Biography

Katie James was born in Southern Ireland in 1985 but when she was two years old her family moved to Colombia where she grew up and lives presently.

She graduated from the INCCA University in Bogotá where she studied music with emphasis on musical arrangements.

Between 2009 and 2014 she formed part of the bands Vía Súbia and Ludens Trio with which she participated as singer, guitar player, arranger and composer.  With these bands Katie has performed at many impotant venues in Bogotá and other cities of Colombia.

In 2014 she began her solo career releasing her EP ‘Cold and Dry’, with the Colombian music producer Toño Castillo.

Katie travelled around South Amercia with Jorge Zárate in 2015 to promote her music, performing over 100 times in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

In December 2016 Katie presents her latest album ‘Respirar’.

Her music is a mixture of Colombian, Irish, Blues and Jazz elements combined in a natural and intuitive way which makes her sound unique.

 

Concerts

  • 2016 – Blues and Folk Festival – Bogotá y Cali
  • 2016 – Biblioteca Nacional – “Música con Tempo Colombiano” – Bogotá
  • 2015 – 2016 – República Sur – Cuenca Ecuador
  • 2015 – Jazz Zone – Lima Perú
  • 2015 – Centro Cultural España – Lima Perú
  • 2015 – Teatro Variedades de la Fundación Teatro Nacional Sucre – Quito Ecuador
  • 2014 – Museo Nacional – Auditorio Maria Teresa Cuervo – Bogotá
  • 2014 – Grito Fest – Bogotá
  • 2014 – Fiesta de la Música de la Alianza Francesa – Bogotá
  • 2014 – Fundación Gilberto Alzate – Peña de Mujeres – Bogotá
  • 2013 – 2014 Centro de Documentación Musical del Quindío – Armenia
  • 2013 – Bibliotecas El Tunal, La Virgilio Barco y El Tintal – Bogotá
  • 2013 – Teatro Villa Mayor – Bogotá
  • 2012 – Sala Otto de Greiff – Bogotá
  • 2012 -Teatro La Vorágine – Villavicencio
  • 2011 -La Media Torta – como ganadores del concurso Bogotá tiene Talento
  • 2011 – 2013 – Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño – Bogotá

 

Autobiography

My childhood

I was born in Ireland on a small island called Inishfree.  My mother is English and my father Irish.  But my first memories are of the mountains of Tolima in Colombia as my family moved there in 1988.  I grew up in a small Anglo-Irish commune called Atlantis, where I had an idyllic childhood far from modern civilization, without electricity, where we didn’t spend the afternoons watching television but exploring the forests, streams and caves and discovering all the magic of the land.

In the mornings we worked, – yes, the children as well, and I never experienced this as ‘child exploitation’.  It just came naturally: we worked in the garden and at the same time, this was our schooling.  It was there that we learnt about plants, seeds, sowing and organic compost, the cycles of life and to value all that the earth produces.  We learnt from the animals, seeing how they pass through the world without leaving any damage behind them.  And they were never our food… to this day I am still proudly vegetarian.

We didn’t go to school.  If we wanted to know something, we went to one of the adults and asked.  I didn’t learn to read at the age of 4 or 5.  I was more interested in swimming, riding horses or climbing trees!  I learnt to read when I was 9 years old,  but it happened so quickly I don’t even remember the process!  It was just the right moment for me because I really wanted to learn.  For others, the right age might be 6, 7 or 8.  We are all different, and one of the problems of a formal education is that it forces us all into the same ‘rhythm’.  Years later, when I went to University to study music, I then enjoyed very much learning in a disciplined way and to my surprise managed to get a grant during my whole course due to my high marks.  I say this not to boast but to show there is not just one way to success.

 

The Dark Side…

Living in Colombia has been a wonderful experience but also a very painful one.  My family was displaced from Caquetá in the year 1998 and from Tolima in the year 1999.  We had to leave everything behind, years of work and unforgettable experiences.  We had to leave our home.  Then on 9th July 2000, my nephew Tristan James was murdered along with his Colombian friend Javier Novoa because of the internal conflict in the country. This event divides my life in two, before and after, marked by a line of blood. To pass from the magic perfection of our childhoods to horror and fear is like a blow in one’s centre that leaves you winded forever.  To have to open your eyes to the darkest reality of the world, to so much injustice, to so many senseless wars,.. because wars never make sense.  I have dedicated many of my songs to Tristan and Javier and in 2003, along with my sister Louise James and my friend Laura Costello, we made the album ‘Semillas de Paz’… Seeds of Peace, in their memory.  We shared our pain with other victims of the war, we cried, we protested, we wrote and sang about it, and little by little we began to be able to smile again and to understand that although there are pains which never leave us completely, life does continue.

 

Popayán and Bogotá

And yes, life continued.  But now not with the innocence of childhood where ironically I was isolated and protected temporarily from the cruelty of the world although living in a ‘red zone’ of Tolima.  My family now moved to a farm in the Department of Huila and soon after that, my sisters and I went to live in the town of Popayán.

The ‘White City’ served as a stepping stone between the mountains and the capital of Colombia. I spent 5 very interesting and productive years there.  I fell deeply in love and this resulted in a new wave of love songs, and years later, in just as many ‘breaking up’ songs!

In Popayán I had my first classical guitar lessons in the conservatory, I learnt about recording and I joined the Chamber Choir of Popayán.  With them I travelled to Cali, Buga, and Bogotá, singing with the Symphonic Orchestra of Colombia, and to Panamá, where we also sang with the Symphonic Orchestra of that country.

