A vivid celebration (and criticism) of her Colombian heritage, and a canvas for her bold, instinctive talent; Lido Pimienta‘s latest album Miss Colombia is a sublime offering that eludes genre definition. Released via ANTI- Records, the Toronto-based, Colombian-born artist has crafted eleven tracks that showcase her altruistic, empowering vision with enviable flair and tenacity.
Pimienta has been creating art since her early teens, but this is the first time she’s appeared on the GIHE radar. She has performed, exhibited, and curated as a visual artist around the world since 2002. Her art explores the politics of gender, race, motherhood, identity, and the construct of the Canadian landscape in the Latin American diaspora and vernacular – and this naturally extends into her music.
The title of her latest album alludes to an incident during the 2015 Miss Universe beauty pageant, when host Steve Harvey mistakenly announced Miss Colombia’s name as the winner, instead of Miss Philippines. This error saw Colombia unite in pure hatred towards Harvey, and shocked Pimienta to her core. She began questioning how her birthplace – divided for decades in civil war – could be collectively vicious over something so trivial. It also sparked painful memories of the anti-blackness she experienced as a child growing up in Barranquilla; while her sister was raised to be a beauty queen, Pimienta says she was seen as the “weird artistic tomboy” of the family.
Using these reflections as a creative spring board, Pimienta dived into recording Miss Colombia. Her new sounds are steeped in defiance, but also brim with pride about who she is as an artist. This mood is encapsulated throughout the record, but especially on ‘Te Quería’ and ‘No Pude’. Pimienta says the former track is about “moving on from those who won’t appreciate your light, but still can see it enough in you to want to steal it.” On ‘No Pude’, which roughly translates as “I could not”, her heartfelt vocals lilt over punchy, eccentric percussion and avant-garde synth textures, summing up the “love/hate relationship” she has with her hometown. She clearly has a talent for turning complex emotions in to smouldering soundscapes.
Notice that there are no guitars on Miss Colombia – a conscious deviation from popular rock & indie norms – it’s purely electronic instrumentation and percussion. Pimienta has used a blend of experimental electronics, drum programming, and traditional Latin American percussion, (such as tambora Colombiana and timbales) to flesh out her album. It’s Pimienta’s rich, pitch perfect voice however, that’s one of the most stunning elements on the record. From the offset, on the captivating ‘Para Transcribir (SOL)’, the clarity and power in her soprano vocal is undeniable.
Pimienta credits Afro-Colombian group Sexteto Tabala for nurturing and developing this part of her. Considered to be the guardians of Afro-Latin musical history in Colombia, Pimienta duets with the band on ‘Quiero Que Me Salves’. It’s a raw, passionate performance, recorded on the streets of the historic town Basilio de Palenque, where escaped slaves settled in the 17th century. Pimienta’s ability to forge new narratives, without forgiving or forgetting historic trespasses, is something that truly shines through on Miss Colombia.
On middle track ‘Coming Thru’, it’s surprising to hear Pimienta sing the song’s title in English during the chorus. Whether you’re fluent in Spanish or not, her instrumentation and emotive vocals have acted as the only translation aids up until this point, guiding non-Spanish listeners through her exciting, turbulent journey. Pimienta has lamented that it’s hard to make electronic music sound beautiful or emotional, but her considered treatment of it on this record transcends these barriers.
The playful is fused with the poignant on ‘Pelo Cucu’, which celebrates and explores the prejudiced attitudes towards the natural texture of African hair. She achieves the same on penultimate track ‘Resisto Y Ya’, where she references the recent protests against economic and political reforms in Colombia. Tackling these unsettling issues comes naturally to Pimienta, who insists that by simply being who she is – an Afro-Indigenous, queer feminist, and Canadian outsider – she has always been engaged in resistance, both politically and personally.
“Sometimes I feel like Miss Colombia is me really doing it for real” explains Pimienta, reflecting on her recent achievement. Her energetic, emotive, empowering music proves she is both the master and the muse of her own vision; delivering her messages with poetic, and deeply impressive passion.