Sunday Night Jam, via Puerto Rico: Andrea Cruz, NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert [VIDEO]

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March 27, 2019 | Felix Contreras — Andrea Cruz brought a little bit of Puerto Rico with her when she took her place behind the Tiny Desk. It was present by way of the flag she hung up on the shelves, as well as in the lyrics of the songs and the style of music she expresses herself with.

It’s important to note that the instrumentation of the band that traveled with her (keyboard, two percussionists and trombone) hardly fits what you’d expect music from the island to sound like these days. But Cruz is part of a movement in Puerto Rico that emphasizes largely acoustic instruments and a folk-based approach to interpreting life before and after the hurricane of 2017. It’s a bold creative statement in a land of reggaeton and salsa.

Cruz drew on songs from her first album, 2017’s Tejido de Laurel. The emotion of the lyrics of the first song, “No Toquemos Tierra,” is evident in her angelic voice as she makes a declaration of love for the earth as a metaphor for a lover. The beauty of the song is in her poetic lyrics set to a melody that defies language.

I was very pleased to see that Cruz’s live performance is very much like the stripped-down sound on her album and the handful of singles she’s released. In fact, I would say her music is a perfect soundtrack to a growing, back-to-nature movement in Puerto Rico that encourages local farming and a careful stewardship of the environment. “Santas Flores” also digs deep into that philosophy as she sings about “holy flowers.”

Andrea Cruz spent her time talking to the audience in a mix of English and Spanish and there was no mistaking the intense feeling behind her song about femicide on the island in the song, “Canción de Amargura.” The sound of the entire ensemble was elevated by Cruz’s plaintive vocals at the end.

Andrea Cruz is a bright new voice coming from an island with a deep history of revered vocalists and, as you can see, she more than holds her own.

SET LIST
“No Toquemos Tierra”
“Santas Flores’”
“Canción de Amargura”
“Contigo”

MUSICIANS
Andrea Cruz: lead vocal, guitar; Ángel Rafael Rivera: percussion, cuatro venezolano; Jomar Santana: trombone, Francisco Marrero: percussion; Antony Granados: keyboard

CREDITS
Producers: Felix Contreras, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, Patrick Boyd; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu, CJ Riculan; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR

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