Elsa y Elmar – aka Elsa Carvajal - reminded us why she is so popular in her performance Friday night at the Gypset/KCRW concert at the Hotel Café. In a nine song set she danced, sang, joked, played the keyboard and guitar and in general had so much fun on stage that the audience practically smothered her in adoration.
A young singer-songwriter from Columbia, Elsa calls herself a singer of “spiritual pop”. I am not sure what that genre is, but if the Hotel Café performance and her 2013 debut album Sentirnos Bien is any indication, she is a standout in the crowded field of female pop singer/songwriters in any language. Her arrangements are addictive, blending hooks and verses with laughs and sparkle. Her lyrics are just plain fun – and sometimes inside jokes. Her stage presence is a breath of fresh innocence that radiates “happy”, which is what everyone in the audience was.
Elsa gave us nine songs, punctuated by conversations, funny faces, a plea for marriage equality, and some fancy dancing across the stage. Most songs were from the EP and included her hit single “Exploradora”, a video now on her YouTube Channel with over 23,000 views.
The 21-year old artist began her set with “Decir Que No” from the Sentirnos Bien album and followed it with “No, No, No”, tantalizing us with lines like Porque no hay motivos para ver el mundo al revez /Y no no no as she built the melody and she swayed behind the keyboard. “El Final” follows, asking “Dime qué es lo que siento/Si está bien o mal/Si estoy llena de miedo, and lightheartedly answering the question by getting the crowd to sing with her, Pero yo te quiero tanto, tanto, which they joyfully did.
Appearing in a little black dress with a short black cape and bright brown and white saddle oxfords (nice touch!) she was both whimsical and serious as she launched into her hit single “Exploradora” to cheers from the crowd. For those who had not heard it -- and even those who knew it – Elsa’s “Exploradora” live from the stage is thrilling experience. She put her all into it and we felt every ounce of her energy. This is Elsa y Elmar’s singular talent and why she is standout – she can deliver intensity with joy…she is pure, unadulterated musical fun delivered by a magical angel who touches you with her sparkling wand, inviting you to the dance.
Very short video shot at the Hotel Cafe. She says that love is a wonderful thing and you should be able to marry whomever you want. Incomplete, but shows her beautiful boice nd beautiful heart.
She followed with “Me Viene Bien”, also from the Sentirnos Bien album, and “Animales” and “Ropa Loca” before letting us quiet down just a little and then launching into “Immadura , a Latin love song with twists and turns and fun and questions. She ended the set with “Que Horas Son?”, reportedly the product of flying internationally and landing not quite knowing what time it was. But regardless of the time zone, the audience knew the song and sang with her Qué horas son, mi Corazon?/Quisiera despertar y entre tu cama encontrar/La pista que nos faltó.
Although Elsa is currently based in San Francisco, Gypset Magazine’s decision to introduce her live to a large LA audience at the Hotel Café was unerringly strategic. Elsa y Elmar followed the very popular Brazilian cellist singer/songwriter Dom la Nena, introduced to this country by the nation’s top importer of international music, Six Degrees Records. This gave her a standing room only crowd primed and ready to rock. The combination of KCRW’s sponsorship of Dom la Nena and Gypset’s introduction of Elsa y Elmar to LA created an unforgettable night of surprises, dancing, songs and just plain fun. I hope to see many such strategic musical collaborations, and I hope to see a lot more of Elsa.