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TANIA LIBERTAD - biography
Peruvian by birth and Mexican by adoption, Tania Libertad is one of the greatest singers in Latin America today. She has released 32 albums, sold more than 2 million records and become a key figure in the music of Central America and the Andean countries. Recognised by UNESCO, her work has won her the title of “singer for peace”.
Tania Libertad was born into a modest family in Zaña on the north coast of Peru, the Costa Negra where the descendants of African slaves settled. Her father was a soldier and music lover, and her mother a nurse in a workers’ hospital.
The only girl of nine children, Tania was very young when she moved with her family to Chiclayo, a working-class town near the sugar-cane plantations. Her first artistic experience was at school at the age of five when she sang the famous bolero by Panama’s Carlos Eleta Almaran: Historia de un Amor (recorded with Cesaria Evora on the album Costa Negra). Later, she began to enter singing contests, building up a repertoire of more than 300 boleros by the time she was sixteen. Encouraged by her father, she set off for Lima where she secured her first contract. Released on RCA Victor, La Contamanina was a national success. Subsequently, she signed with Polydor and received a massive ovation at a festival where she performed a piece written by Peruvian poet Juan Gonzalo Rose.
At the time, she moved in intellectual circles, associating with poets and musicians (especially Nicomedes Santa Cruz) and learning a great deal about Peru’s culture and black music. But at 21, after a disagreement with her father (who wanted her to carry on with university), she took the opportunity to leave home when she was invited to a political song festival in Cuba. Now she sang in universities and for trade unions, and passed her time with the musician activists of the Nueva Trova, before moving to Mexico in the 80s. With the help of her singer friend Carmen Salinas, she soon made an appearance at the Blanquita Theatre. In Mexico City, Tania moved in left-wing circles and continued to perform protest songs as well as sentimental ballads.
Her first album of boleros was released in 1985. Many others would follow, providing her with the chance to perform alongside many emblematic figures of Latin American song (such as Miguel Bose, Juan Manuel Serrat, Ruben Blades, Soledad Bravo and Fito Paez) and building her reputation as diva of the romantic Cuban genre. However, she still dreamed of singing the songs of her Afro-Peruvian roots. In May 2000, she met Cesaria Evora’s producer José da Silva in Mexico City at one of the Cape Verdean diva’s concerts and told him of her ambition to perform the traditional black songs of her country. Recorded in Dakar, Paris and Mexico with African musicians and released in Europe in 2002 on the Lusafrica label, Costa Negra fulfilled this commitment with a mixed selection of Afro-Peruvian tracks and Latin songs backed with a lando beat. And now Tania is back with Negro Color, an album recorded in Mexico in the winter of 2003 that confirms Tania’s emancipation with a wider repertoire. She voluptuously drapes her subtle, unusually extensive, sometimes almost lyrical voice over pieces she has chosen with care: two songs by the young Cuban writer David Torrens, another by the most prominent Mexican composer of the last forty years, Armando Manzanero (originally from Yucatan), and four tracks penned by Peru’s Carlos Otero, a rising young songwriter. Negro Color also includes traditional Afro-Latin songs such as Samba Malato/Kike Iturrizaga and La Bruja, and boleros with a refined instrumental line (Dos Gardenias, Que nos devuelvan, etc.).
From the black beats of her Pacific coast to the magnificent duet Funeral del Labrador, written by Chico Buarque and João Cabral de Mello, and performed with Brazil’s Eder da Rosa (from the group Quem), Tania Libertad interprets the impulses of the Latin American soul with grace and depth. With Negro Color, this independent figure has again shown how much she deserves her place in the pantheon of South American vocal prodigies. After Costa Negra, a second passport for an international take-off…