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Elizabeth 'Mimi' Ibarra


Elizabeth "Mimi" Ibarra


Nestor Louis

About a month a go I had the pleasure of interviewing, one of today's hottest salsa songwriter's.  Elizabeth "Mimi" Ibarra, a young lady from Colombia that has been writing hit songs for some of salsa's biggest names.  They include: Oscar D' Leon, Tito Rojas, Tito Gomez, Anthony Cruz, Orch. Puerto Rican Power and many others.  As a result, today Mimi Ibarra is going for a different type of success - Success as a vocalist.  Here I introduce to you Mimi Ibarra.

NL - Lets begin with the obvious, How did you begin your career? What motivated you to become a songwriter and now a vocalist?

MI - Well, ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of entering the music world as a vocalist.  However, destiny already had other plans for me.  One of them was to become the songwriter that I am now.  I imagine this happened to me, in order to knock open doors for my career.   This fact helped me reach the public that now listens to me as a singer.  This desire began on a regular night like any other.  Inbeded in my mind was a melody and a lyric that I'd never heard before.  From that point on, I got started on what seemed to be a mere curiosity.  At first, I took it as a hobby, and later it became a vehicle to express my inner thoughts and emotions.

I never thought that there was a songwriter within me, much less a songwriter of the caliber that the public and media claim I am.  It's thanks to them that I've been able to become a songwriter at an international level.  I'm not going to say that success is exclusively a product of my efforts, or therefore mines only.  Success also belongs to the hard work of a great ensemble of musicians, brought together by Julio "Gunda" Merced and MP records.

NL - How does Mimi Ibarra write her first song?

MI - It was something kinda funny, I was sleeping and without any type of warning, I got the inspiration to write a song.  Back then when it happened, I used to share the room with my sister.   She used to sleep next to a tape recorder loaded with a cassette containing all her favorite songs.   Judging that it was really late that night, I had no other choice but to record over my sister's cassette.  So you can imagine what took place the next morning!

NL - Ouch! Ouch!! Ouch!!! I am surprised that you're alive.  I would've killed my brother a long time ago.

MI - It went something like that.

NL - Who recorded your first song?

MI - Mi first song was recorded by Millie, Jocelyn Y Los Vecinos and later it was recorded by a Colombian band named El Grupo Contraste.

NL - When you submit songs to the artists, who decides how your songs are recorded? I mean do you decide what the melody and tempo is going to be like? How much control do you have over your songs?

MI - Well things now are very different for me! But at the beginning, rarely did anyone listened to me.  You know the usual "she is a new songwriter", "she has no experience", "she is young", "she is a woman", etcetera, etcetera.  But I don't blame them because to some degree they (the producers) were right.  The Public is very demanding, and for that reason we as performers have to submit items of the highest quality to them.  Music of high quality.  Lyrics of high quality.

Thanks to my husband Edgar, many of my early songs and tapes were heard by many artists.   Perhaps, many of the artists accepted my tapes just to be polite and avoid having to tell him no.  Or maybe because they were curious enough to listen, but not confident enough to find something worth while.  Thank God that some of them did.

Now, the artists call me.  I customize my songs to any given artist depending on their style, and the kind of work they've done in the past.

NL - Do you write original and exclusive songs for the artist first, or do you write to please yourself first?

MI - I first write to please myself, then I shape my work to reflect the style and persona of the artist.   I write for Tito Rojas, Tito Gomez, Anthony Cruz, Primi Cruz, Son De Azucar and many other artists whose work I know.  I love working with artists that I know, because for most of the time they know how demanding I am with my songs and my work.  As a songwriter I have to be very demanding because, I like to write hit songs and that's not easy.  Furthermore, out of respect to the public I demand the same quality of work from myself and from the artists.

NL - I know exactly what you mean.  I do my best to put out quality work everytime I write a piece.  I don't want any of them to resemble another one, and I notice that about you; your songs are written independently from each other, take for example Oscar D'Leon.  I never thought that you were the one who wrote his monster hit "Mentiras".

MI - Well you see what I mean.  You probabbly didn't expect that from me because, you are used to listening to my material from a romantic perspective.  One thing is to sing a song in a mellow mood, and another is to sing it with a distinct demeanor.  In this case, could you imagine Oscar singing "Mentiras", they way he sang "Que Se Sienta".  As if he is trying to seduce a woman or something like that.  I don't think it would've worked. However, being the aggressive performer that Oscar D'Leon is, his delivery of "Mentiras" was perfect and it was exactly what I envisioned for that song.  Like I said before, I write according to the artists.  Every artist is different.

NL - Right now there are about 5 to 6 songwriters that are well known in the salsa industry.  Among others we have Omar Alfanno, Gustavo Marquez, Manny Benito, Jorge L. Piloto and Mimi Ibarra.  What is Mimi Ibarra's trademark? What is the recurring theme in your songs?

MI - I emphasize on emotions, matters of the heart.  Feelings are an instrumental part to all my songs.  This is because I work with a very diverse group of people from all over the world.  I want my songs to be understood in every corner of the Spanish speaking world.   My goal is not to confuse the listener with complicated idioms.  I write and sing songs of love, feelings, and everything that's aimed to the heart.

NL - Mimi, you have a new recording out on the market.  Matter of fact it's your debut album as a singer, and in it you submit 8 compositions of your own penmanship.  Tell me which one is your favorite?

MI - I like all of them, however there's a song that I identify with a lot.  And from experience I know that many other people do too.  The song is "Que Tiene Ella".  Oh forget it!!! Women love it, and amazingly enough men like the song too.  I've analyzed the situation, and it seems that women have either: A) gone through something like that.  B) Currently going through something like that.  Or C) Will go through something like that.  Men on the other hand, like the song because for some reason, they feel exposed.  I think is an ego thing...Relax I am kidding it's only a song!!!

NL - Mimi you are terrible! But all kidding aside, I want to thank you for spending your time with me.  I thank you and I hope that this repeats itself.

MI - Well Nestor thank you and the beautiful people that read your web site for giving me the opportunity to reach the rest of the world.  And bear in mind that salsa came to Mimi Ibarra to stay.  Thank you.

1995 - 99 Nestor A. Louis

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