Eminem probably doesn’t realise this, but Alejandra Ribera owes him a lot. It was when she saw the first scene of the film 8 Mile (which shows the rapper suffering from stage fight before he goes up on stage for a ‘battle’) that the Canadian from Toronto decided to bite the bullet and dedicate her life to music. If he made it, I can too, she thought.
Alejandra Ribera was not a complete novice: as a child, she sang with her mother in the choir at the local Anglican church, she was brought up on jazz and classical music and then she learned the violin and the acoustic guitar, beginning to compose songs as a teenager. In 2009, she recorded an impromptu first album with a group of jazz students and this met with unexpected appreciation in Canada.
But Alejandra Ribera, a one-of-a-kind performer as well as a unique composer and song-writer, considers La Boca to be her first genuine album. She wrote the songs while she was travelling (in Spain, Scotland, Slovakia and France, where she settled) and dealing with the trials of life: I was inspired by the rare and dangerous brightness which you can only see in the dark. Each song reflects the light at the end of the tunnel. And this album was also born of intuition and listening to the little voice in my head. A voice which told her, for example, to entrust the arrangements for her record to Jean Massicotte, the magician and producer already working with Lhasa and Patrick Watson. It was a long wait, but she was right: La Boca is a flying carpet, woven within a sophisticated instrumentarium (piano, plucked string instruments, brass instruments, a light-fingered percussion section and pedal-steel guitars) which carries the powerful, feverish and intoxicating voice of Alejandra Ribera off to impressionistic new lands. Alejandra was thus particularly pleased when she found out that her song I Want had been nominated ‘song of the year’ in 2014 by Socan, the Canadian performance rights association.
On stage, she expresses her pleasure in singing as if blowing smoke rings: her voice shifts from jazz to folk to pop, as if she were in a coffee house in Laurel Canyon during bohemian folk’s golden age. Always glad to share a good story between two songs, she smiles as she touches people’s hearts. She brings to mind all the artists who have sung the blues and juggled with its many derivatives: Rufus Wainwright, Melingo, Tom Waits, Chavela Vargas, and of course Arthur H who duets with her on the only track in French on La Boca – Un Cygne la nuit, which is filled with a profound sense of drama… She also evokes the stars and a clear horizon, the sea and the sky merging into one. This album is a trip, a storyteller’s tale and the beginning of an adventure.