We just landed in Frankfurt and I must say it’s really weird to be hearing German everywhere when just hours ago we were in such a different world…
The world of the desert and kings and the heart of Islam; where the eerily beautiful cries of Azan — Muslim call to prayer — waft through a blanket of dusty haze that cloaks never-ending construction sites and unfinished concrete buildings. The face of the King peeks out from every other functioning structure, while black and white figures travel the beige landscape in packs.
Cars, trucks and vans — also in mainly black and white — provide proof of life than people live here because nearly everything in Saudi happens behind walls. The harsh climate and uber conservative society leaves few options for community life outside the safety of the home. Houses are blocky structures, walled in and wrapped in barbed wire compounds. Date palms provide much The intense heat of the summer can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit (no thank you!) and the winter can be unforgivably cold. We apparently came at the best time of year — early winter — with 70 degree days and lower 50′s at night. Apparently it rains only a few times a year in Riyadh, and our outside show at the Embassy was one of them!
People in Saudi Arabia keep to themselves, men in the traditional white thobe (white ankle-length tunic) with their red and white checked gutra (headscarf) topped by the black igal (chord), and women in the all-black abaya (robe) and hijab (headscarf). Most of the women I saw were wearing the full niqab or burqa (which leaves a slit for the eyes). As for me, apparently I benefitted from changes made by the former Saudi King Abdullah whose reign started to relax the strict Saudi rules on dress code, at least for foreigners.
I intentionally packed very conservative clothing (long pants and long-sleeved shirts, dresses that covered my neck, shoulders and knees) and probably could have gotten away without wearing an abaya at all around town, but it was easier and safer to avoid unnecessary attention. That said, I left the hijab at the hotel, but wore a black abaya over my clothing and pretty much just felt like a wizard every time we left the hotel! No wand though.
And honestly I felt more comfortable with the abaya on because I’d say about 90 percent of the women I saw in Saudi Arabia had a full niqab covering everything but their eyes! But no matter how strange it seems to me as an American women, I felt it was only right that on some level I dress similarly to Saudi women, out of respect for the Saudi people and their culture.
But why do women have to cover themselves? From what I understand, the niqab is cultural, not religious. Nothing in the Qur’an states that a woman must cover herself completely, though it does require that men and women dress modestly. In Middle Eastern cultures, the niqab, I was told, serves to draw attention away from the woman, thereby protecting her reputation when she’s in public. If her face is photographed, her reputation can be tarnished, which can affect her family and her future. And then there’s the fact that it’s a cultural tradition. Most men in Saudi (that I saw) were wearing a thobe and most women an abaya and hijab or niqab.
And while I cannot fathom the mere inconvenience of wearing a niqab – they must lift the lower portion ever so slightly just to eat! — I do respect a country and its culture. Even with the abaya on, I felt odd being the only woman in any public place not wearing an hijab, and I’m sure women who choose to wear an abaya in the Western world feel strange, too. But the fact that they choose to do so should not be overlooked. Movements in the Western world to ban the burqa are just as idiotic and repressive as the countries and extremist groups that require women to wear one. My hope for Saudi women is that they have the choice.
(to be continued…)
Hello from the other siiiiide! hehe I couldn’t resist. Ok, I know everyone begged me to blog and I’ve fallen down on the job, but our schedule has been pretty busy and when we have downtime, we’re either sleeping or lying in bed for an hour wishing we could sleep. Dang jet lag!
This trip has been really amazing thus far! We started the tour in the Persian Gulf island country of Bahrain, which is often referred to as “Middle East lite” or the Vegas of the Middle East, haha. It’s a country of more than 60% expats and is very American in a lot of ways. I saw very few women wearing an abaya (robe) and even fewer with a hijab (headscarf). They welcome people of all religions, there is alcohol, food from nearly every country, the currency — Bahraini Dinar — is more than three times stronger than the US Dollar (OUCH!), but we are very well taken care of by the US Embassy wherever we go. We stayed in the super fancy Gulf Hotel, complete with 6 restaurants inside and Christmas trees everywhere haha. There was even a lifesize gingerbread house in the lobby. Apparently Saudis love to dig on Bahrain as being a devilish country, and then they head to Bahrain to party on the weekends! What happens in Bahrain stays in Bahrain
Arg, there’s so much more to say, but I need to get ready for the day. We have three shows in Saudi today and a huge continental breakfast is awaiting me in the swanky hotel lobby of the Ritz Carlton. So so much more to tell you…
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Gina Chavez is a bilingual Latin-folk singer/songwriter who blends the sounds of the Americas with tension and grace. Her latest independent release, Up.Rooted, is a passionate collection of bilingual songs traversing cumbia, bossa nova, vintage pop, reggaeton, and folk combined with dynamic vocals and sharp social commentary.
