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Alt-Latino Groups to Rock at UCSB

Dia de los Muertos Tour features La Santa Cecilia, Mexrrissey, Mariachi Flor de Toloache

UCSB Arts & Lectures presents La Santa Cecilia, Mexrrissey, and Mariachi Flor de Toloache, three of today’s hottest alt-Latino groups, coming together for their Dia de los Muertos Tour, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, at UCSB's Campbell Hall.

Mexrrissey Click to view larger
Mexrrissey (Photo via UCSB Arts & Lectures)

Los Angeles-based La Santa Cecilia won a Grammy for its blend of Latin rhythms and rock music. It is fronted by vocalist Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernandez, “who sings like the love child of Janis Joplin and Celia Cruz,” says the Los Angeles Times.

Out of Mexico’s obsession with all things Morrissey comes Mexrrissey, a pitch-perfect mashup of horns, accordion and other Mexican elements with the British indie rocker’s iconic songs.

Not your grandfather’s mariachi band, the Grammy nominated Mariachi Flor de Toloache is New York’s all-female mariachi band, whose broad influences give Mexican folk music a cosmopolitan edge.
“La Santa Cecilia spreads joy every time its members plug in to do a show. They do it one dance step at a time, with cumbias, corridos, elegant mambos and plain old rock ‘n’ roll,” National Public Radio reports.
La Santa Cecilia draws inspiration from all over the world, marrying Pan-American rhythms including cumbia, bossa nova, rhumba, bolero and tango with rock, soul, R&B, ska, jazz and klezmer.

Made up of lead vocalist Hernandez, bassist Alex Bendaña, accordionist and requintero Pepe Carlos, and percussionist Miguel “Oso” Ramirez, its members were either born in or brought to the U.S. when they were very young.

While they all grew up with traditional forms of Latin music at home, they were also exposed to the sounds of American pop culture: rock, soul, blues, jazz, funk, punk, ska, reggae and other world sounds that played freely on the airwaves and in neighborhoods.
The band released its self-titled debut EP in 2009. Local notice spread about the group’s music. They received local airplay and were able to perform aat more shows and festivals.

Their live shows garnered them a fan base, and music from the EP was eventually featured in the cable series Weeds, and in the documentary film Re-Encounters (about Oaxacan artist Alejandro Santiago).

As the band toured in Mexico and throughout North America and released more EPs, their popularity grew. They signed to Universal, and their debut album, Treinta Dias, was released in May 2013.

It became the Hot Shot Debut of the Week on Billboard’s Latin Pop Albums and, in February 2014, won the Grammy award for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album.

Their full-length album Buenaventura was released in February 2016, featuring guest spots by Enrique Bunbury, Fito Páez, members of Los Lobos and the Latino Arts Strings Program of Milwaukee.
La Santa Cecilia deepened its collaboration with producer Sebastian Krys and signed to his Rebelon Entertainment label, resulting in the most ambitious recording of their career to date. They decided to cut an “audio-visual album” in Mexico City.

La Santa Cecilia began as a street band in Los Angeles, singing rancheras and boleros, as well as Spanish- and English-language pop, soul and rock tunes. To reflect this on the other side of the border, the group cut each track (11 covers, one original) in the plazas, parks, bars and theaters of the city.

Each song was cut live to tape and had an accompanying video. The material reflected the group's roots.

There were versions of classic rancheras, boleros and mariachis from some of Mexico’s greatest songwriters, including Violeta Parra, and Consuelo Velazquez (composer of the standard “Besame Mucho”) plus modern tunes from Cafe Tacvba, Juan Gabriel and Smokey Robinson.

The full-length project was issued in May.

The Independent (U.K.) comments about Morrissey: “A melodramatic trip of a distinctly Mexican flavor, the band delivers ranchera, mariachi, bolero, cumbia, and danzón ... capturing the essence of classic Morrissey.”

Morrissey has a devoted fan base in Mexico and among the Mexican-Americans who live in Los Angeles as well as throughout the U.S.

The reasons are many, from his retro rockabilly looks to his melancholy world-view to his lovelorn, almost desperate lyrics that recall the ranchera music of Mexico, but what is clear is that he is a beloved, almost revered figure to a large segment of Mexican music fans.
Camilo Lara of the group Mexican Institute of Sound is one of Morrissey’s devotees, and in 2015 he was asked by Andy Wood, director of the La Linea Festival in London, to put together a project to honor Mexico’s love affair.

Lara formed Mexrrissey and stocked the group with a lineup of Mexican musicians, including Chetes on guitar; Sergio Mendoza and Jacob Valenzuela on vibes, accordion and trumpet; vocalist/keyboardist Ceci Bastida; bassist Jay de la Cueva (Moderatto/Titán); and Adan Jodorowsky on guitar.

After choosing songs that either had connections to Mexico (like “Mexico”) or were simply songs they liked, Lara and Mendoza worked out arrangements that incorporated traditional Mexican instruments and electronics.
The band debuted in Mexico City before jetting to the U.K. to play La Linea Festival, making a stop in Manchester, then playing sold-out shows in New York City and L.A. The group recorded an album in Mexico and Arizona, selecting seven songs from different eras of Morrissey’s solo career.

The album, No Manchester, included live tracks recorded at the May 2015 performance in New York City at BAM. The album was released by Nacional Records in March 2016.
Re: Mariachi Flor de Toloache, Huffington Post reports: “The new kings of mariachi are all women.”

Founded in 2008, Latin Grammy nominees Mariachi Flor de Toloache is led by singers Mireya I. Ramos, its founder, and Shae Fiol, an original member. Reminiscent of the early days of mariachi, the group started as a trio, Harp, Violin and Vihuela.

Today, Mariachi Flor De Toloache performs as a full mariachi ensemble. Members hail from diverse cultural backgrounds such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Australia, Colombia, Germany, Italy and the U.S.

This defines the unique sound, resulting in an edgy, versatile and fresh take on traditional Mexican music. While working to preserve centuries-old traditions of Mariachi, their mélange of the traditional and modern pushes the boundaries of the genre and brings Mariachi music to new audiences.
Mariachi Flor De Toloache’s self-titled debut album received a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Ranchera Album of 2015. The group’s live performances were praised by Rolling Stone, Billboard Magazine, The New Yorker, GQ Magazine and The New York Times.
The group's recently-released album, Las Caras Lindas (Chulo Records), recorded in only six days, features a fierce quartet anchored by the rhythm section of Guitarron Black Belt Eunice Apparicio and Vihuela Timekeeper Shae Fiol.
Dia de los Meurtos Tour is presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures. Part of the A&L Thematic Learning Initiative: Our Changing World. Media Sponsors: El Latino, KCBX 89.5 FM Santa Barbara, KCSB 91.9 FM, KLITE 101.7 FM, Radio Bronco KIST-FM 107.7 FM, and Santa Barbara Independent.
Tickets are $30-$45 for the general public and $15 for UCSB students (Valid student ID required). For tickets and more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures, 893-3535 or visit

Preceding the performance will be a free talk called Sound Tracks: A Musical Conversation with Camilo Lara and Ceci Bastida of Mexrrissey, noon-1 p.m. Nov. 3 at Mary Craig Auditorium in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St.

— Caitlin O'Hara for UCSB Arts & Lectures.

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