WICKED LOCAL.com – Peru isn’t known for producing rock guitarists, but that didn’t deter Anika Mladineo from following her passion.
Encouraged by her family to dedicate herself to what makes her happy, Mladineo started taking acoustic guitar lessons at age 11, got her first electric guitar — a Gibson SG she named “Scarlett” for her favorite character on the television show, “Nashville” — at 12, and joined her first band, Frozen Hell, at 14.
“As a kid, I would always take a stand for rock music, compared to my friends who were much more interested in music that was played at parties,” she said.
Mladineo’s talent and drive would land her at Berklee College of Music, where she met other female guitarists like Brazil’s Daniela Cabraitz (who would become her roommate), Soraya Rafat, Sheryl Bailey, Latin Grammy Award Winner Berta Rojas and Millisa Henderson.
Coming to the U.S. as a student was “definitely exciting,” said Mladineo, now 23 and living in Cambridge.
“Studying at Berklee was a dream of mine, and I was very hyped to get started and work with some fantastic musicians,” she said.
Upon graduating in 2022, Mladineo remained with the college as coordinator for the Guitar Department. She’s also in a band, Walhalla, which has gigs throughout Greater Boston, and has performed at Anime Boston, the largest pop culture convention in the Northeast.
“This journey has not been easy; however, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Mladineo said.
Inspired by Orianthi’s work for Michael Jackson
Born in Peru’s capital city, Lima, Mladineo became interested in guitar as a child after seeing Orianthi, an Australian who played a major role alongside Michael Jackson in 2009 for his “This Is It” concert series (later canceled after his fatal overdose).
“What made me actually pick it up and start learning to play was when I fell in love with Joe Perry’s guitar lines after listening to the Aerosmith album, ‘Big Ones,’” Mladineo said. “The Nintendo game, ‘Guitar Hero Aerosmith’ also had a huge influence.”
No one in her family is musical, she said, although her father’s taste in music — Aerosmith, AC/DC, Journey and his favorite band, INXS, had a big impact on her.
As a teen she became interested in Metallica and Iron Maiden, as well as some Peruvian rock bands such as Rio, Libido, Pedro Suarez Vertiz and Mar de Copas.
Mladineo wasn’t aware of any female rock guitarists while growing up. But she felt “like a rock star” during her time in Frozen Hell, she said, as she had dreamed of being in a band and performing live.
“We used to get together at my place and play tunes by Guns N’ Roses, Slash and Myles Kennedy, Metallica, and Foo Fighters,” Mladineo said. “We got the chance to perform in some venues around the city of Lima and at some school events.”
In high school, Mladineo was part of another band, Blackbird, in which she was cast in the role of leader due to her knowledge of booking rehearsals and performances. The band performed in pubs in and around Lima, playing mostly Latin rock.
“In addition, we included some popular songs that would move the crowds, such as ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go,’ ‘Cake by the Ocean’ and ‘Seven Nation Army.’”
Band members went their separate ways after Mladineo graduated from high school and wanted to focus on her own growth.
Mladineo decided that studying abroad improved opportunities
Mladineo received an Excellent in Music award upon graduation from high school and, realizing education opportunities are limited for Peruvian musicians, she aspired to study abroad.
“In countries like Peru, I feel that genres like Latin can be very successful, but for classic rock or instrumental rock it can be a little harder,” she said.
She auditioned for Berklee in 2018 and was accepted.
“Now that I am much more involved in the music field, I know about some other female Peruvian guitarists who are outstanding and who I would love to work with at some point in my career,” she said.
During the pandemic, Mladineo found it heartbreaking to go remote for classes, as she could not play in ensembles with her teachers.
She returned home to Lima in 2020 and reconnected with her Peruvian roots. She also continued with her online semesters.
In countries like Peru, I feel that genres like Latin can be very successful, but for classic rock or instrumental rock it can be a little harder.~ Anika Mladineo
“That was when I started teaching private instructions remotely, as I wanted to stay productive and become stronger in the field of music education,” she said, adding she earned a minor in private studio teaching.
What became popular for musicians at the time was posting videos on Instagram — either a solo performance or a collaboration. Mladineo was featured in “Instajam,” a collaboration of Latin American guitarists organized by Peruvian Charlie Parra del Riego in which everyone had to write a solo and send it to him to post in the video.
“I had the honor of participating in it and meeting several guitar players from around the world,” Mladineo said.
She also passed time during the pandemic producing virtual music videos with her new international connections before returning to Berklee in 2021.
Berklee’s Voice Department hired her as a guitar accompanist, where she did college-produced shows.
She was also retained as guitarist for pop recording artist Jessica Woodlee. Working with her has definitely been one of the highlights of Mladineo’s career.
“Jess is such a professional and a good friend of mine.”
They have performed together at venues throughout Boston, with Mladineo appearing on some of Woodlee’s recorded songs.
“We had a mini-tour in New York in which we performed at Heaven Can Wait and Rockwood Music Hall,” Mladineo said. “This tour has definitely been one of my favorite experiences as a musician, and I am looking forward to continuing to play for Jess.”
They will return to the road this fall and tour the Northeast.
REMY, Walhalla and future solo projects
Mladineo has also performed as guitarist for REMY, an up-and-coming rock band fronted by Remy Roskin. She describes Roskin as an “amazing person and musician.”
“We have performed in several areas of Massachusetts and even played at a music fest together known as ‘Alt Together Fest,’” Mladineo said.
One of her favorite memories with REMY was their performance of Ralph’s Diner in Worcester.
“I feel that the band was in full power onstage,” Mladineo said.
And then there’s her own band, Walhalla, which means “heaven” in Norse mythology.
“When Walhalla started, I was very into the anime music style, therefore the music choice was a mix of classic rock and j-pop,” Mladineo said. “Performing at Anime Boston opened the door for some exciting opportunities — Walhalla has been invited to perform in upstate New York this fall, and the convention administration wants them at the convention every year.”
Mladineo was last in Lima in September 2021 but would love to return by year’s end — hopefully to perform as well as visit. A few months ago, she was featured in the daily, El Comercio, and was interviewed on Peruvian television.
“It makes me very happy to stay in contact with my roots and make connections with people from my country,” she said.
Mladineo would like to start writing her own music at some point and begin a solo project.
“I am planning on writing instrumental rock, following the steps of my hero, Steve Vai,” she said. “I am very thankful for all of the amazing opportunities that I’ve had, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work on my playing and continue meeting people in this field and work with them in performances and recording sessions.”
By Ruth Thompson, staff photos by David Sokol