We spoke with Lin- Manuel Miranda, the creator of the music for ‘Encanto’

To Lin-Manuel Miranda He has plenty of credits: he is the genius behind the multi-award-winning Hamilton on Broadway, he is the author of the theatrical montage In the Heights – which a few months ago successfully premiered its film version – and he is the man of the music of Moana, for which he received a nomination for Oscar. Not to mention that he is a composer, lyricist, actor, singer, playwright and producer.

A New Yorker from a Puerto Rican family, Miranda’s Latino roots have been fundamental in his career; Nevertheless, Charm, Disney’s latest animated film, inspired by our country, was the perfect territory to blow them up.

“I have never heard so many vallenatos in my life,” recalls Miranda in a conversation with this newspaper. He speaks in Puerto Rican Spanish –the one that transforms the r into l– and alternates phrases and words in English and Spanish. He has been in the United States for many years, where his professional work was forged, especially in the theatrical mecca of Broadway, which has earned him several Tony and Emmy awards, but above all it has been the space to shine as one of the most beloved Latinos in the world. the entertainment industry.

(We suggest: ‘Encanto’ already sounds for an Oscar award).

His participation in Encanto was fundamental. The film, which already exceeds 2,200,000 viewers in the country and has been a global box office success (for now accumulates 118 million dollars), brought him to Colombia in 2018. His father –don Luis Miranda– also formed part of the creative team that Disney organized to land his idea on the Madrigal, a family with superpowers that lives in a little house nestled in the mountains of a magical place full of fauna, flora, music and unique customs. And that place is Colombia.

Grandma Alma, with her lit candle, in the midst of the Madrigal family.

“I don’t remember if my father was paid for the trip or we sneaked him into the group,” Lin Manuel joked at a press conference with international media in which he said that he, along with the research team, had fresh coffee. Ground, he rode a goat, toured the Cartagena walls, used quotes, appreciated the beauty of Barichara, danced to the rhythm of the drums in Palenque, saw toucans, wax palms and chigüiros, and drank brandy. He was impressed with the exuberance of this country, with its cultural, environmental, musical and gastronomic wealth … and, of course, with the kindness of its people.

Miranda He is the head of Encanto’s music department and worked hand in hand with the Texan of Mexican origin Germaine Franco, who was in charge of the incidental music. Lin-Manuel had the difficult task of condensing the musical flavor of Colombia into eight original songs that sound like vallenato, mapalé and champeta with touches of pop: The Family Madrigal, Waiting on a Miracle, Surface Pressure, We Don’t Talk About Bruno , All of You, What Else Can I Do ?, Two caterpillars, and Colombia, mi Encanto; the latter, the central theme played by the samarium Carlos Vives, who was a key piece in the process of landing those sounds.

“I was very fortunate to have worked on creating the music for Moana, it was an experience in which I learned a lot about how to tell stories through music, so I was excited to be part of Encanto from the beginning,” says Miranda. “We were under a lot of pressure to honor the legacy and do a great job. And we hope the movie resonates with audiences in the same way that other classics we grew up with resonated with us.”.

(Read also: ‘Encanto’: Disney’s declaration of love for Colombia).

-What was the most amazing thing you discovered the first time you came to Colombia, three years ago?

Let me tell you that the 73 varieties of coffee that I had in Colombia were a revelation for me. The trips to Cartagena, Bogotá, Palenque, Barichara, impressive, and every moment we listen to music. The musical diversity of Colombia is so wide and so incredible that I understood the responsibility I had when considering a superdiverse musical range and that at every moment there was an opportunity to teach that Colombian music is not just one thing, it is variety.

Charm

The film is gaining ground at the United States box office.

-Speaking of music, tell us a little about the creative process in Encanto.

You always start with the story of the film or the play, you look for the rhythm of the character, what he wants to express, how he relates to the family. In this case there are 12 main characters, which are a lot for a Disney movie, and I had to find the ideal rhythm for each one, the way they related and also how they sounded individually. I started with Mirabel, the main character, and with an accordion, because I had that image in my head of her singing with an accordion (as seen in the movie), that was incredible.

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The Family Madrigal was the first song I wrote, a challenge because with so many characters I had 3 minutes to introduce them and establish the powers that each one has: the grandmother, her children, how are they married, who is the next generation of the Madrigal family … but the song also looks at Mirabel, who she is and that feeling that she doesn’t want to talk about – the protagonist of Encanto is the only one of the Madrigal who doesn’t have a gift. It was a challenge to make a song that was a great introduction and at the same time super easy to understand, that highlighted the importance of family and how we all know and appreciate each other.

In other cases, I had a lot of collaboration in the creation and musical writers, animators, directors and artists come to play; For example, in the song Colombia, mi Encanto, which was inspired by the rhythms of Carlos Vives and my ideas after hearing a thousand vallenatos … I wrote it as one of Vives’s songs, so later, the only option I could I had was to contact him to say: “You have to sing this.” And when he recorded it, with his Colombian musicians, the song reached another level of authenticity.

-How did you condense all the cultural, rhythmic and sound information you had about Colombia into 8 songs?

The difficult thing with any project is to understand what responsibility the music has at the moment of telling the story and what responsibility the animation has, and to establish when they work together and when they go separately. There is a great song in Encanto, We Don’t Talk about Bruno – performed by Carolina Gaitán, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero and Stephanie Beatriz -, which is a bolero and is the opportunity to hear about many characters who do not they have a song of their own; Furthermore, it is a theme that has choreography as well, the characters are dancing to this song in a particular way, so that meant going a little further with animation and music, working hand in hand. I love the choreography, when they start to move their hips (laughs).

I also think of Dos oruguitas, a composition that I wanted to feel like a lullaby, one of those traditional ones that have endured over time, and it was for which I looked for a metaphor of nature to achieve the meaning we wanted. It is the only moment in which there is not a character interpreting the song, which Sebastián Yatra does beautifully, but it is a theme that is addressing one of the darkest and hardest moments of the family … the contrast that this gives song is so beautiful, because it accompanies an ugly and violent moment. It makes you feel something that goes beyond. It is the magic that you achieve after a beautiful collaboration with many artists.

-How were your work and your relationship with the composer Germaine Franco?

When I started writing the songs I knew that I wanted a Latin team for the entire creative process in the music department. I’ve known Germaine since Coco and I’ve been a huge admirer of his work, what he did there was incredible. She already knew a lot about Colombian music; in fact, many of the local instruments and musical details played throughout the film are his credit. We work with so many Colombian musicians, and this is something that I did not know, but in Encanto it is the first time that Disney has put the names of all the musicians who participated in the film. And that for us is very important because they were fundamental in achieving the authenticity of the sound.

With Germaine we work very hand in hand all the time, there are moments when you listen to what she did, and in others what I did, but they complement each other very well.

SOFÍA GÓMEZ G.
CULTURE
In Twitter: @ s0f1c1ta

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We spoke with Lin- Manuel Miranda, the creator of the music for ‘Encanto’