|PHOTO BY RACHEL WATERS
Moving Hearts and Hips: Gina Chavez’ Musical Legacy
Written by Elisa Regulski
“It starts raining on us in the desert, men are screaming for Rhianna, and I’m just like ‘this is totally not what I expected in Saudi Arabia.’”
Six days at a massive music festival in Austin was nothing compared to what Gina Chavez referred to as “the weirdest but best gig ever.”
When Gina and her band arrived at the U.S Embassy to perform as part of the U.S State Department’s American Music Abroad Program, she had no idea that a party like this would take shape. Women tore off their abayas and gay men shouted requests. Drenched with rain, the revelers in the crowd basked in her Latin-infused sound as she played in front of a massive American flag.
“I do love that…some tax dollars go to making these cultural exchanges happen.” Chavez said, “The fact that we can provide this little piece of earth where people can come and be themselves for a couple hours.”
Gina’s no stranger when it comes to world travels. She recently finished touring through Australia and spreading her music across Jordan. Even with all of her cultural exchanges, however, Chavez still confesses that there’s so much she doesn’t know.
“I’m a Catholic. I consider myself a well-educated woman, and I realized I knew, like, zero ZERO about the life of Muhammad,” Chavez passionately explained, “And this is why we have so much of the awful racism and stereotyping we have in our world. We’re not even open to knowing about it.”
Chavez’ strives to connect and educate people through music. Combining pop, folk, and Latin sounds, her music has a life of its own. She was first inspired by the six-count chacarera rhythms heard in Northwest Argentina. Today, her infectious beats and smooth vocals excite listeners all over the world.
Her songs have garnered impressive recognition, from being named Austin’s Musician of the Year in 2015 to winning the 2014 Grand Prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Most importantly, though, Chavez wants to inspire.
“It may seem kind of cheesy, but I want to move people’s hearts and hips,” she laughed.
Her ideal concert setting would include a vast audience that’s full of different cultures. The people may look different, but they’re all soaking up the music in the same way.
“[People are] realizing we’re all the same. We all want to party. We all want a shoulder to cry on, and we just want to be loved.”
Chavez reaches for that musical utopia one show at a time.
“I like the fact that music can bring us together and break down barriers. I think, on some level, if I could claim my own legacy that would be part of it.”