Alisa Amador. Photo by Sasha Pedro via Spoleto Festival USA.

Alisa Amador’s voice feels welcoming and warm as she sings about not fitting into society in her Spanish track “Milonaga Accidental” – especially as she hits falsettos with a smile, guitar in hand. 

Amador builds a community wherever she goes through music that transcends language and genres. She plans to continue that tradition in Charleston on June 7 at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard.

The past year has been a whirlwind for the singer-songwriter after winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest with her Spanish track “Milonga Accidental.” The Boston native has been traveling and playing music on her first tour in the United Kingdom and Europe, and now she is making a stop at the Spoleto Festival USA stage.

If you are not familiar with Amador’s music, it’s a little bit of everything, according to the singer.

“My music is whatever happens when Latin folk and pop and singer-songwriter and jazz and electric guitar all meet, question mark,” said Amador. “I guess I put the question mark there because I want there to always be space for whatever the music will be.”

Her music  often incorporates themes of storytelling and finding strength and vulnerability, she said. Amador grew up with Latin folk music—which covers everything from Afro-Cuban to nueva cancion and political anthems—and studied jazz and funk while in college. She considers herself an inter-genre artist who does not fit  neatly into any boxes. 

“So, what came about is this realization that my music doesn’t fit into one genre or even one nationality or one culture, because I don’t fit into one genre, nationality or culture,” Amador said. “The more that I embrace that reality, the more I’m noticing that maybe everyone doesn’t fit into one genre, nationality or culture.”

She produces and performs in English and Spanish. At Spoleto Festival USA, Amador plans to translate a few of the Spanish songs in her discography throughout her set and share personal stories, like one about  her grandmother suggesting she’d become a model.

Amador will bring Latino representation to the Spoleto stage. The band she’s performing with on June 7 is all Latina women.

“I feel just very honored and humbled to be an artist and Latina artist who’s being uplifted and to be talking about what I’m talking about through my music,” she said. “I’m always thinking about all of that, as I move through the world. I want to bring as many people along with me as I can.”

She encourages audience members to have a good cry during vulnerable ballads and bust out their dancing skills during funk-inspired songs like “Timing.”  She can often be found sporting a giant grin and interacting with her band, playing with the keys on the piano or dancing with a guitarist.

“I’m a person who lives across a whole range of emotions, and so my music reflects that,” she said. “There’s everything from rocking out to feeling the feels in one show.”

Regardless of whether she’s singing in English or Spanish, the messages in Amador’s lyrics resonate with anyone. Her performances will take you on an emotional journey filled with tears and laughs, as she recounts the stories behind songs—one was inspired by her senior dissertation—and shares jokes. 

“Come to the show with an open heart and an open mind. Or basically come to the show however you are, and I think you’ll feel better afterwards,” she said.

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:  9 p.m. June 7, College of Charleston Cistern Yard.  Tickets are $58.

Tanio Ortiz is an arts journalism graduate student from Syracuse University.

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