Juana Molina (born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 1st October 1962) is an Argentinian singer-songwriter and an actress.
Molina started her career in 1988 as a comedic television actress in Argentina on the show La Noticia Rebelde. She later starred in Juana y sus hermanas, a hit sketch show across the Spanish-speaking world, for which she remains better known in Latin America.
When you ask most Argentines for an opinion of her music, however, you are likely to get a response related to her popular sketch comedy show from the ’90s, ‘Juana y Sus Hermanas’. The local tendency to pigeonhole her as a wacky comic actress. Appreciation of the originality of her art has grown in recent years—in concurrence with the rise of her international popularity—but her early dismissal by critics here in Argentina continues to hang over her.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was this early criticism of her music that freed her to defy expectations on following albums. She could venture beyond influences and plunge ever deeper inside herself—digging out the music that she herself found most pleasing.
Molina grew up in a musical home. Her father, Horacio Molina, is a successful Tango singer and composer who gave Juana her first guitar lessons. Her mother is an actress and music lover who kept a diverse music library and regularly initiated family dances.
Dating back to her first years with the guitar, Molina was always intrigued by playing simple and repetitive melodies. She explains, “The first songs that I wrote were like loops. I would spend weeks playing the same few notes or chords, I would enter a trance. But I didn’t have the confidence necessary to play those by themselves. So I would insert a chorus, verse and bridge to make them resemble traditional song structures.”
Following the military coup in Argentina in 1976, the Molina family moved to Paris to flee the ensuing dictatorship. During those formative teenage years in Paris, Molina’s musical palette was vastly expanded. Long before “world music” became a genre of its own (loosely defined as it is), a couple of French radio stations that Molina regularly listened to offered programs featuring music from around the globe: Africa, Asia, India, Pakistan and various Middle Eastern countries. Molina loved the curious, exotic sounds and says, “It all really fascinated me, it seemed like it was from another world.”
She recorded these shows whenever she could, and built up a library of several hundred cassettes. She listened to the tapes constantly. But just weeks after her return to Buenos Aires the tapes were stolen out of a friend’s house. Molina still describes the loss as a “terrible pain”.
The painful loss, however, may also be understood as contributing to Juana’s daring artistic nature. As she developed her own form of expression, she couldn’t go back and study those strange sounds and styles that had interested her so much. She had to venture inwardly to find what was inside of her that had resonated with the unusual sounds that she had heard. They had planted a seed, but she would have to chase them down the rabbit hole herself.
In 1996 she decided to start her musical career and released her first album, Rara. Her second album, Segundo, was named Best World Music Album 2003 in Entertainment Weekly and gained a Shortlist Award 2004 nomination. Tres Cosas, her third album, was placed in the Top Ten Records of 2004 by the New York Times.
The lyrics on her albums are sung in her native Spanish and are often accompanied by acoustic guitar, among other instruments. Her music features elements of ambient and electronica, and she is often compared by critics to Björk, Beth Orton, and Lisa Germano. She usually writes, mixes tracks and performs on her own.
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