Building Bridges, Transcending Borders: An Interview with Gaby Moreno

March 31, 2023
Tagged as:
Gaby Moreno sits on a rock surface holding her knee to her chest. A half moon is on the rockface beside her.
Photo Credit: Alejandra Barragán

UNICEF ambassador to Guatemala and Soka Arts, Music & Food festival headliner, Gaby Moreno, who today released the first single from her upcoming album, a duet with fellow Guatemalan, Oscar Isaac, spoke to SUA about her music, the importance of giving back, and her performance at SUA on May 6.

Screengrab of Oscar Isaac and Gaby Moreno playing guitar and singing on stage during the filming of the music video for the song "Luna de Xelajú"

What do you enjoy most about playing live?

I love the thrill and rush of adrenaline I get from being on stage performing in front of an audience and feeding off their energy. It’s an opportunity for me to connect with people on a more personal level and to see firsthand how my music affects them.

How did you get started working with UNICEF? What does giving back to your home country of Guatemala mean to you?

I was named the first goodwill ambassador from UNICEF Guatemala in early 2020. It’s been wonderful to be a part of their ongoing work for children’s rights. It’s something that’s close to my heart and I feel very grateful that through my platform and artistry, I can give back and share a little bit of the enormous work they do. One of my favorite collaborations with them is an album I produced of children’s music sung by kids. This music, which is educational and all about having fun while learning different things, was distributed to different schools in rural villages. That’s one example of how we’ve collaborated.

Do you see your music as playing a role in breaking down barriers between people?

I’d like to think so, especially being a bilingual Latin artist. Music is a universal language that has the power to bring people together, regardless of where they come from. It can transcend borders, unite communities, and create more understanding and empathy. I love the fact that the music I do can somehow promote a cultural exchange and build bridges between different kinds of people.

The mission of Soka University is to foster a steady stream of global citizens committed to living contributive lives. We have a lot of students and alumni who want to pursue careers in the arts. What advice would you give someone who is trying to figure out balancing the pursuit of their passions with doing good in the world?

It can be a challenging task, but it is possible to achieve both if you approach it in the right way. My advice would be to take some time to reflect on what matters most to you. What are your core values, beliefs, and principles? This will help you understand what drives you and what you want to achieve in the world. Another piece of advice would be to choose a cause that aligns with your interests and passions.

What artists have most inspired you, and in what ways?

I’m mostly inspired by strong female artists. Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mavis Staples, Chavela Vargas, Lydia Mendoza, and Édith Piaf, to name a few. Their way of playing, singing, writing, and living a song is something that shakes me to my core. I know I wouldn’t be the artist I am without them.

How would you encourage other artists to use their successful artistic careers to give back to communities in need?

I would ask them to find a cause that they are passionate about and that goes with their values. This could be anything from supporting arts education in underprivileged communities to using their platform to raise awareness about social issues. Artists have a unique platform to reach a wide audience. It can be used to raise awareness about whatever issues or causes we are passionate about. We can do this through our art, social media, or by partnering with organizations that support these causes.