Amanda Martinez is a Canadian singer-songwriter whose music is an original blend of influences from her Mexican and South African roots.
Amanda credits her long-time band for being a huge support to her career. “They are world class musicians who I feel lucky to play with. Each one contributes to our overall sound.” Her band features her long-time guitarist and now-producer Kevin Laliberté, husband/bassist Drew Birston, and Cuban Canadians Rosendo “Chendy” Leon (percussion), Alexander Brown (trumpet), Osvaldo Rodriguez (violin) and Pablosky Rosales (tres). She often tours with Mexican bassist Paco Luviano and recently has been working with Malagasy guitarist Donné Roberts.
She has released four albums and her latest recording Libre is her most eclectic creation to date. Her songs have been selected for four Putumayo World Music collections.
For her new video Estaba Cayendo, off of Libre, Amanda worked with CBJ dancers Adrián Ramírez Juárez & Akari Fujiwara and Emmy winner for Outstanding Choreography, choreographer Debra Brown. Featured in the video are two musicians-Waleed Abdulahmid (on bass) who co-wrote the song with Amanda and Alexander Brown on trumpet.
“The feeling I had when I wrote the song was about losing one’s balance in life.”
What is the song Estaba Cayendo about and what is the concept for the video?
Estaba cayendo literally means he was falling and tells the story of a man who has fallen in love but also finds himself going mad after losing his love. I don’t like to give literal translations as I want the listener to interpret the music in their own way. The feeling I had when I wrote the song was about losing one’s balance in life. The concept of the video was to capture this feeling this man has for this woman he is in love with and how he is overcome by it.
We shot the video down by the Scarborough Bluffs and it was an absolutely perfect day complete with strong wind in the afternoon that helped bring another element to the feeling. I was certainly windblown!
“They both exude such positive energy that it was a real pleasure to watch them and work with them.”
How did you get involved with CBJ dancers Adrián & Akari and what was it like working with them?
I got involved with Adrián and Akari through award winning choreographer Debra Brown who I met at York University’s 50th celebration. We had spoken about collaborating one day together and then I saw her again recently at another York event where she saw me perform with my band and planted the idea in my head to do a music video. When I contacted her about moving forward with the idea months later, she told me she had just finished working on a piece with these amazing dancers from CBJ who she called “Canada’s best kept secret” and sent me the video she had just worked on with them. I was blown away by the dancers and got very excited as I am a huge ballet fan. After choosing who we thought would interpret the roles for the video Debra put me in touch with CBJ’s artistic director and CEO Bengt Jörgen who very graciously arranged for me to work with Akari and Adrián. I was thrilled!
Akari has a beautiful innocence about her and playful quality that drew me to her. Adrián’s graceful yet masculine presence also won me over. They have worked together as partners which was another factor I loved as we had a short amount of time working together and they already felt so comfortable with each other.
Both Akari and Adrián were very courageous in how they worked with me on the day. It is not easy to be performing ballet on sand but they faced the challenge head on. I hope they had as much fun performing as I did watching them. They both exude such positive energy that it was a real pleasure to watch them and work with them. As soon as they started dancing I felt a renewed sense of excitement and inspiration in my own performance as I just fed off their beautiful work and energy.
“…this was the first time working with ballet dancers performing ballet for my music.”
Have you worked with ballet dancers before?
I have only worked with flamenco dancers and a modern dancer years ago. One of the flamenco dancers used to be a ballerina (Nancy Cardwell) but in my show she was dancing flamenco! So this was the first time working with ballet dancers performing ballet for my music. It was really thrilling and brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw them perform to my music.
Can you talk about how you worked with Debra Brown and were you involved in the creation process?
Debra and I had a few conversations prior to her working the first day with the dancers. She told me she really wanted to work on the connection between the dancers as that is what would be driving the dance and be captured on film. She wanted to understand the essence of the song and helped me understand the relationship I had written about. Debra came over to work with me by myself on my own movements and gave me lots to think about for when I normally just improvise. She invited me to be part of the rehearsal process with the dancers so I came to the studio but didn’t want to interfere with how she works. I was just so enthralled to watch how she would draw the feelings out of both of them. Debra also was instrumental in other parts of the video such as finding me the beautiful dress (designed by Mireille Vachon) and helping figure out the wardrobe for the dancers. Debra was also keen to have the director (Desh Fernando) be involved in the creative process. He has a dance background also and was very excited to work with Adrian and Akari. I had worked with Desh before and knew he had a passion for dance so he was the first person I called to direct the video.
Do you think this experience will open up a series of videos using ballet dancers? (hopefully from CBJ).
I would absolutely love to do that! I have been brainstorming on my next project and after working that day on the video I realize how much dance is a part of my soul and how it moves me just as much as the music. The two are so closely intertwined — you can’t have one without the other! I have to say the dancers just added a whole other level to my music that I am excited by the possibilities. I would love to find a way to fund a video series with CBJ that could also be performed live.
Choreographer Debra Brown
I have known Amanda Martinez for about 7 years and love her warmth in her voice when she sings and the rhythms. Ours paths always seem to cross at York University events and had discussed the opportunity to work together. When she approached me to work on Estaba Cayendo with 2 dancers, I thought of Ballet Jörgen. Having worked with the dancers online at the beginning of Covid, It was an opportunity to meet a few of them in person! With very little time we worked on movement that was comfortable to the dancers, focusing on camera subtleties and their relationship with each other. That which is invisible, you could say. Adrian and Akari were an absolute joy to work with and I Look forward to seeing the video.
For more information about Amanda Martinez visit amandamartinez.ca.