During the dark and silent nights following the merciless Hurricane María, Alexa Rivera sat down at her piano chair and played. Studying music and playing the piano has been part of her life since childhood.
She comes from a family line of artist players and performers of música jíbara, the Puerto Rican counterpart of American bluegrass and folk music; immersion in folk music and rigorous musical discipline, lovingly imposed on her, did her right. When she was most alone, and the island of Puerto Rico was most alone, the piano did not forsake her. Something about the way time stretched and the sounds of the land echoed compelled her. Out in the streets, she felt an unspoken language of brotherhood, and in the still of the night, HIHEAL was born. It is where Alexa delivers as composer, lyricist, vocalist, and player.
The calm after the storm hung heavy in Puerto Rico, and artists suffered tremendously. There was no work and little connectivity for most everyone. And there, where quiet reigned, Alexa journeyed and visualized a musical healing cycle anchored in the image of a tree with roots, trunk, branches, and lush foliage. The musical compositions Over Me and Under Me frame HIHEAL. The musical story moves clockwise with the melodic tune and lyrics of Jíbaro Anciano (Ancient Folk), the heartbeat of this album, dedicated to her grandfather. She writes down jíbaro anciano in the one o’clock position in the picture of the tree describing the musical journey of HIHEAL. Her grandfather represents her first memory of how she learned to love Puerto Rico, her homeland.
Alexa offers three reasonings about the project’s title. A play on words with the word “hi,” as in a greeting, and inspired by the word “high,” as in altitude. The word “heal” represents recovery. HIHEAL is about healing from a place above the practical world, a space of few words, a space for sound. HIHEAL also references the high heel of a woman’s shoe. Her femininity is cradling her creativity. She is so beautiful her looks may belie her talent and her deep sound. Deep cannot be faked; it is either a part of you or it is not. And Alexa has it. That spark that ignites when she is high in her musings. With her, nothing is gratuitous. There is always a backstory, and the backstory has a backstory, and she feeds them and integrates those mind and heart occurrences into her present sound.
Though very much a musician, Alexa is also a poet and a young weaver of dreams. Her commitment to music is pinned to universal notions of the battle of the self between darkness and light. She has given herself utterly to that notion and has broken free from thinking she has no voice, from feeling trapped within her expressive turf, and has proven yet again that no amount of modern life can substitute for the purity of the piano.
There’s a tune titled If You Want To, and another, Asymmetric, and Here and Now, and Kiss Your Nightmares. Alexa plays horror with love. Her live piano concerto to me ended with Over Me. Her musicality crystallizes maturity, exuding strength from the core melody as she stretched its sounds with her damper's touch.
HIHEAL is the musical creation of Puerto Rican pianist and composer ALEXA RIVERA.
HIHEAL was born in the aftermath of one of the most destructive natural disasters that has faced the island of Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria. The apocalyptic devastation that took place, plus the struggle of living without basic commodities like electricity, water, and food rationing for three months, fueled ALEXA's creative essence, taking her to a very vulnerable and contemplative place.
Hurricane Maria meant the destruction of everything that was conceived as secure, inmutable. The only thing that remained was her inner world, where she found strength to create this work, a tool to make peace with her deepest fears.
The music that came through is powerful, dark, deep and raw, with a hint of analog synths, modern electro-latin beats and "jíbaro" textures. HIHEAL is on a space uniquely its own as it is heavily influenced on rock, funk, atmospheric and electronic music, but rooted in Puerto Rican musical heritage at the same time. Therefore, HIHEAL music is deliberately out of genre.
ALEXA is joined by drummer TONY ESCAPA and bassist BRYAN PEREZ.
ALEXA RIVERA is a pianist, composer and producer born and raised in Aguada, Puerto Rico. Her musical awakening began at an early age. Being the daughter of a professional musician, Alexa was naturally exposed to all kinds of music, especially Puerto Rican folkloric music.
She began piano lessons at the age of four and continued her education in classical piano in the Puerto Rico Music Conservatory. During that period, Alexa discovered her passion for improvisation finding in jazz the freedom to express herself. In 2014 she graduated from the Piano Jazz Performance program at Puerto Rico Music Conservatory, institution where she later joined the faculty as piano teacher.
Alexa has performed internationally with artists of diverse music genres such as ‘urban’ artist Tego Calderon, singer-songwriter Draco Rosa, singer iLe and currently rock band Vivanativa. In 2016, Alexa won a Grammy recognition for her participation as pianist in the album “iLevitable” by iLe.
At the moment she continues her work as freelance pianist for various artists, collaborates as co-producer in other projects, and develops her latest creation, HIHEAL.