The release of Ani Cordera’s second full-length album, Querido Mundo [Self released, 2017], could probably not have been a timelier record: As over two million people gathered in the nation’s largest protest ever in mid-January, the message of racial justice and feminism as a right has been struck like a hammer on the Liberty Bell. So, having New York City-based Ani, with her Latina heritage (and female presentation), release a set of protest and love songs makes for one beautiful summation of the Times.
Ani sings in Spanish, and the instrumentation has the rhythmic punch of Latin folk genres. The songs are often slow-paced, highly rhythmic (focused on percussion and bass), with shimmering guitar work. The production is a massive credit to Kingsize Soundlabs. While everything from the melodies to the instruments are uncomplicated and light, they flood the speakers. Even if you don’t understand Spanish, you can get down with Querido Mundo because Ani has a pretty voice, and her tone reflects the songs’ messages, even without her poetry.
Again, some of the songs are love songs, others protest. The vibe is folk, like, timeless, sing-a-long kind of folk. While I honestly recommend the album in its entirety, I’ll speak to some of the highlights:
“Alma Vieja” (“Old Soul”) comes in at just under three minutes, but it hits hard. “La juventud es encantadora y rica en su belleza/ Pero aún más hermosos/ son tus ojos sabios/ que me miran con tanta calma” (“Youth is charming and rich in its beauty/ But even more beautiful/ are your wise eyes/ that gaze at me so calmly”), Ani begins. The lyrics, simple but elegant, convey tremendous amounts of emotion. Here, the music lies underneath her voice with lead guitar fluttering in the low end. The chorus, “Alma bella/ alma vieja” (“beautiful soul/ old soul”), is repeated with mounting intensity but control. It’s Ani’s delivery that has as much power as what she’s saying.
Directly following is “Me Tumba” (“It Floors Me”), with a similar energy behind it, but now comes a protest song. Check out this statement: “So many people in my country believe the lie/ that the color of your skin doesn’t matter nowadays/ They remain blind because it’s more uncomfortable to see that the system is broken/ and we are the accomplices.” Ani’s soul must have been transported from the 60’s. She brings with her a mixture of grace and anger that is playful and didactic.
On “Dominas Mis Suenos” (“You’re All Over My Dreams”), Ani shows off her knowledge of pop-folk, drawing in a bouncy flare, typical of emerging New York City alt-folkies. “No me importa lo que los demás estén hablando/ Entrégame tus dudas y las iré reventando” (“I don’t care what others may gossip/ Give me your doubts and I’ll burst them”), she impunes.
Overall, Ani is speaking to her generation. On the fínale, “Vida Atreveda”, she beckons: “Cada dia me enamoro más y más/ de esta vida aventurera, atrevida” (“Every day I fall more and more in love with this adventurous life, daring”), as if calling to her listeners to neither stand for injustice nor ignore the constant wonder and challenge of life.
The album is punctuated by blissful horns, focused hand percussion, (a drumkit never makes an appearance), and piano, but the focus is on the dance between Ani’s voice, the guitars, and the bass. This album never falters, but it’s also plump with humility. Wonderful.