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Building bridges with Europe’s most exciting music festivals creates opportunities for students to gain invaluable onstage experience in front of a targeted audience. “It’s also a chance for them to receive constructive criticism from these professionals and to understand how the market works, something paramount in the development of any artist’s career,” said Maxwell Wright, senior coordinator of the International Career Center at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain.
Spain has strong cultural connections with Latin America and neighboring Portugal, so it was only natural for Berklee Valencia to connect with Expo Iberoamericana de Música (EXIB Música), the continent’s only festival dedicated to showcasing artists with an Ibero-American heritage, and a Berklee partner since last year. In 2016, the festival featured Berklee band la Colectiva Corazón, led by Gonzalo Eyzaguirre M.M. ‘15, and this year it highlighted Lili del Sol, a Colombian and recent graduate of the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) program.
Eyzaguirre was invited to perform at 2016 edition of EXIB in Évora:
The fourth annual EXIB Música, held July 7–10 in Évora, Portugal, featured 18 Ibero-American and 12 Portuguese artists from the Alentejo region. “Every year, the musical curation tries to feature a vast array of rhythms and origins, prioritizing on independent, quality projects,” said Adriana Pedret, director of EXIB Música. In four years, the festival has boosted the career of 120 performers, offered more than 100 hours of music, and welcomed more than 500 experts from 24 countries in a format that promotes professional exchanges throughout the city.
Pedret explained that del Sol was selected for her “motivation, repertoire, and for the way she performs,” as well as for her “interest in Ibero-American sounds and her search for an identity which rounds the personality of her proposal.” Del Sol first heard about the festival two years ago, when she was finishing the Master of Music in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation program, from which she graduated in 2015. María Martínez Iturriaga, Berklee Valencia’s executive director, gave her the scoop. “She knew my music and thought it would be a good space to showcase my work, as well as an experience that I could learn from. In September of 2016 I decided I wanted to apply in order to complement my experience in Europe during the master’s program,” said del Sol.
She was accompanied by César Secundino Méndez on harp, Andrés Mira Olarte on bass, Sergio del Castillo on vihuela (a traditional Colombian instrument), and Gilbert Mansour and Sebastián Laverde M.M. ’15 on percussion.
Watch Lili del Sol's band play 'La Bruja':
“All of the musicians in my band had already played most of the songs I presented. We had three or four rehearsals beforehand, but the fact that we already knew each other musically was key in enabling us to deliver for the audience in Évora,” said del Sol.
Del Sol noted that the concert was a “great experience,” but her performance encountered obstacles. “During the gig, the monitors seemed like they were not on until the last two songs,” she said. “This made the showcase challenging since we could not hear ourselves, but thanks to our rehearsals and the connection we have, we managed to make it through to the end without any major issues. An artist should always be prepared to do its best regardless of the circumstances.”
Beyond the Stage
Berklee Valencia’s partnership with EXIB Música also contains an educational component. “The organizers came to Valencia to share insights of the music markets and how important are they for artists to attend so they can be able to sell their musical projects,” said Wright.
For Pedret—who explained that EXIB Música is inclined to establish collaborations that strengthen the dissemination of Ibero-American sounds—the partnership with Berklee “is a stimulating trigger towards the research and showcase of the musical diversity of Ibero-America.”
This genre has a deep connection with del Sol, who is working on the release of her first album, Raíz Mestiza. “My roots are one of the main reasons I write and perform music,” she said. “By telling stories, describing environments, and using rhythms, instruments, and field recordings from my country, I also hope to be able to send a message about who we are as a people, and therefore about who I am.”
Wright said his goal is to extend the partnership to continue working on a common objective: to spread Ibero-American sounds across Europe and provide students with a way to showcase their work.
“Opportunities like this are very important for artists, both for those with experience and for those who, like me, are starting their careers,” said del Sol.
Read del Sol's fantastic performance review by Simon Broughton at Songlines issue 130: