Karla Rivera: Interview
One of the talented women performing at Festival Betances this year Karla P. Rivera Lozada. Born in San Germán, Puerto Rico, Karla’s attraction to music has been lifelong, studying at the School of Fine Arts of Bayamón, then the Conservatory of Arts of the Caribbean (CAC) in Old San Juan, and currently the prestigious Berklee College of Music. We sat down to chat with Karla about her ambitions, studies, and what to expect from her upcoming performance.
Q: Before getting put on the line up to perform had you heard of Festival Betances or IBA, the organization behind it?
A: When I heard about the organization and festival, I got very excited when I realized… these are my people! I love that IBA is an organization that helps those that need financial assistance or are recent immigrants to this country. You come to this country to find new opportunities, and the best thing that can happen when you make that life-changing decision is to find other Puerto Ricans willing to help when you arrive. It’s truly a blessing.
Q: This year, for the first time ever, the festival has an all-female line up. How do you feel about that?
A: Honestly, I am super excited! When they first told me, I thought, “This is our moment!” Salsa is a genre that has been led by men throughout history. If you ask about women in salsa, people might be able to mention Celia Cruz, but the other big names- Tito Puentes, El Gran Combo, etc.- They are all men! This is the moment for people to recognize that women are also in this genre. It opens the conversation to what other areas of music women are playing in.
Q: Do you think women have always been involved in Latin music but they just haven’t been recognized?
A: Of course! Within Latin music, any female representation exists mostly within pop or reggaeton, but not in salsa. This is a great opportunity to recognize women that are creating more traditional and folk sounds.
Q: At the festival, what can audiences expect to from your performance?
A: I am part of a musical group of eight women who are from all different countries. In fact, I am the only one from Puerto Rico! The pianist is Cuban, the bassist is from Uruguay, our percussionists are from Venezuela and Brazil, the saxophonist is Peruvian, and the trumpet and trombone players are from the U.S. At this performance we are going to play salsa and boleros with a setlist focusing on the classics that everyone knows and loves. We want you to grab a partner and dance! We’re also going to play an original piece and overall just hope to give the audience a great show.
Q: We heard you are focusing on music therapy at Berklee. Can you tell us a little more about that?
A: Music therapy essentially helps people reach goals that are unrelated to music. For example, if someone has a physical ailment, music can help reestablish movement in different ways, helping them return to a more normal life in partnership with a team of therapists. I love to sing, I love to be onstage, but I believe I’ve been placed on this world to do this, to help people. Music therapy is a healing practice that uses something that I love which often puts me at a loss for words.
Q: That’s beautiful. Final question: Why do you think festivals like this one and organizations like IBA matter?
A: They are extremely important, particularly in this day and age. Events like Festival Betances allow Latinos and people of color to come together in unity. It’s the greatest feeling to know that in community there is always hope because you are not alone. Plus, when you are away from your home country, it’s always a treat to find a small piece of your country’s culture wherever you are! See Karla and her group perform at Festival Betances, July 20th at the Plaza Betances. For free tickets, click here.