The album won the praise of National Public Radio (NPR), USA Today, and The Boston Globe, and topped the iTunes and Amazon Latin charts after a feature on NPR’s All Things Considered. She is the 2014 John Lennon Songwriting Contest (JLSC) Grand Prize Winner for her song “Siete-D,” a rock-cumbia-rap mix that explores the delights and dangers of El Salvador from a window on the 7-D, the bus route she rode as a volunteer there in 2010.
Backed by a six-piece band, Chavez has claimed a prominent stake in the Live Music Capital. An eight-time Austin Music Award winner, Chavez and her band swept the 2015 awards, winning Musician of the Year, Album of the Year (Up.Rooted), Song of the Year (“Siete-D”), Best Latin Band, and the Esme Barrera Award for Music Activism and Education, while placing in six other categories. They have shared the stage with Grace Potter, Grammy winners La Santa Cecilia, Latin Grammy winner Gaby Moreno, Mexico’s Carla Morrison, Argentina’s Federico Aubele, Las Cafeteras from L.A., and Austin’s own Grupo Fantasma. In 2013, they performed for Latin rockstar Juanes as one of nine bands nationwide selected for the Dewaristas contest.
Chavez is currently promoting the June 2015 release of the official music video for “Siete-D.” The video – filmed last October in El Salvador — follows Chavez on an exciting cross-country journey to reunite with her former students — young women she considers her Salvadoran sisters and four of whom are able to attend college on scholarships from Niñas Arriba, a college fund co-founded by Chavez and her partner, Jodi Granado, since their volunteer year in 2010. Southern Living and Olay named Chavez one of 11 “southern iconic women who have left a beautiful footprint across the South,” for her continued work in El Salvador.
“…when you’re on top of the world, you can pretty much go anywhere. So why not record a jazzy cover of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”?… [read full track premiere]
Much has happened for Gina Chavez since I first saw her at an unofficial SXSW showcase about five years ago: two albums, fan and industry recognition, this year’s Austin Music Award for Austin Musician Of The Year… [watch full concert]
Gina Chavez, who previously won Austin Musician of the Year, appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert recently and really represented. Below is the whole show, and it’s a wonderful Wednesday pick-me-up… [read full article]
We’re very very happy today to get a chance to hear a wonderful performance from Gina Chavez and her band. She is a multiple Austin Music Award winner; she’s had an amazing life thus far… [listen]
ATX6 today announced its new group of rising Austin musicians that will represent our fair city at North By Northeast (NXNE) and other international festivals this year… [read full article]
Filling the State Theatre with Black Fret donors Saturday night, Gina Chavez debuted the music video for her Austin Music Awards Song of the Year, “Siete-D.” The evening raised almost $12,000 for… [read full article]
I really like this record, it’s produced by one of my favorite producers, Michael Ramos, there in Austin and I think it really captures her essence and her voice. It really feels like she’s gotten to that sweet spot… [listen]
The Grupo Fantasma horns join Chavez on my favorite, a raucous rock-Cumbia-rap mix titled “Siete-D” where we jump on the 7D bus for a ride through El Salvador, a country where Chavez lived and continues to do mission work… [listen]
Gina Chavez’ “Siete-D” wins the Latin category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest Session 1… [see contest results]
Singer-songwriter Gina Chavez may be a Texan, but on her latest album she reconnects with her Latin roots, singing in both English and Spanish. Up.Rooted blends Latin folk and American pop… [hear full interview]
Bridging two cultures, the Latin songstress feels both out of place and exactly where she belongs…
Nothing short of one artist’s hallmark, this collection embodies Gina Chavez as an artist of her own right… [read full album review]
With Up.Rooted, Gina Chavez has established herself as the Joan Baez of her generation… [read full album review]
