By Bessy Reyna
Born of a Puerto Rican mother, and an African-American /Syrian father, Indra Rios-Moore was surrounded by music from birth. Until recently I hadn’t heard of this wonderful singer.
Now I can’t stop listening to her on YouTube and her own website. I quickly discovered what many Jazz lovers and critics have known from the time she started recording: She is a remarkably talented singer who can render either a bolero like “Mil Besos” or a sensual “Teach Me Tonight” with equal easy, holding her audience in an intimate and warm embrace which is nearly impossible to escape.
I seem to have a magnifying glass when I find names of Latino artists performing in Connecticut, like a detective searching for information I can share with my readers.
In Rios-Moore’s case it was Mimi Madden, the director of the Sunken Garden Music and Poetry festival who told me about her upcoming performance, and provided me with her address. I contacted Rios-Moore for an interview and, even though she had just returned to the U.S., she replied immediately.
Here’s part of the “Internet” conversation we had from her apartment in New York:
“I’ve always been singing to myself. I was essentially raised as an only child because my elder half-sister, Michele, is 17 years older than me. I played a lot by myself at home because my neighborhood was not safe to play in. As a result, I ended up singing to entertain myself an soothe myself. It was something private, “ she said.
At home, her mother played different types of music, and noticing her daughter’s interest enrolled her in voice lessons. At 14, she attended Mannes College of Music on a scholarship.
Rios-Moore says, “That was the beginning of everything for me and if they hadn’t given me that financial break I would not be anywhere near as skilled as I am today. So I’m infinitely grateful for that. I trained there, with Lois Winter, until I was 19.”
She continued her classical vocal training at Smith College and, after graduating, she put “music aside.” But, that was a short-lived separation, three years later she met Benjamin Traerup, saxophonist trained at the Royal Academy of Music in Denmark, who was studying in New York. Marriage and moving to Denmark in 2007, followed.
She reassured me that there were no professional rivalries between them, because they are both musicians. Traerup is now the band’s manager. She joked that in spite of their being together so much we’re “never getting sick of each other.”
In explaining the difference between living in Denmark and the U.S., Rios-Moore, emphasized the support that arts and artists receive there and how safe it is. Being a small country means that the community of musicians and music lovers is also small.
She contrasts that with the current economic and cultural climate in the U.S. where “it is a tough place to be a musician, but the people that are living and working as musicians in the U.S. are doing it with a bravery and gusto that you don’t find in Denmark.” Now, Rios-Moore and Sejthen, spend their time touring but she confesses to like living in the U.S. better.
Listening to the songs posted on her website I am delighted to hear her sing in Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and English.
While she refuses to select “one favorite singer and composer, because she has so many, she mentions Dianne Reeves and Patty Griffin. “The former for her incredible voice and delivery, and the latter for her amazing songwriting and singing. ”
I missed her 2010 concert in Connecticut. I will make sure to get a front-row seat for the one on Aug. 8 at the Hill-Stead Museum. Poet Mark Doty, will close the festival. Considered among the best poets in the U.S. Doty is the winner of many awards including the National Book Award, Los Angeles Times and the National Book Critics Circle Award. This is his second appearance at this nationally-recognized festival.
Hill-Stead Museum is located at 35 Mountain Rd., Farmington. Gates open at 4:30 pm. Music begins at 6:15 pm; poetry begins at 7:30 pm. Admission: $5 per person, children ages 12 and under free. Parking is free.
Seating: Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating in and around the garden.
Food: Al fresco dining is allowed on the grounds. Participants are welcome to bring their own picnic suppers or purchase food/beverages on site from Tallulah’s Catering. For Festival details visit www.sunkengardenpoetry.org or Hill-Stead’s main website at www.hillstead.org,or call 860.677.4787 ext 134.
(Bessy Reyna is an opinion columnist for CTLatinoNews.com whose views do not necessarily reflect those of this website. She is a former opinion columnist for the Hartford Courant and the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Center for the Book.)