Musician Lara Manzanares brings local focus to Amazon Aid benefit

By Tamra Testerman
Posted 10/16/19

Northern New Mexico musician Lara Manzanares is headlining a benefit dinner and dance for the Amazon Aid Foundation Friday (Oct. 18) from 7-9 p.m. at Old Martina's Hall, 4140 State …

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Musician Lara Manzanares brings local focus to Amazon Aid benefit


Northern New Mexico musician Lara Manzanares is headlining a benefit dinner and dance for the Amazon Aid Foundation Friday (Oct. 18) from 7-9 p.m. at Old Martina's Hall, 4140 State Road 68 in Ranchos de Taos.

"I grew up outdoors," Manzanares said about the subject of her benefit. "Every year it seems like things are changing. It is scary what's happening to the natural cycles. The Amazon is in the news now because of the fires, but trouble has been brewing for a long time that caused the changes we are feeling now. I've never seen or touched the Amazon rain forest, but it touches me every day in ways I don't even realize. Anything we can do to help stop the destruction is good."

Manzanares, who hails from Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, was asked about her upbringing in a small town, how it influenced her music, what makes good songwriting and what to expect from her concert. Here is what she said.

How does where you grew up inform your music?

I think the rootedness, the spaciousness and the mixture of cultures I grew up in informed the development of my internal rhythm. There's something about Northern New Mexico that invites us to be attuned to the surrounding space, and to reach down deep. The earth talks here in a way that I have found nowhere else I've been, except maybe southern Spain.

Tierra Amarilla, my hometown, is tiny and beautiful. As a kid life felt very full, even though others may describe it as isolated. We only picked up one channel on our TV, and maybe three or four radio stations. I spent most of my time outside of school and sports in the outdoors, either working or playing on the ranch with my family, riding horses and corralling the sheep or just exploring and daydreaming.

What makes a song that stands the test of time?

Simplicity and depth of feeling, transitions that make sense and happen at the right times. If there are lyrics, they should tell a story that's relatable or evoke a feeling, even if it's one you can't identify. "I Will Survive" is a great example. The lyrics tell a story that is very relatable and direct. Meanwhile, the arrangement digs in at the right moments and soars when it's time to soar. Also, it's nuanced enough that goes deeper than a jingle. You get engaged in the song because there is room for you to place yourself into the narrative and make it your own.

How do you know when a song is working (or not)?

Every song is different. I just go by feel. If the song continues to be interesting to me as I play it over time and my delivery settles in and ripens in a way that I can feel taking root, then it's working. When a song starts to bore me or feels like it's not coming from a place of truth, it's not ready or it needs to be put on a shelf for a while and maybe repurposed at a later date.

If you could play a gig with any musician past or present, who would they be?

I would play with my great-grandpa, Eleuterio Martínez. He and his brothers played the dances in Tierra Amarilla and up into southern Colorado. One of my earliest memories is of him playing "La Varsoviana" on the piano at my grandma's house, and my grandma taking my little hands and showing me the steps to dance to it. By the time I was old enough to have a conversation with him, we had already lost him to Alzheimer's disease.

What can our readers expect from your concert?

Hmm, that's a good question. There will be a certain degree of "expect the unexpected." But there will be familiarity. We'll be going on a danceable storytelling journey across space and time. I'll be joined by Jefferson Voorhees on drums and Terry Bluhm on bass. Throughout the storytelling journey, we'll be playing a mixture of my music and the New Mexico music that I grew up with. There will be cumbia, two-step, New Mexico polka, maybe a valse or two and a few other rhythms with roots that go further afield.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm excited to be playing in Taos! Every time I've played in or around town, I leave at the end of the gig with warm fuzzies in my tummy and a guitar case full of inspiration. Taos is full of great, caring, conscious, soulful people of many cultures. It marches to the beat of its own drum, and it's a rhythm I like.

Tickets are $50 per person and $90 per couple. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with music by guitarist Omar Rane. Tickets are available at the venue. Thirty percent of proceeds from the evening will benefit Amazon Aid Foundation, an organization that "educates and activates global citizens to protect the Amazon through art, science, multimedia and film. Their vision is to preserve the Amazon rain forest for the health of the planet and for future generations to enjoy," according to an announcement. For information about their mission and projects, visit


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