Jimena Maldonado: “protest songs are an incredibly powerful way of uniting people”

On March 4, Which side are you on? by Jimena Maldonado premieres at Amare. She also presents the impressive Repeat their names. We spoke with Jimena about both pieces, about using music as means of protest and about plant pots!

You made Repeat their names after the protests on International Women’s Day 2021 in Mexico City. How did you come up with this idea? What do you hope to achieve with this piece?
Just before International Women’s Day in 2021, the government placed huge fences in front of the National Palace in Mexico City. This gave the impression that it was more urgent to “protect” a building than the lives of women in the country. I was very impressed by the actions of the protesters in response to these fences, which was to write thousands of names of murdered women on the fences. I immediately had the idea of doing a sonic version of this powerful action. With my piece I want to bring attention to violence against women, which is an urgent problem and doesn’t happen only in Mexico. I wanted to add my voice as an artist, as an act of sisterhood and homage to the victims, to draw attention to all women who are victims of a systemic problem which continues every day. 

In Which side are you on? you also use music as a means of protest. How are we going to hear that in this composition? 
I have always found protest songs an incredibly powerful way of uniting people in a call for change. In my piece the performer plays a set of plant pots. Thepiece starts with the pots doing an ostinato which, for me, represents a call for attention or gathering. I often hear the bells of a church close to my house, and I love the idea of this loud yet beautiful calling, which I use throughout the piece with the plant pots’ material. 
For the voice, I used fragments of different protest songs. The most present (and perhaps even recognisable) melody appears at the end of the piece, which is “Which side are you on?” a protest song by Florence Reece.  

You use sixteen plant pots as instruments in this piece. How did you come up with this original idea? 
The plant pot set actually belongs to Natalia Álvarez-Arenas, the percussionist. We have been working together for some time now, and a couple of years ago she suggested that I compose a piece for this ‘instrument’. I finally had the chance to use the plant pots for this new piece and they are amazing.

Which side are you on? and Repeat their names is performed by Natalia Alvarez Arenas (percussion), Jan Foote, (elektric guitar) en Jimena Maldonado (live electronics) on March 4 maart at 7:30pm at Amare Studio. Buy tickets.

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