Shorter, younger looking, a little more serious. More suspicious of their interlocutor than one would expect. This is what Paula Ribó (Barcelona, 33 years old) looks like on short distances. “You journalists are not great friends of mine. I don't feel much love for you. “You’re the one who gave me the most trouble,” he’ll admit a while later. It will thus confirm a fear that she explains with her past disappointments, with months of distorted headlines and prejudices about her that led, among other things, to her giving up the front last year after being overly exposed to the light of success Ay Mama, Hymn to the indelible power of a naked breast.
The singer, who hides behind the pseudonym Rigoberta Bandini, is putting an end to a year of stage and media fasting. It's her first interview in months, after a year in which she says she has dedicated herself to the task of putting things in order. What exactly did he do? “Composing a lot. Read. Meet my friends. Take care of my son. Cook spaghetti. Take care of me. I do a lot of sports. Lots of dancing. Yoga. “It was a very cool year,” he said at a meeting in the Plaza Reial in his city at the beginning of December. The bad thing is that it's already over. “What a bastard.” It comes from his soul. He's already said he doesn't like us very much.
At first glance, no one would recognize her. She wears dark glasses and is dressed completely inconspicuously. She carries Laura Fernández's latest book in her bag and Caroline Polachek in her headphones, like any other Barcelonan, as she devours a portion of patatas bravas with aioli. She sits at a table at Ocaña, the bar in Plaza Reial named after the legendary painter, performer and activist of the Seventies and Eighties who for a decade has tried to enliven the city's crowded old town through concerts and drag performances. “Rigoberta Bandini was born in this very place,” reveals Ribó. “I had my first performance here four years ago.” Shortly before, he had already performed a show with a double of together with friends like Adri, Edu and Esteban-Navarro from the duo Venga Monjas, whom Paula would marry in June 2023 in immaculate white Kim Kardashian directed. He lived around the corner, in a Barcelona that tried to remain a villain. “It was only two years, but the most important ones for me and this project.”
The singer, photographed at the Café Bar Ocaña restaurant in Barcelona.CañamerasAdrià Cañameras
All around, the Gothic Quarter continues to change. The iconic Sidecar space, active since 1982, is preparing to close in just a few days; will give way to a cocktail bar. A place called Expat Café has opened around the corner. It smells like freshly thawed paella. Ribó lived in these streets, which smell of English vomit and German urine at night, in her late twenties, until she was three months pregnant and then went into exile on the border between Gràcia and Sant Gervasi, a wealthier neighborhood where she realizes, who is a bit bored. “But my family is close to me, and Esteban’s too, and when you have a child, that counts for a lot.”
His temporary withdrawal was due to domestic political reasons. “I did it for my son and myself. The pace of the tour was very hectic and in keeping with his upbringing. I fell into a laziness that I didn’t like,” admits Ribó. “Suddenly my vision blurred and everything lost its meaning. “I told myself I had to quit because I felt like burnout was imminent.” In the statement, he said he wanted to “cease existing.” “Maybe I was a little tense,” she smiles. “But I had to establish a chronology and mark the end of a stage. I'm very honest about that. In any case, I always knew that I would come back.” In the last few weeks she has released two songs: a song with Julieta Venegas, Qué más da, an ode to the slight heartbreak forged in the Mexican woman's Madrid apartment; and another with Pipiolas, a young group from the Elefant Records label. In the meantime, he is working on his second album, still without a release date, but which, as he announces, will have “somewhat different colors”. “I joined in, I think it will be a long album, I have about 45 songs, although only a few have been produced. My way of composing hasn't changed, but I want to play with my voice and not always sing in the same way.” He won't say anything more.
Previously, he won his first Goya for “I Only Want Love,” the song he composed for the film “I'm Love You Madly.” “I have always seen the Goyas on television and I find it very exciting to be there,” says Ribó, who will meet directors with whom she would like to work in the cinema: her friend Elena Martín, nominated for Creatura, and the Javis , to whom they suggested a small role in the series The Messiah, which he ultimately couldn't take. If she agreed with the director Alejandro Marín, it was because she felt connected to his story. “The story of the banner in the Giralda gave me goosebumps.” It refers to the action carried out in 1978 by the homosexual movement of the Revolutionary Action, founded by young Sevillians of humble origins to seek amnesty for those those imprisoned for crimes related to the Social Dangerousness Law in the late Franco era. Posing as tourists, they climbed the old minaret of the Seville Mosque, which was converted into a bell tower in the 16th century, to display a pink banner reading “Sexual Freedom.”
Rigoberta Bandini says that if she had started earlier she would have a mental disorder “like a cathedral”. “They don’t make it easy for women to be mentally healthy.” Adrià Cañameras
— Do you feel compassion for the suffering of LGTBI people?
—The group supported me from day one. Most of my friends are gay. Despite all the progress, people my age have still experienced terrible things. On another level, I also had to overcome barriers. I come from an environment that did not raise me in sexual freedom. I went to a nuns' school where they taught me many things, but not that. I couldn't be who I wanted to be, you know? My parents always supported me, but I felt like I wasn't what they expected of me. When I started studying theater, I discovered that life was much more exciting than I had been told.
Paula Ribó was a strange girl who got along better with her grandmother, a somewhat mystical painter with whom she spent summers on the Maresme coast (and to whom she dedicates “Ay Mama” every time she sings it) than with those their age. . “I created my cave, started composing songs at the age of eight and have been dedicated to dubbing since I was a child. Creativity was a way out. Without music, maybe I would have come out differently.” As a teenager, he felt that his taste in music had nothing to do with anyone else's. “I was a fan of Serrat, the Nova Cançó. She was a fucking music geek. My friends played “Green Day” for me and I didn’t understand what they were seeing. I mean, have you heard Silvio Rodríguez? Have you heard Pablo Milanés? Do you know what it means to be a poet?”
