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Meet Maria Luisa Ruiz aka BUHA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Luisa Ruiz aka BUHA.

Hi Maria Luisa Ruiz, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Born in Medellín, Colombia, I grew up in a country house in the outskirts of the city, where I was free to roam and pick fruits from the trees–my favorite fruit was a small yellow, sweet and sour fruit called Nispero–and I’d collect pink flowers and seeds, dig up and observe worms in the vegetable garden and play hours on end with our two dogs, couple of bunnies and geese. When I was six, we — my mother, father, sister and I– moved to Miami where I grew up and went to a small private school, Annunciation Catholic School, and later attended Archbishop McCarthy High School before moving back to Colombia when I turned sixteen. I was pretty outgoing, part of the Church choir, played point guard on the middle school basketball team and did Cross Country and Track very decidedly throughout High School, and was Student body President in eighth grade. The arts were a part of my very private life, as I’d get home and film myself singing and strumming the guitar or reciting monologues and fantasize with being able to share this part of myself with the outer world.

As a young child living in the countryside one of my favorite forms of entertainment was making up my own songs and rhymes and to perform them to my dad who’d film me on his vintage video recorder; I was thrilled to rewatch myself on the little screen. I remember singing especially about little flowers and nature, making reference to my environment, of course. I was shy, however, in school and was terrified of singing on stage for school performances. My voice would get squeaky thin and even more childish, which would later be a huge milestone to overcome as I began to show deeper interest in performing. It was as if I loved it so much that I couldn’t bear the thought of being judged for it, in a very perfectionist and timid sense; being timid probably stems from high levels of insecurity of self or of such a high level of awareness of every occurrence that you think every detail of your being is becoming expanded and exposed for the world to see. I was deeply sensitive, perceptive, spiritual and seeking answers from a young age, interested in religion, literature and poetry. I’d compose my own lines and begin to keep stacks of diaries where I’d write songs in Spanish and English, mostly out of rhythm and horribly cliche, but feeling every bit of emotion in my gut. I began taking singing lessons at the Hollywood Academy of Arts, and every month I’d get to record whichever song we’d be working on and it was such a blast to hear myself in a studio. I was astounded and then totally hooked. My dad, who’s played a major role in my artistic development and opportunities, met a musician on a plane named Daniel Zapata, who brought us to Iker, a recognized Latin producer, who recommended a teacher producer, Claudio Corsi, who for the first time made my original songs come to life.

Our classes consisted of creating a song, practicing it and eventually recording it. I was absolutely thrilled. But being such a timid perfectionist at fourteen, I never released any of the ten songs on YouTube or any platform. I was waiting. Simultaneously, I had attended the talent search AMCT convention and got over twenty callbacks for acting and modeling, which I later attended in LA, eventually signing with World of Kids Agency and booking a Disney Commercial and others. However, my parents decided I couldn’t stay in LA and had to go back to Miami and eventually back to Colombia, where I couldn’t seem to settle. After deciding to finish High School in a private picturesque Boarding School in Rhode Island called Portsmouth Abbey, and before going to Emerson College in the spring for Film, a true breakthrough happened in my music career, again through my dad’s chance meetings. That summer and fall term, I’d be working on the set of The City of Dead Men before flying out to Boston for college. My guitar had gotten its neck bent during my travels and so my dad assured me he’d find the best person to fix it. He carefully found a place in Laureles, a neighborhood in Medellin, where he brought my guitar. It was there that he coincidentally met a young Producer named Pablo Uribe who had a recording studio, Ultrasonido Estudio, with his partner Andres Alzate.

It turns out that my dad made the perfect connection for me, as I was exploring country-pop music at the time, inspired by Taylor Swift, and Pablo was a country music fanatic and virtuous guitarist. He’d been producing and shaping artists like Piso 21 and Pasabordo, up and coming latin-pop boy bands. He was excited to work with a country-inspired artist, and I was more than excited to make my first set of professional songs. That fateful summer, I entered the world of professional music-making through Pablo Uribe. It turns out, as we explored song references the first few sessions that we were in total sync with our taste in music. The first time we played Tracy Chapman in his crisp studio speakers, I got goosebumps down my spine and arms and legs and wanted to cry profusely. God, what a true feeling. We explored Alanis Morrissette, Fito Paez, his all-time favorite artist, Christina y Los Subterraneos, Lenny Kravitz, The Cranberries, Counting Crows, Joaquin Sabina and Brad Paisley, amongst other geniuses. This was definitely an all-time high for me, totally emerged in our sessions and wishing to be back in there whenever it was time to go. The first song we composed together, Love is Gone, was born in a mere half an hour, inspired by Pablo’s subtle arpeggio on the guitar, with a soft melancholic tone. It just clicked. Then we got a bit more country folk with Wild Ride, inspired by Brad Paisley. We had the best musicians from Medellin come in and record on my EP. I was in awe of Pablo’s ability to make things sound good, just how I wanted, crisp and sentimental and he worked immensely fast and precisely.

