A young musician from Ilkeston released her new single this week, inspired by lessons in love from a feminist icon.
Cici Lara, known by day as Lucia Lara Reyes Woodward, took inspiration from the stormy romantic relationship of Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera when writing Flower Fountain.
She said: “I was reading Frida Kahlo’s journals while I was working on the track. She was an amazing woman, and she lived such an interesting life.”
Prime Minister Theresa May surprised many people in 2017 when wearing a bracelet with Kahlo’s face on it, given that the artist was a defiant communist — prompting some commentators to wonder whether her revolutionary spirit was in danger of being watered down.
The single is being released this week to coincide with the opening of a major exhibition, Making Her Self Up, focusing on Kahlo’s life and work at the V&A in London —the ultimate seal of establishment approval.
Lucia, 23, said: “I went to the exhibition last week, and it mainly focused on the fashion side. It’s the first time some of her clothes have been shown outside of Mexico.
“It’s one of those things where she has become better known, but maybe people don’t know the whole story. I don’t want to jump on a bandwagon, but something about it seems to fit with where we are now.
“Her relationship really intrigued me. Kahlo was a proud, independent woman but she was obsessed with this man and the relationship lasted her whole life. There were unfaithful moments on both parts, it caused them both pain, but they made it work.
“Women are becoming more independent, and I felt like this story showed how you can belong to yourself and follow your own dreams even while a part of you is with someone else.”
She added: “I didn’t set out to write the song about that, the message was never there until the end. A lot of the time I start out knowing what I want to get across, but this time it just happened.”
The fierce, creative, indpendent streak is a common theme running Lucia’s formative years as a musician.
Born in Spain, her mum returned to her roots in Larklands when Lucia was five. She began to find her voice with some assistance from Ilkeston Enterprise Academy.
Lucia said: “They gave free music tuition to students on free school meals. To begin with it was fun, then it became about finding where you belong, and a way to speak your mind without anyone disrupting it.”
That artistic connection carried Lucia to New College Nottingham, first steps into the city’s jazz and hip-hop scenes, and then on to a degree at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London completed this summer.
She said: “I’ve just spent three years working out where I wanted to go, and how I wanted to present my music. I’ve been writing, collaborating with other musicians and producers, experimenting and finding this mellow, alternative R&B sound influenced by people like Banks, Solange and Sevdaliza.
“This track was produced by Andrew Hockey, and the actual recording was done quickly but it took us six months of sending ideas back and forth to finish it.”
The track has already aired on BBC radio playlists, and Lucia says there is plenty more to come.
She said: “I haven’t done a lot of gigs, but hopefully this next year will change that. I love the performance side. Then I have an EP I want to make.”
She added: “I don’t know where I’ll be living yet, I might be back in Ilkeston and I don’t think I’ve ever performed there.”