Interview with Argentine Vanesa Harbek - considered to be one of the finest local blues artists today

"I think blues is a music that generates passion, it's a music full of feelings. A kind of music that everybody may enjoy."

Vanesa Harbek: Buenos Aires Blues

Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Vanesa Harbek is considered to be one of the finest blues artists working today in Argentina. She is an excellent guitarist, vocalist, trumpet player, composer and arranger. Licentiate in music specialized in composition (UCA, 2002). She spent her whole life on the road as bandleader, lead guitar player and manager of her career.

In addition to her own shows she  shared the stage and opened up for José Luis Pardo and Mojo Workers, JAF, Diego Mizrahi, Big Joe Manfra, Big Gilson (Brazil), Ciro Fogliatta (ex-Los Gatos), Yalo Lopez , Black Amaya, Semilla Bucharelli (Los Redondos), Mariano Tito, Cristina Dall (Blacanblus), Daniel Raffo (King Size), Luis Robinson (Pappo), Yulie Ruth (Pappo), Tomas Gumucio (Chile) & Gonzalo Araya (Chile), Freddy Muñoz and many more. She participated in many Blues International Festivals in Ecuador, sharing stage with David Tanganelli (Brazil), Sugar Blue (USA), Antonio Vergara (Ecuador).  She was also invited to The Londrina Blues Festival in Brazil, where she played with Decio Caetano, Igor Prado and Omar Coleman (USA). She had the honor to play with Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne (Canada) in Bebop Club in Buenos Aires. He has published today one disc “No es simple vivir” – Vanesa Harbek Blues Band and a DVD “Munrock” 2012.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

I started playing the piano when I was six years old, because my father plays the piano, and there was a piano at home. I studied with a classical teacher. I played Beethoven, Bach, and Schuman.

I discovered the blues at the age of 12 when I listened to Eric Clapton’s “Slowhand”. Then I fell in love with the blues and the guitar. I investigated Eric Clapton's influences and started to listen to Freddie King, Albert Collins, BB King, T-Bone Walker, and SRV.

Blues means everything to me, a style of life. Thanks to the blues I played in many countries in different Blues Festivals. I knew a lot of people, musicians, and different cultures. I played in Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay.

How do you describe Vanesa Harbek sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

I think my sound is a mixture of different influences. I have been listening and studying a lot of styles: blues, rhythm & blues, jazz, tango, rock, swing…

About philosophy I'm always listening to music, composing and trying to improve and learn.

"When I started playing there was really a male world in the blues scene, nowadays there are a lot of women playing blues music." 

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

I think blues is a music that generates passion, it's a music full of feelings. A kind of music that everybody may enjoy.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, studio and festivals which you’d like to share with us?

I was three times in Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil). There was a great Blues International Festival. I played with a lot of musicians from different countries, David Tanganelli (Brazil), Antonio Vergara (Ecuador), Magnolia (Chile) and Sugar Blue (USA) that was a magic experience. Also I tried equatorial meal it was delicious.

I have the honor to teach a masterclass of blues guitar in Quito. It was a wonderful experience. I made a lot of friends there. I hope to return soon.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

I had the opportunity to meet great musicians and played with them. Decio Caetano, Igor Prado, David Tanganelli from Brasil, Omar Coleman (USA). I played with them in Brazil in a Blues Festival.

Then I have the honor that Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne (Canada) came to my show and played with me, and then I was invited to his show in Buenos Aires. About the advices, once someone told me “play always with your heart…”

"Blues means everything to me, a style of life. Thanks to the blues I played in many countries in different Blues Festivals." (Photo: Vanesa on stage with Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne) 

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss new records of Albert Collins, SRV, Freddie King, Wes Montgomery and all the great musicians of blues.

Though there is an evolution of blues, I hope the blues will always be alive.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That the musicians should be more respected.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Argentina. Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

The 90’s were the top of the blues movement in Argentina, a lot of international artists came to the country such as: James Cotton, Albert Collins, BB King, Buddy Guy, Phil Guy, and Lurrie Bell.

There was a quiet period and nowadays there is a resurgence in blues music, there are a lot of new blues bands in Argentina.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from States to Latin America and special in Argentina?

I think blues is known worldwide. Argentina is better known because of tango music, but we have also a lot of blues bands, blues artists, musicians and singers. A lot of blues bands come from other countries to visit us every year.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local music circuits?

I love everytime I play and sing blues music. It is always a great emotion to me.

"Though there is an evolution of blues, I hope the blues will always be alive."

What does to be a female artist in a “Man World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?

When I started playing there was really a male world in the blues scene, nowadays there are a lot of women playing blues music. I remember that I played in a jam in “Samovar de Rasputin” in “La Boca” and men public thought I couldn't play, afterwards when I finished the performance they said it had been great and that I had played like a “man”.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

I would go to a concert of Stevie Ray Vaughan... and I would play a song with him. 

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