More than a music connection, we developed a strong bond during our work together, like soulmates. I recognized him, perhaps from other lives, and had a strong sense we were destined to meet and create many things together. After completing a total of five songs, endless sessions in Laureles, and finishing up production on the set of The City of Dead Men, it was time for me to go to Boston, reluctantly, during one of the harshest winters to date, 2014. I had a boyfriend back home in Colombia and felt totally attached, unable to truly settle in Emerson, feeling homesick and cold. I also missed making music and being in the fascinating world of music production. I had a deep calling to return home, so after one semester, I left Emerson and enrolled in Psychology at EAFIT University in Medellin. These would be my golden years. I made the best group of friends, got to explore the science of the psyche, the philosophy of the mind and ended up breaking up with the boyfriend who brought me back home. I guess his purpose was served. Eventually, I reconnected with Pablo Uribe and we inevitably became entangled in a very emotionally profound relationship. My pseudonym at the time was Luisa Brooke, a name referencing my own name but adding a country touch, also referencing water, a stream of consciousness, a free-flowing brooke. I was lucky to team up with Contento Films to make beautiful music videos for my first couple of songs, Love is Gone and Wild Ride, as Luisa Brooke and eventually went on to create more music videos with the help of Paula Corchuelo on the lense and Camilo Agudelo as my firsthand editor, as he still is. Pablo and I kept making music as our relationship grew and we eventually decided to create a group together called Mr. and Mrs. Cactus, an alternative hip minimalist style of acoustic and electronic music, we released our first single, Synchronized and got it remixed by Turkish producer and DJ Ilkay Sencan, bringing it to the ears of Europe and abroad. It was then that I decided to conclude my exploration under Luisa Brooke and that BUHA was conceived out of sheer curiosity and creative expression. BUHA became my ally into the Latin urban pop genre in an attempt to say something different, alternative, edgy and empowering for women and the ambiguous person, portraying an androgenous character with cheek short jet black hair and gender neutral attire.

In Latin American culture, this is odd for women, as we are more expected to have long luscious hair, fitted clothing and perfect feminine qualities. I wanted to defy this stereotype and released my first single, produced by Uribe, Imparable (Unstoppable), depicting the style I previously mentioned in its music video by Camilo Agudelo filmed in the downtown, “El Centro” of Medellin. The message was one of unity in being different, finding our own cluster of “aliens” on earth, connecting with our inner power, unstoppable attitude and personality. Later came Date una Razón (Give Yourself a Reason) and Si te Soy Sincera (If I’m Being Honest), anthems to female empowerment to be free to be, free to not be, to love oneself and one’s beauty. During this time, something extremely difficult and heartbreaking occurred. My world slowly shattered to pieces and caved in a box of darkness, fear and uncertainty. In December of 2017, Pablo began acting strange, depressed, his body acting weak and weird and I knew something was off. He was soon diagnosed with Cancer. I had been set to move to LA in the new year, but these news left me aghast, frozen, devastated and confused. I decided to stay in Colombia with him. He had several surgeries and laser treatments as well as chemotherapy and a permanent daily pill which functioned through his epidermis system, making his skin break out in deep rashes, paper dry, blistered and his tissues and muscles slowly losing function and strength. The laser brain surgery also left him basically unable to use the left side of his body, slowing down his daily activities and suspending his ability to play the guitar, his one true love. My heart was wrinkled up and shriveled. Pablo, who was a lightning bolt of energy, known as one of the most talented guitarists in Colombia and rising producer, had just had his entire world come crashing down, reduced to the confines of his mind and a life outside of the scene of music.

For a while, he didn’t want to hear of music, nor from anyone in the industry, and shut down in his apartment with me and his closest friends and our two dogs, Jack and Nube. He gave up his two cats for adoption and resigned from ongoing productions, including work for La Voz Colombia. But it wasn’t just his music that came to a halt. Mr. and Mrs. Cactus came to a close, and Buha took a sudden halt after the strong impulse it had begun with. I didn’t know where to turn, what to do, but my internal instincts kept me sort of in the loop, still trying to promote my music and began writing and recorded Let’s Fall and I Am The Sun with our best friend, Santiago Quevedo, as we hung out daily in the mountainous village of Santa Elena, writing, reading, composing and being with Pablo. It was a strenuous year, where I felt lost and frustrated about the meaning of life and my purpose in it. I doubted making music my career after Pablo retired. My entire journey had begun through him, he’d been my guide, my synchronized partner who helped me navigate the ropes, my creative music soulmate. It hurt so bad to continue, somehow, the music journey without him. The next year, I ventured between Los Angeles and Medellin, as I was securing my residency in the United States and continuing my college studies, halfheartedly, still somewhat keeping up with my music journey, though most of the time it just hurt so badly that I wanted to give it all up. Pablo began to slowly reenter the studio, however, and make music for a couple of artists, which was a sign of hope for a while.

