When she goes up the stage, the singer and actor, Helena Bagué, becomes Jana d’El Pot Petit, one of the most popular bands of the new children’s cançó, or, better, family cançó in Catalonia and in Catalan. Helena and Siddartha Vargas, better known as Pau to both his small and big followers, are the voices and founders of El Pot Petit, a band that celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. After three albums and hundreds of concerts, which are increasingly crowded, El Pot Petit and their musicians, the Melmelada Band, have re-recorded some of their hits with new arrangements for a record that U98 Music will release this month, while their commemorative show for their 10th anniversary continues to fill theatres and auditoriums everywhere.
Let’s start with definitions: sing for children or for the whole family?
We are strongly advocating for the concept of ’family’ because we like our concerts and shows to be an experience to enjoy as a family and, therefore, we are addressing both children and adult audiences. We always try to offer something extra, which can catch adults’ interest. And we do the same with the songs: the lyrics are suitable for boys and girls, but in terms of music, composition, arrangements, we want to do something of high quality that can also please adults. That’s what makes it for families.
In Catalonia, there is a great tradition of children’s or family songs. How do you connect with this tradition?
I remember going to see Àngel Daban as a little girl, we had their cassettes in the car and we constantly listened to their songs, and the same with many other singers, such as Jordi Tonietti, Xesco Boix... We have grown up with this, we have always listened to a lot of music and we lived the phenomenon of children’s entertainment, and we have been left with many things from this legacy.
How did you meet Siddartha, with whom you share both the artistic and educational side?
In fact with Siddartha, we met on a course for free-time monitors. We have always been very closely linked to the world of leisure and children, and we also studied teaching. I have never done it because I started studying to become an actress and a singer, but Siddartha did work in some schools. And yes, I suppose that this project was born from the combination of the educational and artistic parts.
In addition, you are both from Empordà, your villages are very close.
Yes, I am from Castelló d’Empúries and Siddartha is from Pau.
Sometimes you adapt traditional songs, but most of your repertoire is made up of your own songs.
We always look for ways to connect with children, they can empathise with the stories and the characters in our songs. We found that a good way to do it is through animals, which always catch their attention, and even more, personifying these animals: if instead of Pere, it’s the lion who is shy, it’s more attractive for children, because a lion is already an animal that draws their attention and even more so if that strong animal, who is the king of the jungle, is shy. We are working with many things about emotions here. And we try to do this in all of our songs.
Many of your songs transmit values, such as the love for grandparents, interculturality, and the importance of playing as a training tool. The educational intention is clear.
Yes, but we did not want to do it in a too specific way, with slogans of the type: to play you have to do this or that. In our songs, the message is there, but it is not explicitly mentioned, the whole story takes you there. That is why we believe that our songs are educational and provide values, without telling people what to do.
With a growing offer of shows for children, what do you think you bring as new or what makes you different?
I think we make fresh music, and we like to play different styles of music, because children also be able to educate their ears. Also, I think we make a difference through our stage setting, to which we give great importance: we have puppets and a whole series of characters, beginning with Pau and Jana, who live in this magical pot called El Pot Petit. This allows us to play with many stories and our concerts are dramatised and have a central theme. We even tackle hiphop; Pau is a great break dance dancer.
You work with various formats. Tell us more about the Melmelada Band.
The project has been growing and we have also adapted a bit to what’s needed. We began with the two of us, Siddartha and I, with mostly popular songs and introducing our own songs in the repertoire, and then we realised we could grow. Hence the Melmelada Band came along and now has eight musicians performing for local annual festivals and concerts in general. But for our 10-year anniversary show, we’ll have 13 musicians on stage.
What about your 10th anniversary tour?
We have chosen 10 locations throughout Catalonia, so that everyone can see us somewhere. It is a very unique show, because for the first time you can see what’s inside the little pot on the stage: one of the things that children have asked us over these past 10 years. We’ll show them a bit of this magical world, because discovering this imaginary world is complicated: what one can imagine is always more beautiful than reality.
In the new album you are giving life to already-known songs from your repertoire
We have renewed them all, in a surprising way. We are super pleased, because it has a very special sound and the arrangements of Dani López are very elaborate, but the songs will be easily recognised and I believe that our fans will like them.