Because of this assimilable eccentricity, it was surprising that he reached the top of Spanish pop until he almost lost his head. No regrets. “Or maybe yes: that you weren't aware of what it meant to be so exposed to everything beyond the music,” she says. “Maybe I had to say no to more things. I'm naive and natural about it, jumping at every headline without giving it much thought. That's what I suffered the most from. If I could go back, there were interviews I wouldn't have accepted. That's why I stopped. It was a way of saying, “I'm leaving, don't touch my balls anymore.” Now I'm going to say no to everything.
—Was there any danger that your character would overshadow the musical part?
—If you let it, it can happen to you.
– And you left?
-A little bit. I think so, I guess. I don't know.
“I have lived in rent all my life, just like my parents. They wanted to classify me as noble for four reasons.” Pictured in Plaza Reial.Adrià Cañameras
Rigoberta always wanted to be mainstream and not a confidential product for snobs, although she quotes modern icons such as Paolo Sorrentino and Virginie Despentes in her lyrics. Although there was no intent in it (or so he swears), his mission was to make commercial pop by breaking his taboos. He talked about sex in bed, among other things, while others continued to recall afternoons in the doorway. She introduced feminist reflections, monologues about motherhood and references to drug use. Verses in three different languages. Belt in the purest Mónica Naranjo style, only in an ironic key. Metaphysical tirades. Paula Ribó suffered, and now that was poetry. Until, from one day to the next, it went from the playlists of some AFA mothers who were afraid of gentrification to prime time on all Spanish television channels. Rigoberta Bandini was the perfect soundtrack for a post-pandemic country that wanted to celebrate but could not deny the melancholic residue of what had been experienced.
He changed the lyrics of Ay Mama, the first version of which, “much more punk”, he had written at the age of 23, in order to be able to play it on TVE. And he signed a song for a beer commercial, even though the song could easily appear on his only album to date, La emperatriz. There was also anger and strangeness in his melodies, which were understandable to the masses. “I was very inspired by the universe of playwrights that I admire most, such as Rodrigo García, with whom I trained in Montpellier, Pablo Gisbert or Angélica Liddell. “I wanted to write something very honest, almost bloodless, but dress it up in pop,” he admits. “What interests me about an artist is how bad he is.”
Benidorm Fest 2022 was the confrontation of two music industries, that of reggaeton and trap (which, if there is a problem, is not a monetary problem) and that of a sophisticated pop that dared to talk about menstruation and quote Delacroix. With no surprises, the first won. Ribó accepted the defeat sportily. Chanel, the winner, daughter of Cuban immigrants in Olesa de Montserrat, promised the girl from the upper part of Barcelona a calçotada: the reconciliation of two Catalonias that were no longer opposites, if they ever were. In parallel, he donated a song to the Ministry of Equality and starred in an exchange of compliments with Pedro Sánchez on social media: “I put myself in this political space and it doesn't bother me to say it. But I won't say anything else.
—Which of all the controversies was the worst?
– Maybe the accusations of transphobia [por la letra de Ay mamá y su referencia a las mujeres “que sangran”]. I have to admit that it shocked me because it was so far-fetched. And more generally, it bothered me to be reduced to a stereotype that didn't understand that we are all contradictory and complex. I can say that I believe in God and then show a breast on stage.
—Do you think the mix of religion and sexuality has been misunderstood, as has your defense of Catholicism from the left?
“I went into this garden alone, but I think it's good that there is this voice.” The figure of God or the spiritual has been taken over by the right. What the hell… What you mean by God should be left wing because it is more related to a different perspective on life. Since I come from a conservative and highly religious background, I wanted to plant bombs in these places. Debris explodes in my face and it hurts, but I don't regret it. It will be difficult for me to change this because I believe in it very much.
In two of his latest songs, Miami Beach and Qué más da, he quotes Britney Spears. Were you afraid of ending up like them and being rejected by the industry that promoted them? “Being the broken toy of the music industry would be complicated because I already feel like a lady,” she replies with a laugh. “But if I had started a little younger, maybe yes. When I go into a showroom I can't even fit a damn size of the big brands. I gave birth, I'm 33 years old and a little retarded from everything, but if I was 23 I would end up with a TCA [trastorno relacionado con la autopercepción y la distorsión de la imagen corporal] like a cathedral. They don’t make it easy for us to stay mentally healthy.”
When he announced his temporary resignation, he said he needed to “hit the ground running.” “Coaching tools say that the state of your home matches that of your head. “I'm terribly messy, but I tried hard.” What does your home look like now? “Pretty good, although there is still the typical dark area. I haven't done any major renovations since I live as a renter. I've lived as a renter all my life and I like it. And now that it's regulated, they can't afford it for me anymore.” The answer is at odds with the noble image she portrayed herself when she went on stage in the uniform of her nuns' school. “My parents have lived in rented accommodation all their lives. They tried to put me in a box because of four details. But I understand, I do that with other people too.” She remembers that her parents often told her as a child that she was “the shit”. He says that was one of the keys to his success. Wouldn't it have followed the same course if self-esteem was lower in childhood? “I do not believe that. This is something I try to take into account when educating my son. We have to control him so that a tyrant doesn't emerge who doesn't believe he's from this world, but we also have to make him feel like he's unique, that he's here to tell us something important.” Finally it wasn't so bad for her.
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