ANA BARAJAS: HEART IN THE COLOMBIAN ANDES, HOME IN TEXAS
THE music of ANA BARAJAS is a spiritual journey from the backroads of the mystic Colombian Andes to the heart of Texas, fusing elements of traditional Latin folk, tribal sounds, electronica, rock, metal, and jazz.
At five years of age, she took her first music lessons and quickly began to sing traditional songs from the Colombian Altiplano, eventually gravitating towards the Colombian metal scene. Having moved to Austin in 2011, her debut album ‘La Botánica de los Sueños,’ (‘The Botany of Dreams,’) was released in 2018.
“Like a lot of families from Latin America, in my family music was part of pretty much any reunion,” she said.
“Everybody was singing or playing an instrument, although nobody was pursuing that as a career, but my brothers and most of my cousins sing or play an instrument. In that way music was always around and it just felt natural to me to follow my passion.
“When I was living in Bogotá, I got involved in the local metal scene and was part of two bands, a classic heavy metal female band called ‘Highway,’ and a power/progressive band called ‘Nova Orbis.’
“I recorded an EP with ‘Highway’ and we played mostly locally. I also recorded two albums and a couple of EPs with ‘Nova Orbis,’ and with them I had the chance to tour twice in South America and play in different places in Colombia. We’re in the process of recording a new studio album and I’m really enjoying the process. I haven’t done any metal for a long time, so it’s been exciting.
“When I was a teenager and then in college I listened to a lot of classic rock, metal, and trip hop. I used to listen to Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, The Doors, and stuff like that, also European metal bands like Therion or Kamelot and at the same time I loved Portishead and Massive Attack.
“At the moment, I’ve been listening to a lot of old music from the 40s and 50s mostly in Spanish – boleros, tangos, etcetera. I think those classic singers have so much soul and personality in their voices and that is very inspiring. But I also enjoy hearing new music, and lately I’ve been listening to Sevdaliza, Rosalia, Lido Pimienta, Masego and Jon Batiste.
“I think since I moved out of Colombia, music has become the best way to keep myself connected to my roots. In a world where social media and the big companies rule what and how we listen to music, I think it becomes more and more important for artists to be honest and protect our creative freedom regardless of numbers and virality.
“In my case, I feel that at this moment connecting with my roots is the best way I have to explore new creative paths and show who I am as an artist. In the end I think people value that and there is always a craving for listening to music that sounds different to what the mainstream sells regardless of language. Being true to yourself is the best gift that an artist can give to an audience.”
Last year Ana joined forces with Bolivian musician and composer Eduardo Cassapia, Salvadoran singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mauricio Callejas, and Colombian bassist Andrés Acevedo, to form ‘Cruz del Sur.’
With ‘Cruz del Sur,’ Ana presents a repertoire of her own songs along with interpretations of South American folklore classics, blending the sound of traditional instruments like Andean flutes, charango, Colombian gaita, traditional percussive instruments, along with electric guitars.
“In Cruz del Sur we are all long-time friends and collaborators, having previously played together both formally and informally,” she adds.
“What is great about it is that even though we are just starting to play under that name, we have known each other musically a long time so things have been very organic and there’s a great positive energy.
“The focus will be for now in live performances, we are ready for a concert in October to officially to officially release the project, and we’ll see what the future holds for this collaboration.”
And if all that wasn’t enough, Ana is also preparing to release two albums over the coming months.
“My album, ‘Mango Hotel,’ will be released before the end of the year. It is a collaboration with Phil Spencer, a good friend and amazing producer that worked with me on these songs during the pandemic. They are all versions of classic Latin songs I have wanted to do for a long time.
“I released the first single, ‘Ojos Bonitos,’ some months ago, and the goal is to have the record released as a visual album. I’m still working on the visual components and a release date, but everyone can expect an eclectic mix of jazz, electronic, alternative sounds all with a Latin American soul.
“With the metal group, ‘Nova Orbis,’ we are recording a new album, ‘Ius ad Bellum,’ which hopefully will be released in 2024. It’s heavier than our previous albums and has some really cool collaborations. When I watch some of our old videos on YouTube, I remember all the passion and energy we put into every single song and work we did, and I try to think about that now when I’m working on my new projects.
And not even the worldwide pandemic was able to halt Ana’s flow of creativity, as the stunning collaboration with Yetkin Omac shows.
“Yetkin and I met a couple of years ago while being part of a beta tester group of artists for a new music app,” she said.
“We kept in touch, became friends, and one day I asked if he wanted to collaborate. I had an idea for a song that I shared with him, and we worked remotely so that’s how ‘Enredadera’ came up.
“This happened in 2021 in the peak of Covid, we were both isolated as most of the world by that time and this song became the perfect outlet for us to keep creating even though we were pretty far away geographically speaking. Yetkin is also a film guy, so he came up with the idea of the video and we both did the same shots, him being in Istanbul and me in Austin.”
With a potential European tour next summer, it shouldn’t be too long before we are able to catch one of music’s hardest working artists for ourselves – providing she isn’t too busy with her latest project.
“For what’s left of this year I’m working on preparing for the ‘Cruz del Sur’ live dates, but for the past 12 months I’ve also been spending time on my new electronic, solo project ‘VHU.’ It is quite different from what I’ve done so far, I don’t have anything recorded yet but will definitely work on that for 2024.”
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