A few days ago, my husband forwarded a YouTube video. In the subject line, he wrote: “You’ll enjoy this, in fact, you’ll be fascinated.” Jorge does not usually predict how I’ll feel about what he sends me, and I opened the link not knowing what to expect. OMG! I should have remembered how well he knows my taste in music – fascinating – does not begin to describe this artist. Her name is Flor Amargo.
Apparently she first gained a wide audience through her participation in one of those TV network-sponsored talent shows. I rarely watch those programs so probably this is why I’ve never seen or heard of her before. However, I bet that the producers of that show did not know what to do with Flor Amargo, because she is certainly not a pop princess.
In the clip Jorge sent me, she is playing her accordion and singing, “La Bruja”, inside a moving wagon of the Mexico City metro. At times she had to stop as the train swerved and lurched, but she kept on belting it out. I heard jazz, swing, bebop, rock and roll, and even some sweeping classical chords in her interpretation. “La Bruja” is not her own composition, but she “owns” it. She’s as authentic as I’ve ever seen.
But something distressed me about the video – her fellow passengers were not happy – in fact they looked extremely displeased with this beautiful and talented young woman who had interrupted their daily commute.
It struck me that lots of us claim to admire women with the guts to be who they really are. We “love” Frida Khalo’s art, Chabela Vargas’ throaty voice, Leonara Carrington’s surreal sculpture, Elena Poniatowska’s brave writing. These icons are not close enough to touch; we remain at a comfortable distance from their non-conformity and unconventional acts. However, when a young person with the same kind of individuality shows up in our midst, many people do not feel blessed; they feel their personal space has been invaded.
Flor Amargo’s birth name is Emma Mayte Carballo Hernández , and from an early age she showed uncommon talent and determination to perform. She is an actress; she composes, sings and plays multiple instruments. She tap dances too. In an interview she said:
“My message is love, made into music. We are all one, and – what you do to, and for others – you do to, and for yourself.”
She explains that her music is the result of deep self-searching. She finds shelter in music, poetry and her own way of life. She wants to reach her fans but also those, who by chance, happen to hear her voice. (Like me, and maybe you too?)
“Through my messages, I urge others to search inside themselves, find their essence, and share it with as many people as they can, just as I have done. I took painful roads before I got to the point where I could say: I am Flor Amargo.”
Some insist that introspective reflection, soul searching, and the like are a luxury of youth. But others seem to feel it is vital to never stop exploring our deepest recesses, and to use the gifts we find to improve our lives and those of others.
I think the women I mentioned earlier, the unconventional, non-conforming, ones we admire – Frida Khalo, Chabela Vargas, Leonara Carrington, and Elena Poniatowska – have done precisely that.
Maybe several decades from now, the same will be said of Flor Amargo.
Poster for the Flor Amargo concert in Auditorio Nacional