Roxana Amed: Collecting Memories

Leo Sidran By

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When singer/songwriter/educator Roxana Amed moved from her home in Argentina to the United States, she didn't walk. But she might as well have. She describes her new record as being like "a bag full of songs and memories" that she collected on her way from one shore to another. She seems to stand with one foot wading in the waters of the Hudson River and the other in the Rio de la Plata.

She left Buenos Aires with an already established career as both a singer and songwriter, having collaborated with many of Argentina's most celebrated artists in both worlds. And when she arrived in America, she began to blow in the wind, like a tumbleweed. So it should come as no surprise that the first track on her new album Ontology (music directed by Martin Bejerano) is called "Tumbleweed."

When Roxana moved to America, she went to Miami, where one might think she fit in perfectly because of her Spanish speaking roots, but in fact in some ways she has felt like more of a stranger there than she would in New York, or Paris, or anywhere else for that matter.

Then again, maybe she would feel that way wherever she went, because she's not really any one kind of artist, she's not really sure where she or her music belong—maybe it's somewhere along that long and winding road from Argentina to America. It's that classic paradox when you belong to no-one, you're available to all, when you belong nowhere, you're always in the right place.

She is inclined to follow an arrangement of a Miles Davis song with something by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera, or to adapt a Piazzolla tango piece in a jazz quartet, but then sing Cindy Lauper as Argentine folk music.

Roxana Amed is an eternal student -she's constantly thinking about her craft, working on it, contemplating it. Maybe that's what makes her such a celebrated teacher.

We spoke recently about her new record, and about the ongoing relationship and conversation between artist and audience. She says, "Art is not there to make you comfortable. You have to be surprised. You have to be challenged." We talked about surrendering yourself to your art, about how and why different languages swing, about authenticity and freedom in music, and how the soul of America is black, and we talked about Argentina, Argentine music and identity.

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