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Xenia Rubinos: bold, soul-powered songwriting

September 29, 2017

Ann Basu
MULTICULTURAL CREATIVITY: Singer and songwriter Xenia Rubinos performed songs from her recent album, “Black Terry Cat” at Ladd House on Saturday.

In an industry where the word “unique” is so overused that it starts to lose its meaning, Xenia Rubinos’ music is refreshingly bold and authentic. An up-and-coming singer and composer, Rubinos recently released her album “Black Terry Cat.” Brought to campus by WBOR, she performed a sampling of her music at Ladd House this past Saturday.

Rubinos emphasizes the creative capacity of individual experiences and self-expression. Her work documents an ongoing exchange between her state of mind and the exterior world. She describes her style as soulful, with a lot of energy and love.

“I’m just trying to figure my shit out, so I’m just sharing my personal experience, things I’m working out,” said Rubinos. “[My music is] about love, and sex, and passion. I think the general message of my music is just me giving you things that I’ve imagined using my imagination, and sharing some soul power.”

Many aspects of Rubinos’ composition process are also marked by poignant issues such as race, gender and social justice.

“In this last record, I was observing some stuff around me, some social issues, like the invisible workforce that is mostly people of color that keep our cities running, image issues, [and] how I feel being a person of color in this country right now,” she said.

Ann Basu

The powerful message and unusual style of Rubinos’s music seized the attention of WBOR. Danny Banks ’19, concert director of WBOR, explained that he wished to bring Rubinos’ distinct perspective to campus.

“It was a pretty easy decision,” Banks said. “We thought that Bowdoin could really enjoy what she has to put out there—it’s pretty unique.”

Hailey Beaman ’18, co-manager of WBOR, added how important it is that Rubinos addresses a diverse audience with her music.

“[Her music has] really amazing social commentary, like social themes that seem at once very universal but also so personal”, said Beaman. “It’s really cool to have an artist who’s willing to share that with an audience, with us here.”

Rubinos, who cultivates her creativity with a strong sense of culture and heritage, draws inspirations from a variety of genres and themes.

“My dad taught me a lot about classical music just by listening to it. Ravel and Prokofiev are composers I really am inspired by,” she said.

Other inspirations include Nai Palm of the band Hiatus Kaiyote, Erykah Badu, Sly & the Family Stone, “Las Muñequitos de Matanzas” and Kendrick Lamar.

Bowdoin students in attendance responded strongly to the richness of Rubinos’s music. Octavio Castro ’19 employed the term “transculturation.”

“She combines American culture with Latin culture, and made music that speaks [to] both worlds,” Castro said, barely able to contain his excitement. “I think in some ways she speaks to the Latin-American culture, people who have roots to Latin America but also have grown up in the United States.”

“She pulls things from different cultures and different genres of music and pulls it all together in this amazing, beautiful way,” he added.

Though very proud of her heritage, Rubinos acknowledged that sometimes people can impose judgements and limitations due to her background.

“I think what could be limiting is when people throw stereotypes on you, they assume things about you because of your ethnicity or the way that you look, or your gender or your sexuality,” she said.

“Just you being you is a good thing,” she added.

Rubinos’ music is constantly evolving. She attributes a formative period of her development as a music-writer to the looping pedal, which gave Rubinos an emotional outlet and means to directly share her music. Now, she seeks to challenge herself.

“I’m always trying to confront things that I’m afraid of and get better at the things I think I suck at,” said Rubinos. “You know, I think as I move forward and continue to make music, I’ll just always be searching and trying to be better, and trying to understand more, and trying to clarify my own vision and trying to do things that I think are exciting.”

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