Black and white photo of Silvana Estrada standing in a wind-kissed prairie
Credit: Hilda Pellerano

On her exquisite debut album, Marchita, Mexican singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada dissects the many bruised facets of a breakup in 11 intimate, elegant tunes. Estrada colors her compositions with her experiences growing up in a family of classical musicians and luthiers as well as her jazz studies at the University of Veracruz. On Marchita, she traces a line between those influences and iconic Latin American composers from the mid-20th century, including Chilean folk luminary Violeta Parra and Mexican songwriter María Grever (whose 1934 tune “Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado” was rewritten with English lyrics and later popularized by Dinah Washington as “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” in 1959). Estrada has an impressive range as a singer, and while on Marchita she primarily accompanies herself on Venezuelan cuatro (a four-stringed instrument similar to a ukulele, but with a deeper sound), she also surrounds her crystalline, controlled voice with the warm sounds of cello, double bass, jarana, and the occasional saxophone. Estrada lays her emotions and angst bare in poetic lyrics deployed in delicate, fierce phrases that recall one of her favorite vocalists, Billie Holiday. Her delivery accentuates the raw romanticism of claiming the power a bereft lover still has after a breakup: admitting being vanquished without accepting defeat and treasuring scars as evidence of healing. On “Tristeza” she sings, “Sadness, I ask: How long must I wait until you understand that instead of crying, I sing?” While Marchita may be Estrada’s first album, its maturity and assuredness speak volumes about her talent, and I can hardly wait to hear the music she comes up with next. Her upcoming show at Schubas is subject to the state of the pandemic, like so much else, but if all goes well she’ll perform there on Wednesday, March 2.

Silvana Estrada’s Marchita drops 1/21 and will be available through her website.