I answered my phone one morning and the voice on the other end radiated through the line with something so warm and familiar it felt like I was chatting with a family member after far too long. Gloria Estefan offers a flourish of energy coupled with genuine compassion that goes beyond her music and her career.
With 14 solo albums under the Cuban-American singer’s belt, 14 compilation albums, four EPs, 11 full-length albums with her band the Miami Sound Machine (led by Estefan and Emilio Estefan Jr.), and a number of other special edition remix EP’s and compilation albums, Estefan recognizes that her music is unwavering. But, her music is only as powerful as she is. Estefan released her 14th album, Brazil305, this August, after nearly three years of postponement in order to ensure she was in the right headspace to create, and the world was ready to receive.
In May of 2017, Estefan returned home to Miami after recording the music for Brazil305 with Brazilian musicians and arrangers. It was time for the singer to record her voice for the album’s 18 songs. “I had played the music for my mom and sung it to her in her house so she would know how it was going to be. And then my mom got sick. We spent 33 days in the hospital and she passed away,” Estefan says, lowering her voice. “Three months after that, I tried to go back in and do my job and I couldn’t. I couldn’t sing.” After over a year of grieving, Estefan returned to the studio with the joy she intended to be spread through Brazil305. “Music finds its way,” she decides, adding that she had asked Sony to be patient with her after her mother’s death, as well as the outbreak of COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd.
On June 12, the day before the third anniversary of Estefan’s mother’s death, Estefan released the single “Cuando Hay Amor” off of Brazil305. “I chose this song purposely for its message of joy and love. I thought we needed some balance. We have lived in so much fear, sadness, and uncertainty. I wanted to at least do my job to entertain and let people forget a little bit while they dance in their kitchens.” Brazil305 is Estefan’s first bilingual album and features reimagined versions of her hits such as “Congo” becoming “Samba” as well as four new songs.
The juxtaposition between Estefan’s dance floor bangers on Brazil305 and the world’s current climate is not lost on the superstar. For Estefan, she sees the emotional toll the pandemic has had on her friends and family every day, but also manages to finds the silver lining. Estefan tells me she has seen such growth within her family over the past few months of being quarantined that it has truly been a blessing in disguise. “My son and his family have had to face so much fear. My grandson literally told my son, his dad, that he didn’t want to die. Before they stopped school, the kids were hearing all sorts of things and they didn’t know what was going on. It is scary. I have seen him mature so much over these months.”
Estefan says she is so grateful for FaceTime, Zoom, and Virtual Reality to maintain her relationships. She uses Virtual Reality to stay connected with her grandson, and has subsequently earned the nickname, “VR Grandma.” Her pre-quarantine monthly girl’s night with her 12 best friends from high school (The Dirty Dozen) has become a weekly event during quarantine. “We have really cemented our relationships even more during all of this,” she says, adding, “I miss being able to hug my kids, though. Thank god for my furry family.”
With Brazil305 out now with 18 songs to keep spirits high, Estefan says she is prepared to be patient and abide by the correct health and safety measures, but she is eager to return to the stage and perform once it is safe. “After all of this–it will be a huge celebration. The parties are going to be epic after this!”