I did an intensive course to prepare myself for the ICFES examinations to get the necessary qualifications to be able to go to University.  Learning physics and chemistry caused me to lose a couple of pounds…! But the important thing was I got high enough marks to obtain the magic certificate, the passport which allowed me to go where I really wanted to be.  Because of course, it wasn’t enough to have studied music since the age of 9, the fact of having sung and composed since an early age or to have recorded an album… Evidently it is necessary to study physics, chemistry and biology to be accepted in the musical course of a university!!

In 2007 I moved to Bogotá.  In the environmental sense, this was a shock to my lungs, ears, eyes and soul.  But in the academic and social sense, it was marvellous.  8 years of music, new friends, new loves, new songs and many concerts.  I went to the INCCA University and in 2012 obtained a Master’s degree in music.

With my friends Vladimir Giraldo and Tomás Pinzón, we formed a group called Vía Súbita and we recorded the album ‘Un Encuentro de Caminos’ (The Meeting of paths) in which we explored Latin American acoustic sounds with jazz.  Later I formed part of Ludens Trio with Ana María López and Jorge Zárate, stretching our musical talents to the maximum, as much in arrangements and composition as in the execution of our instruments and vocal exploration.

Alongside this project, I decided to begin my career as a soloist.  In 2014 I made an EP, ‘Cold and Dry’ with 5 of my songs, working with the musical producer, Toño Castillo.  We recorded in the Audiovisión Studios where I have spent some of the happiest hours of my life!

 

South American travels

In 2015, Jorge Zárate and I decided to travel through South America to get to know the continent better, to promote my music and to learn about the various musical styles of the South.

We left Colombia on the 16th of March 2015 with no fixed destination or itinerary, simply with the objective of getting to know South America, its people and music, and of sharing ours.  They say that journeys change your life and it is true, but only when you travel do you really realize it.  The people we met, the different types of countryside we passed through, the music we heard, learnt, recorded, composed, sang and played, have left an indelible mark on us.

We spent 3 months in Ecuador, playing in Ibarra, Cotacachi, Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Chone and Vilcabamba.  We learnt rhythms like the Albazo, the Yarví and the Ecuadorean Pasillo.  We were invited by Ayuda Directa (http/www.ayudadirecta.org/en/) (‘Direct Help’) to spend two weeks in an indigenous community called La Esperanza (‘Hope’) in the Chimborazo region where we sang for the children, taught them songs and learnt about their life style.

Then we travelled down to Peru where we stayed for 6 months.  It wasn’t in our plans to stay so long but who can bear to leave when one is made so welcome?!

Before going to the capital city, we spent two weeks in Chachapoyas, a village in the north of Peru, singing as always and enjoying the beautiful countryside.

When we got to Lima, on seeing its grey skies, the contamination, the noise and chaos that is found in all big cities, we thought to stay there a maximum of two weeks.  But our plans changed rapidly when we began to get to know the people, to taste the food, to listen to its musicians, to walk along the sea front and to enjoy how people responded to our music.

We performed in the Spanish Cultural Centre, in ‘Jazz Zone’, in the Regatta Club, the Mejía Club, the Arequipa Club and in the Mario Vargas Llosa Lecture Centre; we were invited to the TV Programme ‘Sonidos y Sabores del Mundo’ (‘Sounds and Tastes of the World’) and we did shows in many venues in Barranco, the district we fell in love with and where we lived during our whole stay in Lima

We met Susana Baca and sang her our songs.  This was magical as we have admired her and enjoyed her music for years.  We were also enchanted by the Landó and the music of Chabuca Granda.

After Lima, we went to Cuzco and Machu Picchu.  Anyone who has been there will know that it is a deep and beautiful experience, and anyone who hasn’t been there should go some day!  To see the perfection and greatness of Inca constructions left us amazed, baffled and astonished.  It is impossible not to reflect on history and humanity – how great we can be and also how destructive we are.  How the Spaniards could see such a beautiful civilization and destroy it is something I’ll never understand.

A few more concerts in the south of Peru and then it was time to say goodbye and to get to know Chile.  We went straight to Santiago and spent 6 weeks there fascinated by its cuecas and tonadas.  To witness the passion with which people sing this music which was banned during the dictatorship is very moving and exciting.  We met Claudia Mena, a great singer of Chilean folk songs, who taught us about the music and poetry of her country and the special way to accompany cuecas on the guitar and pandero.

On the journey, we did a hundred shows and we got to know a huge number of beautiful places and people who have enriched us as musicians and as human beings.
Thank you South America!

Album Respirar

Towards the end of this journey, the idea of a new album was born.  I had new songs, a lot of music and many ideas in my head.

Before going to Bogotá, I spent two months on my family’s farm in Huila composing and planning whilst I sowed seed, composted the garden, looked after the goats and cooked delicious vegetables from our organic garden.

This time I wanted to make a CD that would be completely honest, that would reflect through music who I am and the way I feel.  To do this, it was necessary for me to take on the musical production and arrangements, as well as to compose all the songs.  I had the help of Toño Castillo in the pre-production phase and afterwards I wrote the arrangements for all the musicians.  It was an arduous task which I loved!

The album was recorded and mixed at Audiovisión with Francisco ‘Kiko’ Castro and Mauricio Cano (both winners of Grammy awards).  It was a deep, wonderful, difficult and exciting experience.  21 musicians were invited to record a variety of instruments including the tiple, the bandola, the charango and the cuatro llanero, also there was a string quartet, a brass quartet, guitars, an electric bass, a double bass, drums and other percussion instruments.

The result is exactly what I wanted.  The album ‘Respirar’ (To Breathe) is a musical representation of who I am.