Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, GABRIELA MARTINA was no stranger to urban settings before moving to Boston MA, USA. But she spent her childhood in a bucolic idyll, amidst a family dairy farm surrounded by orchards. The third of four children in a tight-knit working class family, she grew up in a highly musical environment. At the age of five, she discovered her passion for singing while yodeling with her family’s traditional Swiss group.
Realizing her calling to perform, she studied music in high school, and spent one year in London at the Vocaltech Music School. Drawn to African-American music, she spent several years studying at the Jazzschool in Lucerne, all the while saving money to come study in the United States. In the meantime she became a ubiquitous presence on the Swiss scene, performing with an array of bands (including Talking Loud, Soulvirus, and the pop-rock group PinkBliss), the electro/urban trio Aromat, an a cappella duo Not2help, and her own jazz duo with pianist Luzia von Wyl. She never gave up on her ambition to study jazz at its source.
Thriving during her two years at Berklee College of Music, she had the opportunity to perform and collaborate with heavyweights like Meshell Ndegeocello, Jack DeJohnette, and Angelique Kidjo. She recorded with veteran drummer J.R. Robinson and performed at 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival with guitarist Lee Ritenour’s band as a semi-finalist in the Shure Voice Competition.