However, we did not make any more music together, apart from a cover of my favorite song, Landslide, by Stevie Nicks, which I have yet to release. I was in LA, studying and returning to my acoustic roots working on a new production, Full Circle, with producer Alvaro Cadavid when Covid struck and prevented me from going back to Colombia to visit Pablo. It was an arduous time, where I intended to focus on making art and at the same time felt compelled to study about illness and the unresolved emotional conflicts behind it. Between investigating these matters and learning about the spiritual side of existence through constant sessions with a knowledgeable Chaman, Felipe Zapata, who dedicates his life to bringing awareness and consciousness to as many people as he can reach, I also decided along with my dad to get a team of entertainment lawyers, Destra Abogados, to organize my music business. Through their extensive connections, I was able to spark the interest of some big names in the industry and was invited to participate in creating urban music with big Colombian producers, such as Zenzei and Chain. However, I wasn’t able to travel due to Covid and had to postpone the invitation. My head and heart were mostly focused on getting to Pablo, as I hadn’t seen him in months and it was my prime concern and priority to accompany him and spend as much time as possible together, even if it was full of reflective silence. Our conversations began to decrease and he seemed distant and on a different note. I felt impotence not being able to travel.

In April, I missed his thirty-sixth birthday, which would be his last. Pablo died on October twenty-ninth, 2020, marking the end of our five years long journey of love, adventure, and music. Currently, I’m standing on a cliff of emotions, guilt, loneliness, loss, confusion, but also a profound sense of synchronicity — a term coined by Swiss Psychologist, Carl Jung, describing apparently coincidental events, which contain significant meaning, in the external world and that don’t have any apparent cause. Somehow, Pablo’s legacy has guided me to music and also brought me to understand deeper questions of what I am and what I’m meant to do. I feel that he’s still guiding me from the other side, giving me the strength to carry on and continue the journey which he initiated for me. I believe he will forever be my mentor in music and in life, especially as I decide to jump off the cliff into a diverse scheme of opportunities through my upcoming urban songs, which will launch next year, 2021. I carry a deep well of sadness still, thinking of Pablo and the recollection of our beautiful and meaningful and ever crazy and fun, sage moments together, thinking of his life and the grand lessons he leaves many of us to ponder about, however, day by day I understand that he completed his mission on earth and that I was lucky to intertwine in his journey and make a part of his plan; he has gone on to complete other missions elsewhere, and I am left to continue what he helped me start: a legacy of music and self-expression.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
What I’ve constantly struggled with throughout this road is deciphering if it is the right road. It’s been a constant pull between pursuing music and going the route of therapy and helping others spiritually and mentally, which is another big passion of mine. I’m currently getting certified in Biodecoding with the Spanish Institute of Ángeles Wolder. Believing in myself, my talent and ability to create music has been a struggle, especially here in LA where there is so much talent and drive all around. You start to question yourself. But following the signals that the universe sends me, I think doing music and releasing it to the world is still in my plans. It’s been mostly a road of self-discovery, realizing who I am and what makes me tick, and of love, lots and lots of love. In the end, that’s what we take with us.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’d like to think that what sets my music apart is its message of strength and independence and being like, “who cares what they think”, and also a very diverse human sense to it, like “I’m lost and confused and broken and that’s okay”. Every life path is okay because we all play different roles in order to show contrast and polarity and so that we get to experience it all throughout our lifetimes. I am focusing a lot on writing, writing songs with melodies that sound cool or pull at my heartstrings is what I love. Someone starts playing a nice guitar progression and I’ve got the melody and words right away. That’s probably the most exciting part for me. I hope to be able to integrate reggaeton, which is the genre I’m getting into now, with English pop and trap. It’s going to be really sweet musically and expanding, hopefully. I hope to bring a message of love, consciousness and unity, without losing the sexy beat and rhythm.

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
I’m currently reading “Voyages into the Unknown”, which personally explores the Afterlife, and it’s helped me with my process of loss. Because I know Pablo is on another journey and mission in other planes of existence. I use audible a lot to listen to audiobooks while I fall asleep, one good book is “Who Moved the Cheese?” about the intelligent way of thinking for business and “Only Love is Real” where soulmates and past life regressions are discussed through Dr. Brian Weiss, a psychiatrist. I use Google Calendar to schedule my life and Google Docs to document my life, everyday, as well as to write song lyrics with others simultaneously. I use Lightroom to edit pictures for social media, you can follow me on Instagram @iambuha and YouTube Buha Official. I love Vue and Spark to make videos since I love documenting almost everything. I’m a sucker for memories and remembering it all! Live, write, remember, awaken.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Misael Belt, David Mart, Diego Alzate

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