New Acoustic Latinx Musicians Rock the Hop

A rapper rediscovers Pinochet-protesting folk songs; an all-female band refreshes classic mariachi

The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College presents an evening of new acoustic Latinx music on Friday, January 18, 8 pm, in Spaulding Auditorium—pairing an acclaimed Chilean rapper-turned-folk singer with an outrageously fun, all-female, “post- mariachi” band.

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The folksinger is Ana Tijoux, who made her mark with such fiercely political international rap hits as “1977,” featured on the TV series Breaking Bad. Now, performing with two acoustic guitarists, she’s exploring the more intimate sound of the classic Latin American songbook that influenced her youth. Says NPR: “In a way she comes of age with this music. These are the kinds of songs that — after you've lived, loved and lost a bit — have the potential to mean much more, both to the performer and the listener.”

Sharing the bill, the Latin Grammy-winning, all-female, multinational band Flor de Toloache infuses classic Mexican mariachi and ranchero with bursts of hip hop, soul, jazz and salsa--and are about as much fun as it gets. NPR described the group as having “top-notch musicianship, mariachi swagger for days, and a performance style that captures all the power and emotion you'd hope for.”

The daughter of Chilean exiles, Tijoux was born and raised in France, where she accompanied her social worker-mother on her rounds to immigrant families in the outlying neighborhoods of Paris, playing with the kids while her mother met with the parents. After Pinochet was thrown out of Chile in 1993, she had her family returned to their native nation. Tijoux first made her mark as a performer in rap, delivering searing political lyrics about colonialism, feminism, and other social issues against tracks charged by panpipe flutes, charangos, and other Latin American folk instruments. The New York Times called her “South America’s answer to Lauryn Hill.”

In the past five years, however, she has moved in a direction that’s musically softer, although just as fierce, politically. A sonorous, persuasive balladeer, she performs with a pair of acoustic guitarists, mixing the classic Latin American songbook with originals. The New York Times praised her combination of a “righteous agenda and a tart, jazzy voice.”

Says NPR: “Ana Tijoux has more than made her mark in the music she grew up with. But in a way she comes of age with this music. These are the kinds of songs that — after you've lived, loved and lost a bit — have the potential to mean much more, both to the performer and the listener.”

Flor de Toloache was founded in 2008. “My dream was to have an all-female group and kind of do fusion music because, you know, I come from a mixed background,” founder Mireya Ramos told NBC News. Ramos’s father is Mexican, her mother is Dominican and she and her brother were raised in Puerto Rico, and other members have roots in Cuba, Australia, Colombia, Germany and Italy.

Some audiences don’t welcome an all-female band in what’s ordinarily a male domain, band member Shae Fiol told NBC. “I’m very blessed that everyone in the band is a very strong independent woman and collectively when we get on stage we just ignore that and we just open our mouths and start playing and people just shut up."

Below, Flor de Toloache perform a fabulous "Tiny Desk Concert" on NPR:

Over the course of the last few years, Flor de Toloache’s performances have illuminated world-renowned stages in Europe and India. In November 2015, the group embarked on an extensive European and US tour as the opening act of Black Keys’ singer Dan Auerbach’s new band, The Arcs. After performances to sold-out audiences in the UK, Germany, Holland, Italy, France, they continued to captivate crowds in the US at legendary venues across the country.

The group’s critically acclaimed self-titled debut album received a Latin Grammy nomination for “Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album” in 2015, and their 2017 album, Las Caras Lindas, won the Latin Grammy in that category. The group’s live performances have been praised by Rolling Stone, Billboard, The New Yorker, GQ and The New York Times, and they also won accolades for performances on NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” series, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and BBC 2’s Later with Jools Holland. Writes Rolling Stone, “One listen to Mireya Ramos' slaying vocals on "Regresa Yá," and you'll never think of mariachi as tame tableside entertainment again.”

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