Milking the Music

Andrea Echeverrí, organic rocking front-woman for the alternative Colombian band Los Aterciopelados, is milking the groove-mama experience for all its worth. The artist had her first baby, Milagros, three years ago, and is now stepping out with a solo album, Andrea Echeverrí, dedicated to the joys of motherhood.

In typical Echeverrí style, the lyrics are witty and candid. This time, however, the music represents a softer, more wistful version of the always sensual and spiritual vocalist. It marks yet another major shift from the early days of Los Aterciopelados, one of Colombia's most popular rock groups. The band began in the early Nineties as a punk group and has gradually evolved over the years, moving from a harder sound to Latin fusion and electronica without ever losing its alternative edge.

"Comparing Aterciopelados's music from before to now is like comparing photographs from ten years ago," Echeverrí said during a phone interview from Bogotá. "Each moment of life requires different types of energy."

The 2001 album Gozo Poderoso was such a delicate and perfect balance of those genres that it soared into the Top 10 of the Billboard Latin Album Sales chart and landed the group a performance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. But after the release of Evolución in 2002, Echeverrí directed her energy toward birthing, nursing, and baby talk.

"[Motherhood] is powerful and strong. It inspired a lot of songs. It also reflects a natural mental state when you are synchronized with nature, life, and reproduction. You ask yourself a lot of things because you are bringing a new being into a totally upside-down world. It really makes your head work," Echeverrí commented.

It's with that naturalness that Echeverrí explores the sexuality of human behaviors such as breast-suckling. In the song "Lactochampeta," she incorporates the lambada-like rhythm of the Colombian-Caribbean champeta style to sing about the mutual pleasure mother and infant receive from nursing.

"[Lactating] is a rich experience, a completely new discovery," she said. "I treat [motherhood] like love before first sight ... that's the first kick. That's how I describe pregnancy ... the experience of being dizzy, of breathing, trusting that this new person is going to come and be a hero and that she is going to change all that is wrong with the world. These are thoughts all mothers have," she noted.

Echeverrí, who once sang that pregnancy might ruin her figure, has made a career out of music for so long that, at the age of 39, settling down in a stable relationship and having a baby is simply a natural progression.

"I belong to a generation whose mothers were all housewives and didn't have the option of doing anything else. I came from a generation that didn't want to have a baby," she said. "I wanted to be economically independent. I wanted to be an artist and to make songs, so all of this came to me at a much later age. I have had a lot of freedom and a lot of time to think. It came to me at a very good moment in my life."

Other songs on Echeverrí's self-titled album celebrate the correlation between lovemaking and reproduction, and in the lullaby "A Eme O," she credits Milagros with rejuvenating her sex life with the child's father. "It's as if you've unplugged my tubes," she sings.

"Baby Blues" is written expressly for Milagros, but still maintains a sexy sway, while the harmony on "Que No Haría" ("What Wouldn't I Do") bounces happily to a twangy guitar as Echeverrí tells Milagros there is nothing in the world she wouldn't do for her baby.

Meanwhile, in the song "Amortiguador," Echeverrí thanks her partner for being a great advisor, like a steering wheel that guides her engine. "Hug me like a safety belt," she pleads sensually.

"They're all songs that speak of mature love, of loves that remain for many years, of loves that have confronted crises and problems, but that are relationships based on respect and fidelity," she said.

It's a traditional but sincere message akin to the ones Los Aterciopelados have given to Colombians over the years. During the group's earlier years, it strove to show Colombian society that nonconformists were not only drug addicts and punks with piercings but also hard-working professionals.

"We showed that a person who lives outside the norm is not necessarily bad, that the person is simply seeking his or her own path and we must respect that path," she said. "In a world where children are abused and sexually exploited, where couples break up, where the base of society which is family is so in danger, this CD has a mission of reconciliation. We're creating a domestic revolution."

And then there's the process that preceded romantic and familial love -- accepting and loving oneself in a hyped-up, glamorous music industry. The singer hopes that being herself helps her audiences to do the same. During a 2003 show at La Covacha in Doral, a barefoot, makeup-less Echeverrí sensually danced onstage in an oversize caftan to a throng of ecstatic superprimped teenyboppers who couldn't seem to crowd close enough to the stage.

"As a woman, I am subjected to the same cultural pressure that all women are subjected to. It's a pressure that turns us into vain, sexual objects, making us vulnerable and not very strong," she maintained. "I personally fought this image. That's why I am the way I am. That's why I haven't chosen a career of perfection. I don't diet, I don't wear makeup, I don't go to the gym. I think it's more important to spend energy on my soul and my spirit, and that as long as my body is agreeable and allows me to sing and dance and communicate with people, then I'm perfect. I don't ask for anything else."

A world of girls growing up with the kind of positive artistic and feminist messages that little Milagros is receiving would be nothing short of her namesake -- a miracle. But at least the stage from which her mama performs can be a launching point for that mission.