Gina Chavez is due onstage at the Austin Music Awards. Right now. Problem is, she’s still at her official South by Southwest showcase on Sixth Street. Fortunately, she’s only blocks from the Convention Center, and adrenaline from a packed, dynamic performance… [read full article]
Swiss/German/Mexican songstress Gina Chavez dives into her Latin roots on her new album, exploring the complexities… [read full article]
Gina Chavez’s Maiz, which streams exclusively at USA TODAY, is sung in Spanish and vocalizes the effects of NAFTA on Mexican immigrants… [read full article]
The result is an album that’s as confident as it is refreshing… [read full album review]
Pride bursts from every track of up.rooted. Fiery Latina Gina Chavez celebrates her musical roots in this… [read full album review]
Her writing doesn’t waste a syllable, and she gets right to heart of the matter – with a voice that knows its way around painful ecstasy… [read full article]
We are glad to announce that award-winning local singer-songwriter, Gina Chavez is back… [listen]
Gina Chavez’s voice stops you in your tracks the first time you hear it. At least that’s how it worked for me when I came upon her performance during South by Southwest a few years ago. She was playing a… [stream full album]
It’s quite possible that Chavez has a monster indie album on her hands. She is equally comfortable singing in Spanish or English and the material is nothing short of gorgeous with songs… [read full show review]
If anybody in Austin is mixing cumbia, bossa nova, reggaeton and old-school Latin pop to better effect than Gina Chavez, we’d love to know about it. This Austin Music Awards winner recently returned from eight months of mission work in Central America to write an irresistible album detailing… [read full article]
Through a journey of dancing beats, hypnotic language and enticing rhythms Chavez’s sound fires up a soulful album that barrels over any and everything… [read full album review]
Joy of Violent Movement – Track Review (1.16.14)
NPR Alt. Latino – Track Featured in Podcast (1.16.14)
PopMatters – Track Premiere/Review (12.3.13)
KUTX 98.9 FM – Radio News (12.12.13)
KOOP 97.1 FM – Radio Interview (1.13.14)
Remezcla – Track Review (12.9.13)
Enchufate – News (12.6.13)
Hot 106.1 FM – Podcast Interview (12.6.13)
BWW Music – News (12.11.13)
Faronheit – Track Post (12.12.13)
Altsounds – News/Track Post (12.13.13)
Nerdy Frames – News/Track Post (12.14.13)
LatinTrends: Introducing Gina Chavez
San Antonio Express-News: Latin rock star Juanes is celebrity judge at Club Rio
ConexionSA: Juanes looking for good songs
Blastro2 (VIDEO): Un encuentro “dulce y fire” con Gina Chavez
Austin Chronicle | Saborcito: Pachanga Latino Music Festival Fusion
Billboard: Intocable, Los Lobos, Carla Morrison Among Headliners for Pachanga Latino Music Fest
PuroPinche: 6th Annual Pachanga Fest (ATX)
The Globe and Mail | Canada: Austin’s Live Music Scene, Interview with Gina Chavez
Wanderless Austin: Austin Free Week, Austin Vida Showcase
Joy of Violent Movement – Track Review (1.16.14)
In 2009, Gina Chavez and Jodi Granado left their comfy lives in Central Texas for cold showers and chicken buses in Central America; to live out of a suitcase in El Salvador, where volcanoes and poverty loom large; to teach dramatic teenage girls in a gang-dominated barrio for eight months. They struggled, laughed, loved and received lots and lots of hugs.
But the mission didn’t end when they landed stateside in the Summer of 2010. Gina & Jodi immediately established Niñas Arriba, a college fund that offers full scholarships to a private, Catholic university for girls they lived with in Soyapango.
“Study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and the empowerment of women.” – Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General
Donations directly fund low-cost, high-quality education for young women in need. Scholarships cover monthly tuition, academic fees and supplies, food and transportation for four students — Xiomara, Marta, Vanesa and Rosemary — and are sent directly to the university in our students’ names.
booking (at) ginachavez (dot) com
Ryan (at) PressJunkiePR (dot) com