10 Feb 2024

Review: Madres by Sofia Kourtesis

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 10 February 2024
Sofia Kourtesis

Photo: Bandcamp

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To those immersed in the dance music scene, Peruvian producer Sofia Kourtesis is a rapidly rising star. And it turns out her debut album is entwined by several narratives concerning its creation and its creator. But for those unaware of this baggage, it remains an immediately infectious, celebratory collection of club tunes.

A series of well-received singles and EPs gained Kourtesis acclaim from the likes of The New York Times and MixMag, and invitations to play Glastonbury and Primavera festivals. It’s easy to see why, her jubilant songs announcing themselves as a cut above their contemporaries.

That would be enough, and albums don’t need a story behind them, but hers has one. It’s called Madres, meaning ‘mother’. The euphoria of its title track gains resonance when you learn that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and Kourtesis, having read about renowned neurosurgeon Peter Vajkoczy, reached out to him publicly on social media. He agreed to operate on Kourtesis’s mum’s, and her life was considerably extended. 

As per the musician’s public promise, a track on this album bears Vajkoczy’s name.

Others, like ‘Si Te Portas Bonito’, deal with dance music staples like love and physical intimacy, but here too, the significance is deeper than you might guess, with some context coming in the album’s liner notes: Kourtesis left Peru after being forced into conversion therapy for her queerness, eventually relocating to Berlin.

She sings on several tracks, including ‘Estación Esperanza’, another entry with layers of meaning. It starts with a chant from a Peruvian protest against homophobia, then adds a hook from French/ Spanish singer Manu Chao, echoing it with her own voice. The song's title translates literally to ‘Hope Season’.

A big part of Madres appeal is its mix of German rhythm with Latin American samples. Or, as Kourtesis puts it, “my heart is very Latin American, but my motor is German".

Her songs burst with joy: there’s literally one called ‘How Music Makes You Feel Better’, serving as proof of concept. Madres is full of its creators voice; disarmingly personal, and a lot of fun.