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Old Ways, New Sounds

Edna Vazquez
Edna Vazquez

The music of Edna Vazquez can send shivers to your soul. When Vasquez performs, she closes her eyes and each of her facial muscles crinkles with concentration. She whistles and taps on her guitar’s body with an intimate familiarity, and when she opens her mouth to sing or speak, it’s a bellow straight from her heart.

“I want to share something with everyone,” she says. “Whatever you do that is in a form to ease our hardcore journeys as humans, bring it out.”  

Vazquez has been playing guitar and composing songs about the human experience for 20 years, and her journey began in an all-male mariachi band. The group wasn’t keen on her joining, but hot damn, could she play guitar. Her intricate strumming and soulful voice were enough to land her the gig, though she found herself being faced with sexism from yesteryear’s traditional male-female roles — her ideas were often disregarded and she was punished by group members for “being a bitch.” 

Her former bandmates wouldn’t book Vazquez for weeks on end as a result of her outspoken nature, but she took the time off as an opportunity to reinvent her art. “I would dream the music,” Vazquez says, who explains that often she would wake up with songs in her head — songs that came to her as colors and stories.

“It’s very subjective,” she laughs. 

Vazquez refers to her sound as an abstract genre, though at its core it is traditional Mexican folk with Cuban, Venezuelan and jazz influences. She sings in Spanish but says she believes that emotional frequencies trump possible language barriers.

When you watch Vazquez perform, it’s like being in an art exhibit where you are the subject necessary to make the work come alive. 

Vazquez’s next performance is at the Día de Hispanidad celebration at 11 am Saturday, Sept. 17, at Capitol Rotunda in Salem, 900 Court Street N.E.