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Gabriela Martina: Honoring the Farm 
Roaming to Career Comfort

Life tends to be a full circle event and for Amsterdam-based jazz vocalist, composer, and bandleader Gabriela Martina, nothing could be truer with the release of her new album “Homage to Grämlis” as she re-assembles the pieces of her music career that were scattered into disarray by COVID-19.

“COVID was horrible. I lost my business, gigs, & tour. My existence. That's why I’m partially based in Amsterdam and Boston. Trying to figure things out. It takes a while to heal. It’s a matter of time,” Gabriela said. “Yet, I feel positive that the music gives something that you have to see in person. I just had a few duo shows and it is incredible what it can do, how the people react.”

Her latest recording, “Homage to Grämlis” is the story of her idyllic upbringing on a Swiss dairy farm. The music harkens back to the sounds that made her fall in love with music; Swiss yodeling, cow bells, accordion, and alphorn.

"This album means everything to me. My parents have been farmers for the last 45 years and that's where I grew up the first 24 years of my life,” Gabriela noted. “Growing up in such an environment with vegetables that come from the ground and milk from cows was incredible. I am conscious of what I purchase and I always support local farmers.”

The family farm was also a haven of education for the public audit that came to an end in 2018. Thus, the ending of a familial chapter in her life became a homage in this new artistic creation.

“I have siblings and none of us could take it (the farm) over. It turned out that a new family moved in years later and the whole house was renovated. This album started in my mind in 2016. It was because I started to yodel,” Gabriela said. “In a way it's a gift to my family. It's a lifetime of work memorializing keeping that farm up. There was so much love, dedication, and education passed onto the younger generations. They (my family & the farm) are local legends there.”

Her journey into music and more specifically jazz was literally a part of the family way of life. Her mom played the piano and her dad still yodels to this very day. All of her siblings also sing and play instruments.

“It never occurred to me. It just happened. Part of daily life. Sometimes on Sundays family came over and we would play and sing. Always making noise,” Gabriela said. “I had a solo at school when I was young where I sang "The Girl from Ipanema." It was the tune that made me realize how people reacted to my voice. They wanted to hear it one more time. After that, I took music more seriously and started studying it.``

Around this time, her options in Switzerland to study music were limited to mainly classical. Yet, she didn’t want that and jazz didn’t (yet) make sense to her. She was into the rock, pop, and funk groups.

“At the same time, I heard about Berklee College of Music. I invested my time to get fundraising to get there to do a semester,” Gabriela said. “With all the work that I did with day jobs, I got to Berklee and graduated.”

That began the jazz journey, but she has always been staunch about loving all genres of music and pushing the proverbial envelope.

“There's always something about trying new musicians and new sounds,” Gabriela said. “Like the Miles thing. Nothing wrong with that.”

At the end of her proverbial day, she loves the idea of trying out new things and doing it live. The reverberating inventiveness of it all.

“With my compositions you see the black and white, but let's see what we can do. You need something to go from, but see what happens,” Gabriela noted. “If it serves the music and makes it better, then let's do it. There is a combination of being in the studio and being like a kid to see what happens like in a kitchen. Same way as the live stage.”

For the last two years, she has been doing the back and forth between her new home of Amsterdam and the familiarity of Boston. She arrived during the pandemic, and it was quite hard. Like starting over.

“There is so much you have to do as an independent artist that is not fun. The magic happens when people are in a room together. Can't happen with a Zoom call,” Gabriela said. “The voice is a personal instrument and it makes a difference compared to an instrument on the outside. You feel the vibration everywhere. We are 80 percent water so you feel it.”

Gabriela has found inroads each time in her life to begin anew and thrive. This new post-pandemic phase of her life is no different. The live music element is what makes her grow and reinvigorate into her best self.

“I'm just learning a new culture and I'm at the beginning. The moments of live music are special,” Gabriela said. “It's a circle. The musicians give and the audience receives and gives it back. That is extremely fulfilling or even spiritual.”

by Joe Dimino

Full Gabriela Martina Neon Jazz Interview Links:

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