I stumbled upon Gema Corredera in the most random of ways. I was searching the Internet looking for a plus Latina singer/musician one day and, as I was scouring through my Facebook page, I came upon a young woman who sent me a friend request. I went to her page and discovered she was a singer. “WONDERFUL,” I thought. My prayers were answered.
As a true music professional, I immediately went to the artist’s MySpace page to see what sort of music she created. I have to admit; although the music was good…it wasn’t great. So I went to the artist’s friends section and started perusing her friends. That’s when I found Gema. I clicked on her profile picture and was directed to her profile page. Good Lord, that voice! Her beautiful alto voice put me immediately in the mind of my favorite latina singer, Celia Cruz (may she rest in peace).
I quickly emailed Maddy, “OMG, I think I found my Latina!” She laughed at me, of course, but gave me her blessing nonetheless to reach out to her.
I got in contact with Gema through Facebook and she agreed to do an interview for the magazine. Only catch, as Spanish is her native language, she requested I translate the questions into Spanish for her. Thank God for Maddy! She translated them for me and I sent them off to her. Even though we only communicated electronically, her spirit shines through her words…nothing lost in translation. Check out the interview below:
Shante: Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
Gema: I was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. I later moved to Madrid, Spain where I lived for 15 years and I’m currently living in Miami.
Shante: When did you start singing?
Gema: My debut was at the age of seven at the Hubert De Blanc Theater in Havana when I was a member of a children’s theater group where I sang, danced and acted. At the age of 10 I began studying classical guitar, and I later studied voice. My university degree is in musicology where I focused my studies on contemporary cuban composition, cuban flokloric music -with an emphasis on rumba – and classical works composed by Bach, Vivaldi, and Tchaikovsky.
Shante: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Gema: I am a woman who has always lived in the city. Urban life has inspired me – the hustle and bustle, and the loneliness that it can sometimes generate in the heart. I’m inspired by those who have had to uproot themselves and move from the rural areas to the big city with the hope of finding better opportunities; immigrants who have left their home country and don’t feel like they belong anywhere; the traditions and cultural expressions that each human being carries when they leave their place of origin; and the mixture of races and culture. All of this inspires me as an artist and as a singer, as I identify myself with these human experiences.
Shante: Which artists influence your singing career?
Gema: My voice is my instrument so many musicians have greatly influenced my vocal interpretation, including Jazz pianists McCoy Tiner and Herbie Hancock; Charlie Parker’s sax, and Winton Marsalis’s trumpet.
Many female singers have influenced me as well: the great Jazz vocalists Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald; Cuba’s Elena Burke, and Omara Portuondo; Brazil’s Elis Regina; from the U.S., Barbara Streisand; Opera singer Maria Callas, and from France Edith Piaf. The Beatles have also been a very significant influence.
A wide variety of genres have also influenced my singing style. Cuban Rumba, Son, and “Filin”, as well as Jazz and Brazilian music have played a key role. And of course, Afro-Caribbean rhythms, Opera, and Flamenco have been important as well.
Shante: I know you are part of a singing duo w/ fellow Cuban artist, Pavel. How did you meet and how did you start your career together?
Gema: Pavel and I met in Havana when we were teenagers. We started performing as a duo in 1990 in Cuba and continued our work together in Spain, where we recorded six CDs and have performed mostly in Europe. We have also worked as musical producers for other artists including Luis Enrique, Omara Portuondo and Havana Abierta, among others.
Shante: What upcoming projects are you working on?
Gema: This year the duo Gema & Pavel is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Our next CD will be released this Spring under our own independent label. It’s titled “Ofrenda a Borinquen”, a homage to Puerto Rico’s music with Afro-Caribbean, Flamenco, Jazz and other sounds.
Shante: What’s your upcoming tour schedule?
Gema: Beginning in April we’ll be touring in Madrid, the Canary Islands, Geneva, Miami, Puerto Rico, and ending on June 26th in the New York City Jazz Festival at the Jazz Gallery. I’m also working on the pre-production of a CD on music from Latin America and Spain fused with Jazz and Afro-Caribbean rhythms.
Shante: You are a beautiful woman and a wonderful singer. Have you ever felt pressure to change your style either vocally or physically to gain greater acclaim within the world music community?
Gema: In the past I’ve been pressured by some producers to sing Pop music and abandon my World Music sound. My fans the public and the press, though, have always been supportive of my work.