect, revealed in her penetrating, burnt umber eyes, is not one of possession, but it bespeaks an intense, driven devotion to her music through the powers—not the might—of her voice.
Born in Bogotá, but raised in Colombia’s east, Pulido has been living in New York since 1994, when she left home to record a CD with Carlos Vives as executive producer. Vives is the pop music prince of Colombia who has an unfailing ability to attract Colombia’s best musicians to his band. Over the years he’s had to share his co-producer and writer Ivan Benavides with Pulido. Benavides writes both lyrics and melodies of a good number of Pulido’s songs. The two met in high school and performed together as a duo for over 10 years. (Benavides also directs various cutting-edge projects, among them Bloque, which broke serious rock en español ground in Colombia in the mid ’90s.)
Coming to New York opened up Pulido creatively. She began to look at her voice and her work w