A Mariachi Voice: Flor de Toloache

June 17, 2018Pola Bunster

[ Note: this interview was originally published April, 2017] No matter the realm of self expression, being an artist makes you a powerful vessel in many ways. Wether you’re lending a voice to a particular genre like, say, mariachi for example– or movement, ensuring historical preservation by fertilizing cultural traditions, or speaking on behalf of the future, artists are superheroes connecting with us and swaying the world through their respective crafts.

When you look at a musical act like the Latin GRAMMY-nominated Flor de Toloache, Mariachi is the first of their many vibrant hues that hits you square in the face. Rhythms of Mexico’s past fill the air and you’re transported to another place–another consciousness altogether. Then it’s the sheer infectiousness of their power that conquers you, sending messages of love and overcoming obstacles through your veins for a brilliant pulse. NYC’s first all-female Mariachi unit is hitting Miami this week on April 23rd as part of our collaboration with 1 Hotel at their Sunset Sessions show. The event is sold out, but walk-ins will be welcome until capacity is reached.

Prism: You are all from different places in the world, what is it about Mariachi that brings you together under this sounds?

Mireya: Mariachi is a type of folk music that incorporates familiar instruments, intricate rhythms and layers of beautiful sounds. The melodies and voices for this style are very passionate and full of harmonies that make people be drawn to it, but also the novelty of it for most of the ladies in the band, sparks excitement and interest to play mariachi music.

Why Mariachi and not other genres more commonly performed by women?

My father, who is from Michoacán, was a mariachi singer in LA and then in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I grew up. When I moved to NYC, my first gig as a professional musician was playing with a local mariachi that was just starting. It was an all male group mostly with musicians who just recently moved from Puebla. It was as if my destiny was to play mariachi because it all led to this adventure of learning about my own culture and forming NYC’s first all female mariachi. There is also something so empowering about performing mariachi and as I like to call it something “therapeutic” about singing a Ranchera that no other music makes me feel that way.

Aside from being male-led, it is also a genre from the past. How important is preserving that culture to you through the music?

It’s very important to me because a tradition so unique and powerful like mariachi should not be lost. It has inspired me to be creative and I’m sure this music can inspire many others no matter where you’re from. Mariachi is a one of the many windows into Mexican culture.

What is it like to be powerful women in a genre that is identified with male performers? What kind of message do you want to express to other female creators interested in male-led areas of expression?

It’s awesome! I feel honored and blessed to be in a position to inspire other women and the younger generation by doing what I love. Just go for it! To be patient, persistent and put your heart into it and that will go a long way.

Do you think it’s important to break gender barriers with music and with art?

I think it’s important but it shouldn’t always be the focus or the drive. You should express yourself freely no matter what your gender. I think an expression will speak for itself if it’s genuine.

When I look at Flor De Toloache, I see sisterhood. Is this image important to you as musicians? As women?

In a way it is because people think women can’t work together but I think it is important for us as people not so much as women. It can be hard to work together with a group of people regardless of the gender, especially something so intimate as a creative work.

How do your individual styles and sounds blend together when you make music?

It happens organically. We listen to each other and are every sensitive to each other’s expressions that lead to a beautiful and unique blend of colors.

Do you have any other dreams of collaborating with other genres and artists?

I’d love for us to collaborate with Juan Luis Guerra, Draco, Janelle Monae, Stevie Wonder, Los Lobos, and many more….