Silvana Estrada is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter from Mexico. Her songs often meld North and Latin American musical traditions to intersect with the African-influenced son jarocho heritage of her native Veracruz. She possesses a crystalline alto voice; its delivery is as slippery as it is syncopated. As a jazz student in 2016 she met, studied, and teamed with guitarist Charlie Hunter who had a teaching residency in Guadalajara. He produced and played on her self-recorded digital debut album, 2017′s Lo Sagrado. Its mercurial sound crisscrossed contemporary jazz, indie pop, ranchera, cumbia, and even bolero. While trying to establish herself as an artist, she began issuing solo tracks including “Al Norte,” “Te Guardo,” and “Sabré Olvidar,” to social media. These posts garnered millions of streams and touring opportunities. In 2018, Estrada released the universally acclaimed Primeras Canciones EP. She has performed live and in collaboration with Natalia Lafourcade, Mon Laferte, and Snarky Puppy. In 2020, Estrada was the first Latin American artist signed to Glassnote Enterntainment. Marchita, her full-length label debut, appeared in January 2022.
Estrada was born in Veracruz in 1997 to parents who were both luthiers. She listened to her parents singing traditional Mexican songs or Latin American popular music and classical music on the radio. She was virtually surrounded by music and musical instruments and sang from the time she could talk. Her earliest inspirations were son jarocho progenitor Violeta Parra, ranchera songwriter Jose Alfredo Jimenez, and jazz singers Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. Estrada began experimenting with different instruments as a child. After learning to read, poetry became a strong influence as well. By 13 she was performing in local bars (chaperoned by her parents). She wrote her first songs and learned to play a slew of instruments while in high school. At 16, Estrada was accepted into the university jazz studies program at Universidad Veracruzana in the capital city of Xalapa.
While visiting home one weekend she picked up the cuatro, a small guitar typically with four (or five) single or paired strings so often used in Latin American and Caribbean folk music. She became infatuated with its bright yet timeless sound; her father built the one she currently plays on-stage.
While attending a seminar for jazz students in Guadalajara, Estrada met guitarist Charlie Hunter, who was teaching a residency there. While not familiar with his work as a solo artist, she was well aware of his session work with D'Angelo, Norah Jones, Frank Ocean, and John Mayer. Using an informal teaching method, he sought to hear his students play what they desired, whether composed or covered. After hearing Estrada’s songs, he was impressed, even haunted, by her playing. He called her a couple of days later to suggest they record an album. They turned her parents’ guest house into a make-shift studio and made Lo Sagrado, a collaborative album that included her first recorded compositions. A trip to New York followed, during which she plunged into the city’s music scene, playing with drummer Antonio Sánchez, Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, and other acclaimed musicians known for their vanguard approaches to jazz. She also began posting her own songs to social media. They garnered hundreds of millions of streams and the attention of sister musicians such as Natalia Lafourcade and Mon Laferte, songwriter Jorge Drexler, and others. That said, there was no record deal forthcoming.
She decided to return to Mexico and settled in Mexico City. She directed her creative attention inward, focusing deeper on her roots. She was welcomed by Mexico City’s active community of indie musicians and fans and shared stages with Julieta Venegas and David Aguilar, among others. The audience response to her music created an opportunity for a sold-out national solo tour concluding with a concert at the capitol’s Teatro de la Ciudad. She also toured Spain, Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay, and triumphantly returned to New York, where she recorded her take on Juan Gabriel’s immortal ballad “Amor Eterno.” After returning to Mexico she cut the four intimate, idiosyncratic songs on 2018′s Primeras Canciones EP: the solo tunes “Te Guardo,” “Al Norte,” “Saber Olvidar,” and “Tenais que Ser Tu,” in collaboration with Daniel, Me Estas Matando. She also collaborated with Hunter on the privately released, Charlie Hunter, Carter McLean Featuring Silvana Estrada. Her solo lyric video of album track “Sabré Olvidar” registered nine million views.
That summer, Lafourcade invited her to join her and Mon Laferte in performing Andres Henestrosa’s immortal standard “La Llorna” at Mexico City’s Teatro Metropolitan. In 2019 she released the single and video for “Carta” and sang on Fon Roman’s La Chispa, La Llama y El Humo, Alex Cuba’s “Sublime” and “Dividido,” and Daniel, Me Estas Matando’s Suspiros; she also sang “Universo Amor” in a duet with Playa Limbo.
The following year, in addition to issuing the hit single “Para Siempre,” she was recruited by keyboardist Roberto Verastegui’s to serve as vocalist for his electric jazz-cum-prog rock supergroup Bahia de Ascenso alongside reed and wind player Diego Franco, guitarist Aaron Flores, and drummer Andres Marquez. The eponymously titled debut appeared in August from Ropeadope. Estrada later became the first Latin-American artist to sign with the Glassnote Entertainment Group.
In 2021, Estrada performed a studio version of “La Llorna” with Lafourcade and Ely Guerra on the studio album Un Canto por México, Vol. 2 in a re-creation of material from the historic concert from several years prior. In March she issued the video single for “Si Me Matan” in solidarity and support for women who’ve experienced domestic violence. She followed with “Marchita” and played an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. She also issued the singles “Trizteza” and a new version of “Te Guardo.” She finished the year by playing her first American tour as opener for guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. In January 2022, Marchita, Estrada’s sophomore long-player was released in the U.S. and Mexico. ~ Thom Jurek