“Suni’s gifted voice and exquisite performance reaches all, from young children to adults,”
- Alma Flor Ada
Suni Paz was one of the first artists to bring the nueva canción tradition—the “new song” music of the 1960s and 1970s—to North American audiences. For more than half of a century, her work as an American songwriter and performer of Latin American folk music has resonated as a cultural force, engaging people of all backgrounds and ages on stage, radio and television all over the world.
Born with the name Elsa Calandrelli Solá, she was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by a family with Italian and Catalonian roots, all lovers of music and art. By her teens, she was already singing, writing and playing guitar. Her skills were honed at peñas folklóricas—spirited social and dance gatherings. Atahualpa Yupanqui, an Argentinian legend, championed the music of indigenous people and fueled her passion for música con conciencia or “music with a conscience.”
When she came to California in 1965, she chose the stage name, “Suni Paz", which means “everlasting peace” in the Quechua language of the Andes. After achieving her masters, she wrote a curriculum for teaching Latin American culture through songs, stories, and dances, and began performing in schools. She sang at United Farm Workers Union rallies and was heard in 1980 on the first broadcasts of Radio Bilingüe. She performed at folk music concerts both nationally and internationally. In 1973, she recorded her first album, Brotando Del Silencio/Breaking Out of the Silence, on Paredón Records, accompanied by her son, Ramiro Fauve. Twenty-two albums followed, including 11 on Smithsonian Folkways. Since 1976, she recorded and performed with cellist Martha Siegel, and recently with Elizabeth Mitchell and Lisa S. Garrison.
Paz’s instruments include the Spanish guitar, the Andean charango, the Columbian caja, the Argentinian bombo legüero, Caribbean guiro, and maracas. She has recorded more than 500 songs and performed alongside American icons such as Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, Don McClean and Phil Ochs, gracing the stage at The Bottom Line, Lincoln Center and Madison Square Garden (El Grupo).
Her passion for music was passed to her sons Juan and Ramiro. Juan Cruz Fernandez is an accomplished keyboard player and singer/songwriter. He has produced and performed on many of Suni's songs. Ramiro Fauve is a noted artist/musician who has produced many of Suni's recordings, including Bandera Mia for Folkways, joining Suni on vocal harmonies, playing guitar, mandolin, charango, percussion, bass and keyboards. He has co-written dozens of songs with Suni and performed with her on stage since the age of seven on percussion and vocals. He recently released his own third record, a double album of folk/rock/country music titled, Where Rivers Cross, Vols. 1 & 2, on Oct. 6, of 2020. Both sons strive to carry on the folk tradition in their own work.
A 1985 project to create a Spanish-language reading curriculum led to decades of collaboration with renowned authors Alma Flor Ada and Francisca Isabel Campoy (Del Sol Books). “Suni’s gifted voice and exquisite performance reaches all, from young children to adults,” wrote Ada. “Her life has been a determined commitment to support the development of a positive identity in all Latino youth.”
A lifetime of storytelling finally gave way to authoring her award-winning book, Destellos y Sombras (Sparkles and Shadows) in 2007, a collection of autobiographical short stories.
Suni also enjoys expression doing voice-overs, and applying her literary background through translations and song adaptations from English (or French, Italian and Portuguese) into Spanish for radio, television, and advertising.
Recognition & Awards
Parents Choice Award, 2002
Services to LEP students, SUNY, Division of Bilingual Education, 1990
National Culture Through the Arts Award, N.Y. State Association of Foreign Language Teachers, 1987
Center for International Education, Fulbright, ATLAS, Tinker Foundation, 1985
ASCAP Songwriter Award, annually, since 1985
National Federation of Local Cable TV Programmers, Madison, Wisconsin, 1979
Phi-Sigma-Iota Award, Foreign Languages, 1977