Interview with Spanish Guitarist Rosalia Mowgli

Rosalia Mowgli
Rosalia Mowgli


Guitarist, percussionist, vocalist, composer, researcher and musical instrument inventor Rosalia Mowgli is scheduled to perform on Thursday, May 7th, 2015 at 16:00 in Azkuna Zentroa at EXIB’s (Latin American Music Expo) Professional Area in Bilbao (Spain). Rosalia talks to World Music Central about her musical background and upcoming concert.

When did you start learning music?

When, where… my first instruments… they say I was hitting the plate with the spoon and plate with plenty of rhythm. At age 6, I started playing my older sister’s guitar and learned rancheras from my father. From there we moved on to scores for violin and guitar, he played the violin. We traveled a lot and everywhere he looked for a good guitar teacher for me. In Colombia, as a girl, I took classes with maestro Alvaro Bedoya. Then, in Madrid, I learned from Anri Shibata and hence took several courses at the Madrid Conservatory. I ended up studying at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) in Los Angeles focusing on guitar, but hitting a lot of different styles. Let’s say this was the beginning, the rest is playing and sharing with wonderful people who are teaching you more and more…

How many instruments do you play now?

Now I play primarily guitar but for years I have become a fan of percussion (especially in our country) and very different types of wind instruments: ocarinas and South American reed flutes, Asian, Mexican … Since I met Xavi Lozano I started to blow other things that are unconventional instruments (pipes in general: faucets, bicycle handlebars, crutches, etc.). I have an instrument that I invented using an air conditioner plastic hose adorned with feathers of various birds from different lands that I call “flying bird”. It’s unique in the world.


Rosalia Mowgli
Rosalia Mowgli


Tell us about your collaborations with Eliseo Parra.

Eliseo Parra opened my eyes to the world of traditional music of Spain. It is something he’s done with many people. We began to relate when he offered me work as a musician for the National Classical Theatre, and that work was my first school. Later, I was also in his Workshop for several years. I have also collaborated on some of his recordings. We played a duet in Spain and abroad and played a season in his septet replacing Josete Ordoñez who plays mandola guitar and percussion. We shared a lot and there is a great affection.

On May 7, you’re going to be performing at EXIB in Bilbao. What repertoire you are going to present and what musicians are going to bring?

On May 7, I perform alone. It’s how I play more often, although recently I’ve been working with a fantastic trio that I hope to continue to polish. In this presentation I want to concentrate on the world of ‘Subversions’ of traditional music which is what interests me the most in a “Latin-American” space. I find it hard to stick to the 45 minutes I’ve been allotted. It does not allow me to display the regular I usually present, so I will try to condense and display the essence of my latest work.

If you could gather the ideal musicians or groups, whom would you call?

I would call Bobby McFerrin, Hermeto Pascoal, Alonso Toro and songwriters like American Ani DiFranco or Argentine Edgardo Cardoso. It seems like you’re asking about my favorite musicians: Atahualpa Yupanqui, Debussy, Violeta Parra, Joao Bosco, Bach. I have a very extensive taste. I like listening to Yehudi Menhuin play the violin but if I hear a marakame Huichol play his handcrafted violin, it is equally delicious.

Where you live now?

I live on a mountain without neighbors other than a goatherder, 2 km near a village in Avila called Candeleda, in the lands of the lower Tietar since four years ago.

What music are you listening to now?

I listen to the recordings that come to me. Musicians I know from many paths which are a lot and fascinating. My latest delight is a Basque man named David Larrinaga. His project Baldosa Flotante is magnificent.

What would you like to do in your free time?

My free time? …. I think all life is music, as Sufi master Inayat Khan said, rhythm, beat, pulse, harmony, I see it everywhere and at all times. I only feel that I can’t do what I want when I am subjugated by things separate from life that has become essential paperwork (that’s my only non-free time). I’m always working, even when watching a movie or listening to a record, when I visit my friends, there is nothing that doesn’t cooperate in the composition.

What country or countries would you like to visit?

I’ve always wanted to go to India but life has put me in this kind of endless “roundtrip songs” with America and my tendency has been to go back again and again to Mexico, Argentina, the United States. Now I’m obsessed with returning to Colombia where I spent part of my childhood and adolescence.


Rosalia - Nanas Urbanas
Rosalia – Nanas Urbanas

What other projects do you have?

Projects? The most urgent is to give birth to triplets I have inside since recording Nanas Urbanas [Urban Nanas] (Harmonia Mundi, 2007). It’s three recordings that are waiting to be completely finished, one for children, another of songs and this SubVersiones of which I made a well-intentioned recording in New York in 2010. To me it remains an unfinished project. Las Nanas is an album of great quality. When you try honey, you do not settle for less.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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