One name in the Mexican contemporary musical landscape resonates with a blend of nostalgia, authenticity and raw talent: Silvana Estrada. She was born in Coatepec, Veracruz, a region steeped in rich musical heritage best known for its traditional son jarocho and fandango. Silvana’s journey into the world of music began at an early age; she comes from a family of luthiers which allowed her to grow up surrounded by instruments and musicians and shaped her musical instincts with the melodies of traditional Mexican folk and jazz. “My music is made of who I am,” she asserts in an interview for Forbes.
Silvana’s musical journey is not just about her beautiful voice or her virtuoso skills on the Venezuelan cuatro (a form of guitar); it’s about the immense power of storytelling through music. Her lyrics are original poems that simultaneously serve as windows into an old and a recent Mexico. Each verse weaves tales of love, broken hearts, longing, violence, gender and just life in Mexico.
But Silvana’s rise to prominence wasn’t very smooth. Like many artists unwilling to transform their art into what is trending, she had to navigate the music industry, facing challenges and setbacks along the way. However, her passion and dedication to her craft kept her forging ahead and thanks to her determination and clarity of mission, she carved a niche for herself in a competitive landscape without sacrificing her beliefs. Now, people of all ages and backgrounds listen to her music because she speaks to the Mexican context and universal feelings.
What sets Silvana apart is her ability to infuse traditional Mexican folk with a contemporary twist, creating a sound that feels both timeless and fresh. Whether she’s singing a heartfelt ballad or a more jazzy number, there’s an undeniable authenticity to her music that captivates audiences far and wide.
The Mexican star made waves with the release of her EP, “Abrazo,” following her dual nominations at the Latin Grammy Awards 2023 for Best Singer-Songwriter Album and Best New Artist. Remarkably, she clinched the Latin Grammy for Best New Artist in 2022 at just 25 years old.
While she didn’t take home the award, her nomination at the 2024 Grammy Awards for Best Global Music Performance with her song “Milagro y Desastre” is an exciting accomplishment. A song that was born from her belief that life-changing events are both a miracle and a disaster. “This idea has helped me a lot to understand and heal my experiences over the years. In this song, I wanted to vindicate all the facets of love, even the love that hurts when it ends,” she said in an interview in Spanish with Rolling Stone magazine.
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Collaborations have been a significant part of Silvana’s journey, having performed and recorded with artists like Natalia Lafourcade, Andrew Bird, Devendra Banhart and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Notably, jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter was one of Silvana’s first collaborations in a live show in New York featuring Antonio Sánchez.
Also, her collaboration with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2023 propelled Silvana to international recognition.
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Moreover, her voice extends beyond her music as a feminist voice in the context of Mexican violence. She addresses pressing social issues through her lyrics and activism, sparking important conversations and advocating for change. ‘Si me matan,’ a song about gender violence has become an anthem for resistance in the Mexican feminist protests and context.
Silvana’s childhood home recently served as the stage for a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert for NPR. In a world dominated by fleeting trends and manufactured pop stars, Silvana’s emergence represents a return to the roots of Mexican music, where heartfelt lyrics and melodies matter the most.
As Silvana continues to enchant audiences with her mesmerizing performances and soulful compositions, one thing is clear: her journey is far from over. With each strum of her guitar and each note she sings, she carries on the rich legacy of Mexican music, ensuring that its soulful melodies echo for generations.
Camila Sánchez Bolaño is a journalist, feminist, bookseller, lecturer, and cultural promoter and is Editor in Chief of Newsweek en Español magazine.