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The Gloria Estefan interview - Gloria Estefan: Wrapped in Rhythm

2008-11-30 15:15
We ask her about hanging out with Stevie Wonder, taking on Madonna and her diverse new sound.

CHANNEL24: It's been a while since your last English album?
It has been quite a while since I put out an English language album. The last studio album that I did was Destiny and that was 7 years ago, I did some Spanish albums in between and Greatest Hits so this album is very important for me. I really waited a while because I wanted to do something that was very special for me, that would bring my fans really more of an idea of who I am. Although we'd done Mi Tierra which was a big statement as far as my Latin roots, we felt that there hadn't been yet a defining English language album as far as describing who I am as an artist, just me as a writer, a singer. Mostly as a writer, that's how I see myself.

CHANNEL24: You work with an impressive array of collaborators on the album?
Choosing who was on the album was important. We invited Manu on drums, he's of French West African descent from the Ivory Coast and his sound combines jazz, rock and African rhythms seamlessly. (Laughs). It was hard for me sometimes to concentrate just watching Manu. We chose Il Papa Pastor for the bass. He's one of the foremost authorities on Columbian music. We've got Dan Warner on guitar, he's an incredible guitarist, just wonderful - this is a guitar-oriented album definitely, so he brought a lot of himself to this production. We have Archie on percussion from Venezuela. He's a producer and songwriter in his own right. As well as Stevie Wonder who I love and adore, who I've worked with on many occasions, but this is the first time we've actually been able to record something together. I wanted to do something that was totally unexpected and I think we were able to achieve that.

CHANNEL24: Have you always been a fan of Stevie?
GLORIA: Stevie Wonder has been one of the major influences on me as a writer, musician and a singer. I really wanted him to be a part of this record, I gave him a call. And in his inimitable style he said, "Gloria, we're family, I'm there".

CHANNEL24: "Wrapped" seems to embody your melting pot of Latin American sounds?
GLORIA: To me the song "Wrapped" is really in a nutshell what I wanted to do with this album. It is probably the most traditional folkloric song on the record. It uses a charango, a 10-string Andean guitar. It has Columbian tamboura played by Luis Enrique. He played a kind of fusion of cumbia from Columbia and the chacarada - which is a rhythm from Northern Argentina. So that's also "wrapped" into that song.

CHANNEL24: One song that stands out is "I Wish You" - it has a very retro sound?
We were really trying to combine a sound from back in the 70s with very modern ideas that we used in the arrangements. So it's probably a nod to the Beatles because they were a huge influence for me. It's a very personal song because it talks about the way that I feel about things in general and how I deal with going through some tough times.

CHANNEL24: On "Famous" your take on the celebrity lifestyle is pretty different from say, Madonna's on "Hollywood" -
GLORIA (muses): It had come on the heels of pretty tough experiences we'd had in the past couple of years. It's basically my analysis of fame in a certain way. Some of the lines are tongue in cheek - some are serious. It's up to the listeners to sort out their own meaning for it. Basically it's me questioning, if you look at the first word in each verse it really shows you how I think and how I see life in general. Which is one big question.

While J-Lo, Ricky Martin and Marc Antony may have taken the pop world by storm with their sassy, dance-driven blend of Latino crossover grooves, when it comes to pioneering the Latin pop revolution, Gloria Estefan deserves all the kudos. Having established herself as a household name with Miami Sound Machine back in the 80s and survived a life-threatening tour bus accident in 1990, the 5-time Grammy award winning singer is back with a brand new (largely) English language album, Unwrapped.

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