José Luis Martínez
When the Latin Grammy nominations were announced in September, Colombia took the lead with the most nods for this year’s awards, which will be distributed Nov. 18 in a black-tie ceremony at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Among those nominees is Victoria Sur, a singer-songwriter whose newest album was nominated in the children’s music category.
The album, Nanas Consentidoras – “Indulgent Lullabies” – was inspired by Sur’s relationship with her twins, Valentina and Sebastián, now age 9. It’s her sixth album, recorded with local musicians in Armenia, capital of the state of Quindío, in the heart of Colombia’s coffee country.
Minutes before Sur was about to board a flight from her hometown to Bogotá, she got an unexpected message from a dear friend.
“I couldn’t believe, and I said, ‘Are you serious?,'” she recalls with emotion about that moment. “She said, ‘Yes, we’re going to Las Vegas.’ She’s one of the people who encouraged me to do this record, so I got very excited. The plane took off, and I couldn’t talk to anyone. I cried during the entire flight.
The album, Nanas Consentidoras – “Indulgent Lullabies” – was inspired by Sur’s relationship with her twins, Valentina and Sebastián, now age 9. It’s her sixth album, recorded with local musicians in Armenia.
Victoria Sur started singing professionally as a teen during the ’90s, as part of a folk music duo called Sombra y Luz (“Shadow and Light”). Their repertoire was focused on Colombian Andean music genres, such as bambuco and pasillo. The duo won a prestigious award at the annual Mono Núñez Music Festival in 1994.
“We sang together for 10 years, touring in festivals across cities and towns in Colombia,” Sur says. We’re speaking at the Museo del Disco y la Música in Filandia, near Armenia. “We recorded four albums, and were part of the soundtrack of the coffee bonanza in Colombia in the 1990s,” she adds.
She moved to Bogotá in the mid ’90s and began her career as an independent singer-songwriter. Her 2004 debut album, Bambuco Acido, was received by Colombian critics and fans as a revelation. She incorporated the rhythms she’d performed as a teen into songs with lyrics that addressed the social reality of Colombia. One of the album’s songs is called “Desplazados” (“Displaced”). The lyrics say:
Displaced in the street
without faces and without footprints
only with the gaze of absence.
The sky darkened, a rain of bullets began…
More recently, Sur composed music to a poem by Colombia’s Carlos Castro Saavedra titled “Camino de la Patria” (“Road of the Homeland”), and recorded it with Peru’s Susana Baca.
Sur moved back to Armenia four years ago. Nanas Consentidoras includes the natural textures of her hometown, birds and crickets, and the emblematic sound of the coffee region: a 12-string instrument called tiple, played by the young master musician David Heincke.
José Luis Martínez
Sur started working on the lullabies in 2015, when her twins were three years old. Later, the global pandemic helped to bring her closer to her kids, nurturing a deeper relationship.
“We started to remember many things from the moment they were born and the songs began to emerge inspired by them. They would tell me simple things,” Sur says. “When they were babies, I wanted them to go to sleep peacefully, or to wake up in a sweet way. That’s how the lullaby to wake up or the lullaby to sleep emerged: ‘sleep my boy, sleep my girl, sleep my love.'”
Jaime Andrés Monsalve, music director of Radio Nacional de Colombia, has followed Victoria Sur’s career from the beginning. “Seeing her walk these trails that have to do with her maternity, to see herself as an artist and as a mother of Sebastián and Valentina, allows us to see how daily life is also a way to be inspired,” he says, “and how motherhood also offers a space for creativity to think about music.” Monsalve notes that the Latin Grammy nomination comes at a crucial time for Sur’s career. He hopes that the recognition catapults her around the world.
Sur says this is the most personal album she’s ever made. “All I wanted was to leave an emotional, musical record of the relationship with my kids in the past nine years: how a mother of twins relates to them through these songs,” she says. “How they inspired and invited me to do this album, from the things they would tell me.”
She says she already feels like a winner with her Latin Grammy nomination, and views the recognition as a reward to the independent music scene in Colombia—a scene she’s been a part of for more than 20 years.