Lido Pimienta, the extraordinary and often controversial Barranquilla-born, Toronto-based visual artist-curator and musician, first burst in the indie scene in 2010 with her Color EP. That remarkable debut established Pimienta’s trademark experimenting with looped Indigenous chants, Afro-Colombian beats and take-no-prisoners lyrics delivered in a powerful voice that soars from velvety to piercing. Today, Pimienta is releasing La Papessa, a long-awaited second album featuring a band of talented musicians that includes guests such as Aterciopelados singer Andrea Echeverri, Las Acevedo aka MULA and Anishinaabe viola player Melody Mckiver.
All of Pimenta's work is intersectional at its core, exploring all the senses and significances of gender, race, motherhood, and constructing an identity in the latin american diaspora in north america. As she puts it, “I have a responsibility as a Latin feminist, BIPOC, single mother, immigrant, all of the boxes I fit in, to speak out”.
We caught up with Pimienta in Santiago de Chile, where she is recording new music. Pimienta is eloquent and and forceful, sharing her musical vision as it is expressed in La Papessa in relation to the symbolism of the Tarot card, which represents a wise, studious woman who conceives and protects. She talked about a death in the family that paralyzed the album release and detailed an abusive relationship that inspired songs like 'La Capacidad' and 'Agua'.
Uforia Music: I’m glad to finally experience La Papessa. It seems to have taken a long time to evolve as an album. I remember we first talked about it quite a while back.
Lido Pimienta: Yes, we’ve been talking about La Papessa for about four years. Color came out in 2010 and the idea was to get it released in 2013, but my brother passed away that year and I decided to take a year off to be with my family. It was a very difficult year. We were recovering.
But it finally happened…
In 2014 I toured with the electronic band A Tribe Called Red. I put together a band with amazing friends of mine, and this gave me the boost and the motivation I needed, and also the validation at some point.
Your sound has changed, how much of this evolution was personal growth, or influenced by merely musical contexts?
For Color, I was very young. I had experienced performing and making music but not necessarily recording. So when I met my ex-husband he was experienced, and he helped me put those songs to life. Once we separated and I moved to Toronto, I taught myself on how to record live, use Ableton, add keyboards in, all through YouTube.
To me, La Papessa feels like being awake. Us, as indigenous people, as immigrants we always have to back up our stand in life. It is empowering, even though it is annoying, to always have to explain ourselves and contextualize. But it is great for me to eloquently be able to shut people down when they are being inappropriate and racist. La Papessa was a music school to me. A school of politics, activism and feminism. That is La Papessa. Its symbolism brings up who I needed to become to survive the death of my brother, the illness of a friend, separating from my baby’s dad, learning how to be a single mother and making money without having to work for anyone else.
I have been listening a lot to the song ‘La Capacidad’. It seems to have been born from a very personal narrative. Do you care to talk to us about this?
Sure! So, basically, a year and a half after I broke up with my baby’s dad, I met a man that was his polar opposite. We started dating and things are going beautiful. He was fulfilling things in my life. It was all wonderful. But, as months went by, he became repressive, controlling, up to the point where he was violent and scary. I was a victim of domestic abuse. He hit me, he manipulated me, emotionally and psychologically.
It took a long time to me for me to realize I couldn't be with this man. So we broke off the relationship. I still had to put a restraining order on him, but after that, I was free, and I have never felt so strong and wise. That’s how ‘Agua’, and ‘La Ruleta’, and ‘Quiero que te vaya bien’, and ‘La Capacidad’ were born! That is the backbone of La Papessa. And I am very excited to share the story and empower women.
I also read recently about your Wayuu background, are you now also focusing more on this also?
I was raised by mother’s family, my Wayuu family. My normal is to go sleep in a hammock, on the outside, eating an animal you just killed. To sing some songs about the desert, go to the beach. That’s my normal. But it does become otherness when you move to a place liked Canada.
That’s why I have to be very vocal about this, and explicit about my roots. I know who my ancestors are, I know their faces. We were invaded by Spanish forces, but we weren't even conquered by them. But the Colombian government has been stealing our resources since then, and killing our children.
All the issues that are happening in the United States with the Black Lives Matter movement is happening on colonized indigenous land and we are not putting it into the forefront, but indigenous resistance is here to stay.
All that is happening in South America, in Colombia, the Peace Negotiations plebiscite, the FARC demilitarization process, it's all happening on indigenous land. Indigenous people have been displaced from their own land, they have to go to the cities and beg in the streets. And to have the Colombian president have a Nobel Prize! A big slap on all of our faces!
That’s what I bring - it's uncomfortable, but I just don't have time to write a song about love and kissing your loved one in the rain.
I am indigenous, I am black, I am Colombian, I am all those things. I understand that the most beautiful thing I have is my indigenous blood and I have to take it far.
I am using my own voice. And the bigger it is, the better.
Listen to La Papessa in full: