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While in town on his Silente tour, Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler joined students for an intimate conversation at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain. The winner of five Latin Grammys and one Academy Award shared his experience with the creative process, the music industry, and the importance of building a unique voice and identity as a musician.
Drexler encouraged the students to leave their comfort zones, to do things they are not used to. “Look very carefully [at] what you already do well and you are familiar with,” he urged them, and then “move to the outside.” He said trying new things “will allow you to learn a lot during the process. You will be able to identify what you want to build and who you want to connect with: the audience, the cultural environment, or the industry,” he said.
Students from the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) program surprised Drexler by performing several of his hit songs, with their own arrangements: “Bailar en la cueva,” “Movimiento,” and “Todo se transforma.” Drexler described their covers as “amazing musical versions.” The students also shared aspects of their culminating experience projects and their musical journeys with Drexler and each other.
After playing two of his songs, “Guitarra y vos” and “Milonga del moro judio,” Drexler discussed the importance of both music and lyrics in composition. “Don’t take poetry out of anything you do,” he said. “Every note is a poetic instrument. Every step of the recording is a poetic tool.” He noted that music and lyrics have different rules and conventions: “When working on a song, many times we forget that if we are going to work with words, we must know the rules of words,” he said. “We must [also] know the rules of metrics, the rules of rhythm, and the rules of the theme that we choose.”
About artistic identity, Drexler told students that it is a tool, not an end in itself. “It is very important to know where one comes from,” he said. “What you do with that tool, how you use it, is what makes the difference.”
Drexler, who sold out in his two concerts in Valencia, will be performing at the John Hancock Hall in Boston on March 14.
Students participating in the performance included Omran Adrah (qanun), Pedrinho Augusto (tumbadora negra, shakers, and triangle), Guillermo Calvillo (djembé, chimes, and crotalos), Bailey Ehrgott (guitar), Lalit Kumar Ganesh (tablas), Alba Haro (cello), Gillian Harwin (upright bass), Jung Soo Ji (gayageum), Michael Lucarelli (nyckelharpa), Estefania Pizzi and Yeidimar Ramos (voice), Jorge Salas (bata and bongo), and Katiana Vilà (maracas).
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