Alea, On Her Own Terms
By Emma Wenninger
November 1, 2018
COLOMBIAN SINGER ALEA opened a Sofar Sounds event in Soho, New York on October 5, performing her upcoming album’s titular single “Alborotá,” along with a medley of songs rooted in Colombian folk music.
Born and raised in La Guajira, Colombia, when she was a kid she was called an alborotá by her family. The word wasn’t used as an endearment; it’s a term that means riotous, frenetic, scrappy. She explained to the audience that it was a word said when her family thought she was too much to handle, when adults wanted to contain her. With her halo of black curls and big, laser-focused eyes, you can picture her running circles around her childhood home; getting underfoot, challenging her parents, causing trouble.
Her voice, partly the pop, upbeat sound of Selena and part the dusky, tortured cry of a flamenco singer, thundered across the room. It was the voice of a soulful musician. As the first song died down, Alea told the audience what it meant to be an alborotá as she defines the word today. It’s the freedom of expression, of being authentically herself, she says. It is both a loving reworking of a name with which she never identified as a child, and a way to define herself as an artist, and her music.
Now she’s working on an album, “Alborotá,” which will “explore[s] womanhood, relationships, and the meaning of being an immigrant artist in an increasingly globalized world.” While she remains heavily influenced by traditional Colombian music and its many genres and styles—cumbia, bullerengue, currulao, porro sabanero—the new album will feature R&B, hip hop, and jazz. It’s the old and the new, the international sound of a Colombian transplant to New York City.
In many ways, to be an alborotá is to be like her music; a reflective, profound look on the past, with a newer, fresher, and freer understanding of her heritage, voice, and place. ❖