Boîte’s recent new venture the World Music Open Mic is turning like a well-oiled cog. Four months later, we are about to witness it opening at a second location, the iconic Wesley Anne tavern in Northcote, and the East Brunswick sessions continue to reveal some exciting international and local artists. The Melbourne Critique caught up with this month’s host, the leader of a world music fusion ensemble Huanchaco, a Chilean-Australian songstress, Ximena Abarca.
Let’s paint a picture: what is your personal and artistic history as a musician, and what led to the formation of the current band.
My name is Ximena Abarca. I was born in Chile in the spring of 1981. Even though there are no musicians in my family I grew up hearing the sweet voice of my mother’s singing. I think that was my first inspiration. Because she was a nurse, I was encouraged to follow a similar path, but my passion for music was stronger.
I participated in lots of singing contests during my school years and had a band in high school. I studied music and dance, working very persistently to achieve my dreams. In my mind, I had a picture of ‘being on stage with the audience singing along to my songs’… and I still do. One of the contests I participated in took me to a sudden trip of fame and rock’n’roll, with the opportunities to perform at big festivals and TV and, to record my first solo album with a mayor label. It was very close to what I had imagined in my dreams but it didn’t last forever. I used to be a pop singer yet, as I grew older that didn’t suit me anymore. I felt incomplete.
In the search for myself, I came to Australia, for the first time, in 2010. Being confronted with a different culture opened my mind: I spoke very little English so it was quite challenging in every single way. The great thing about all of this was that my inner songwriter was born. Everything that happened to me and around me was converted into songs: I became a traveler, a foreigner, a stranger, but at the same time found my roots and myself. I felt complete again… I still do. I met my current band about four years ago, we are all kind of the same: from here, but from somewhere else. We put together our experiences, connect and speak the language of music. Our name is Huanchaco and we call our music world fusion.
Tell us about your vision of sharing South American-inspired music in Australia; how do you perceive yourself and your contribution to the Australian multicultural tapestry of art?
I feel very proud and lucky to be able to share parts of my culture and language here in Australia. It is amazing to see how people enjoy and appreciate it. In every performance we have, I give a little explanation of what the songs are about, it is very important for me to pass a message through music. That’s a very powerful weapon of love and understanding.
What are you most memorable moments of music making in Australia so far; what are you currently working on and what are some of your future wishes and plans?
I have many precious moments in my mind. With Huanchaco, we have been in amazing places playing our music, some of them are small and intimate (Open Studio, the Boîte, Lentil as Anything) and some others are huge and crazy (Johnston Street Spanish Festival, Brunswick Street Festival) but they all have something in common: the connection with the audience, the beat, the energy. We’ve just released a video clip of the song “Agua” (Water.) We shot all the footage along the Yarra River; the landscape is breathtaking. Then, we had an amazing release with a full room. Parallel to this I also teach music and have been doing singing workshops for many years. Last summer I held a few workshops at The Boîte Singer’s festival and it was pure magic! I found amazing how people who don’t know each other create something so beautiful! I’m so grateful that I can be part of that.
My dreams and plans are to keep travelling with my band; we have done some tours to Chile, New Zealand and some cities around Australia. Now we want to go to Europe. With my teaching, I’m working towards running my own school and towards travelling the world doing singing workshop for everybody.
Any suggestions and words of advice to the younger musical generation of immigrant artists?
Perseverance. Practice. Passion. Follow your dreams as if there is no tomorrow. Interact with other musician, share and learn. An open mind opens doors and makes friendships forever. Viva la Musica!