Who is Sofia Rei? A singer, songwriter and teacher whose latest album travels through Chile’s Elqui Valley
Sofia Rei is a songwriter, singer and folk producer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a variety of accomplishments. Rei has spent time as a solo artist and collaborator, has been active in the group Mycale, and has recorded music with Geoffrey Keezer.
For Rei’s work on Keezer’s 2009 album urea, the six-time Independent Spirit Award-winning singer received a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album. Rei also received the Spirit of Folk Award from the International Folk Alliance in 2019.
Rei is also a professor at New York University, appeared on Conan, and performed two NPR Tiny Desk Concerts – once in 2014, and again in 2021.
Rei’s most recent album, and the fifth record overall, umbrella, was released on June 4. The record was preceded by the single ‘La Otra’: the album’s opening song. The song is a tribute to a poem by Gabriela Mistral.
The core of umbrella was created during a hiking trip through Chile’s Elqui Valley (the birthplace of Gabriela Mistral). Rei prioritized recording equipment as baggage and spent the journey collecting folk music and influences from other musicians encountered on the track.
She described the Elqui Valley as “a magical place”, surrounded by “beautifully colored mountains, clear skies 300 days a year and a very special energy”.
Inspired by Chilean poetry and songwriting, Rei used her influences to complete her vision: an electronic soul record steeped in folk. Rei was also inspired by Cinco Poemas Cínicos, a series of poetry from Brazil.
Lots of songs from Rei umbrella Find your footing in world music with moments of jazz, funk or pop influence. Rei’s Bandcamp emphasizes her album’s fusion of folk and electronic in addition to the use of vocal loops. It also features a charango played by the singer herself.
Rei’s voice is treated with bravery, and is the confident driving force and backbone of his work, while the instrumentation adopted by the artist is more varied; sometimes experimental.
umbrella was produced by Guadeloupe guitarist JC Maillard, a frequent collaborator of Rei.
She considers her fifth album to be, in part, an avant-garde indie with contemporary Latin influences. Rei’s music is often cited as a cross between folk and futurism – an artistic ideology that highlights the dynamics of modern technology.
Rei is not just a musician; the singer also teaches. She is a professor at the Clive Davis Institute at NYU.
The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is a program focused on providing professional and artistic training towards a BFA in recorded music.
At NYU, Rei created New perspectives in Latin music, a course focused on the rhythmic formation and stylistic properties of Latin American music. She is also the co-founder of El Colectivo Sur: an artistic collective focused on raising public awareness of South American arts.
Rei has 20 years of teaching experience and teaches masterclasses, clinics and residences. Course topics include vocal technique, rhythm, improvisation, songwriting, and melodic training. She received her Masters in Jazz Performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston.
The artist is also involved in the development of some programs for Carnegie Hall, the New York Jazz Academy and the singing and songwriting departments of Berklee College of Music.
She currently works for Berklee Global Initiatives and is a faculty member of the college’s traveling program, Berklee Latino. Rei is the co-founder of the Berklee Latin American Vive Music Festival and has taught masterclasses and seminars at institutions in the United States, France, Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.
Some of the most notable trails in the Rei (apart umbrella) include “Avec Le Temps”, “La Chongoyapana” and “La Llorona”: named after the famous Venezuelan folk tale.
Rei’s fifth album umbrella is now available and can be streamed on all major streaming platforms.