March is Women’s History month, and we here at the CMN blog are writing a series of three Throwback Thursday posts on influential women in music history. Suni Paz is a former Magic Penny Award recipient and has been working as a poet and songwriter for nearly 50 years.
Suni Paz was born in Argentina to a family of poets and artists. Her childhood was filled with song and she began playing the guitar and participating in Peñas by the age of 12. Peñas are community gatherings held in public spaces, often restaurants, where musicians and community members play, sing, and dance. Peñas became especially popular in Latin America after World War II and were integral to the revival of Latin folk music in the 1950s. The emphasis on community, cultural celebration and social messages that came out of the Peñas and later, the Nueva Canción movement had a profound and lasting impact on Suni. She calls her own music “music with a conscience,” or música con conciencia, and uses it in part to awaken the social awareness she feels each individual carries within.
By the mid-1960’s Suni was living and working in the United States, performing at schools, teaching music, and designing musical curriculums. She also devoted much of her time to social activism; she sang in support of the United Farm Workers movement and worked to highlight the themes of dignity and freedom for Latina women, as well as amnesty for Latin American political prisoners, and the importance of education for Latino children in the United states. Her album with Smithsonian Folkways for children, “Alerta Sings and Songs for the Playground/ Canciones Para el Recreo” was released in 2000. One song in particular on that album, Los Vecinos (the neighbors), captures in many ways the themes that have shaped her musical career.
Lyrics, music and an mp3 are available for this song in CMN’s Peace Resources