COLOMBIA/CANADA: Miss Colombia - Lido Pimienta
Updated: Jan 20, 2021
This eclectic album shows off immense musical talent whilst also exploring the complexities that many migrants have when it comes to their relationship with their homeland
For an electro-cumbia album, a record from a genre that is typically dance-focused, to get across a multitude of pertinent messages is truly an impressive accomplishment. Yet, this is exactly what Lido Pimienta manages to succeed in doing in her second album, Miss Colombia. The album is a cross between high-art, poetry and fun pop music, in terms of the sound, the lyrics, as well as Pimienta’s unique energy. The way in which Pimienta manages to get across the not-to-distant juncture between love and pain, throughout many of her songs, is at some points almost mesmerising.
“This dawning realisation inspired what could perhaps be described as an incongruent homage to her homeland, in which she initially questions her connection to the country... whilst at the same time dedicating much of the album to aspects of Colombian culture that she is proud of and that resonate with her”
To understand more about the context in which the album was made, it is important to learn a little bit about the artist herself. Pimienta’s experience of her home country, like many Colombians, partially comes down to her race, as the Colombian experience can often be somewhat determined by this. Her mother is part of the population indigenous to parts of Colombia and Venezuela as she is from Wayuu descent, whilst her father is Afro-Colombian. She is, of course, immensely proud of her heritage and that shines through both in the music on the album and even in the magnificent album artwork where she is donning a look that would not be seen as the stereotypical, Colombian image of beauty, that much of the white population would ‘approve’ of as an accurate portrayal of their nation. However, it is through this indigenous definition of beauty that is in full display before you even listen to the album in which Pimienta lands her first attack at her home nation.
Pimienta is based in Toronto, Canada. Like many immigrants do, at one point in her life Pimienta also found herself romanticising her relationship with her country of origin. In a desperate effort to hold onto her roots when far away from her native Colombia, she may have been turning a blind eye to the problems that her country faces. However, this all changed in 2015, after she witnessed the aftermath to Steve Harvey’s gaffe at the Miss Universe contest, in which he mistakenly awarded the winner of the award as Miss Colombia, before then having to correct himself moments later and hand the award to Miss Philippines. This led to an outburst of racist abuse online towards both Steve Harvey who is black as well as towards Miss Philippines, from swathes of Colombians with whom Pimienta realised she had little in common.
This dawning realisation inspired what could perhaps be described as an incongruent homage to her homeland, in which she initially questions her connection to the country which lead to her distancing herself from parts of the Colombian population’s attitudes, allowing herself to reflect on some of the criticisms she has of Colombia that she might have felt a need to upkeep as a representative of her country in Canada, whilst at the same time dedicating much of the album to aspects of Colombian culture that she is proud of and that resonate with her. The inclusion of the band Sexteto Tabala, who come from the famous village, Palenque de San Basilio, which was founded by fugitive slaves is a way of honouring the Afro-Colombian experience. This is particularly clear during the spoken word piece, Quiero Que Me Salves (Prelude), in which their founder Rafael Cassiani Cassiani speaks about his experience coming through the music scene. The timing of its inclusion is particularly jarring, but I feel that is the point as Pimienta seems to want to give centre-stage to the aspects of the culture she loves.
The album, however, is not just rooted in an interesting backstory. Musically, some of the album is astoundingly good. Her voice is angelic, and the theatrical start to the album on Para Transcribir (SOL) lets you know you are in for a ride straight away. This is then followed by the tribal power ballad Eso Que Tu Haces which contains some of the most thought-provoking lyrics ‘Eso que tú haces no es amor, no es amor, hoy comprendí sentada en tu arena’ which translates as ‘‘What you do is not love, it is not love, today I understood sitting in your sand’. The double meaning that it could be about an ex or about how she feels about Colombia is particularly interesting. However, it is Nada that stands out as a perhaps the most striking juxtaposition between fun dance music and painfully sad lyrics. Amidst the backdrop of the funky electronic beat she sings: ‘Por todo lo que yo miré y todo lo que ya soñé, por todo lo que te esperé, ya no me queda nada’ which means ‘For everything that I saw and everything that I dreamed of, for all that I hoped for you, I have nothing left.
Te Quería is also both lyrically and instrumentally interesting, particularly with the inclusion of the steel drums in addition to a horn sound that complements the tune perfectly. After the song No Pude, comes the only track sung in English on the album, which could perhaps be a tribute to Canada for welcoming her as well as allowing her to integrate into the society and music scene so well, as seen by the plaudits that her award-winning debut album got, despite being a Latin album. What is most striking about this song is that it sounds like it might be the end of the album, even though it is half way through the record. This is because it follows the same kind of space-agey/theatrical structure as the opener, Para Transcribir (SOL). Having already been blown away by some aspects of the album, little did I know that the best song was yet to come after Cassiani Cassiani’s prelude. Then arrived Quiero Que Me Salves with the aforementioned Sexteto Tabala, which is an amazing track with wonderful call and response vocals between Pimienta and the band. Whilst I did not love the final 3 tracks as much as the rest of the album, I cannot fault the Colombian singer for her wild experimentalism, which led to what is overall a very interesting and enjoyable album.