Brenda Hopkins Miranda
Memoirs from Granada
Photo by: © Alexandra Ayala Cintrón
Artist Interview by: Wilbert Sostre
Brenda Hopkins Miranda is a talented pianist, composer, arranger, improviser, band leader, writer and educator born in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Wilbert Sostre - How and when did you start in music?
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - I studied in a school with courses in music, ballet and painting. I started in music when I was 6. Then when I started at the University, I took it more seriously, but music was always something very important in my life.
WS - How and when did you discover Jazz music?
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - I Compare it with literature, first you start reading the basics, child books, etc. Then you get to more deeper and complex stuff. I think that is important also to go through those moments. At one time I played Rock and Pop. And I did learn a lot with those experiences. My Bachelor degree is in Classical music, a music that I love also. But I always knew that I didn't want to be a classical music pianist. For me music always has been a form of expression, and I always wanted to be creative with my music. I think Jazz is one of those spaces where one have the opportunity of creating and express your own voice. That moment of improvisation is magical cause your creating art in that moment, and have to take risks that sometimes works and sometimes it doesn't work.
WS - Who was the first artist that made you fall in love with Jazz?
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - It all started with a Keith Jarrett album, it was a present from a friend. At that moment I wasn't ready for that music. But some time later I fell in love with his music, especially the European Quartet, that was mostly original music, then I discovered his trio playing standards, his improvised music. So he was a good starting point for me to discover a lot of possibilities within Jazz.
WS - And after Keith Jarrett?
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, that is the first album that almost everybody use to introduced you to Jazz music. From there I went back, to Miles earlier music, I bought his autobiography, when I like some music I try to learn what's behind it. John Coltrane also was a big influence. I like musicians that are always changing. Monk also is very important to me.
WS - Nice that you mention Monk because I hear some influence of Monk in your playing.
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - I love his use of space, I learned from Monk that I don't have to play all the time when I'm improvising. And also the use of second minors and dissonance.
WS - There is some dissonance in the intro of one of your compositions on your new album, Memoirs from Granada.
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - Yes. In "Plaza Nueva"
WS - How about your experience in Spain? Because that's the birthplace of your new CD.
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - Playing in a "tablado" with gypsies, it was an incredible experience. I played with David El Marqués, one of the best guitar player in Spain. On some jam sessions there were musicians from Israel, Italy, Africa, Germany, France. Any music that is genuine, honest captures me. And this Cd was a way to thank them, because I know they don't let everybody get into their music space, and at the same time tell my story in Spain to the people of Puerto Rico.
WS - It was your first experience with the music of Spain?
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - Well, the music from Spain is one of the major influences in the music of Puerto Rico. And that is something people do not talk about that much. Everybody talks about the african influence, which is very important too, the richness of the african rhythms is essential to our music. But we can not forget that part of what we are comes from Spain. When I arrived in Spain, I saw the way people talk, walk, everything. And I was amazed about how much alike we are, Especially in the south of Spain. So this CD was also a way to reconnect with that part of our heritage.
WS - I know you have a lot of music influences besides Jazz. Musicians like Ruben Blades, Eddie Palmieri, Ismael Rivera, Bob Marley, Tori Amos, Pablo Milanes, Silvio Rodriguez, etc. What do you think is the common ground in their music?
Brenda Hopkins Miranda - Their music is genuine, comes from the heart. The motivation of a musician can't be to impress, or the money, or fame. Music should be used to show your feelings, what you are. And that's what I think I get from all those musicians. There's also a quality in their music.
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