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It's not every day that a mariachi band gets to play Coachella, Lollapalooza or the Newport Folk Festival, but that's what happened with Mariachi Flor de Toloache, the all-women mariachi band that embarked on an American and European tour with garage band The Arcs last year, including as backing band during those festivals.
Mariachi Flor de Toloache is a multicultural ensemble from New York City that plays traditional mariachi standards but also does covers and musical fusions. Shae Fiol, who along with founder Mireya Ramos is the co-director of the band, says that Flor de Toloache always gets mixed reactions from audiences who are either mariachi purists or mariachi skeptics. But during that tour with The Arcs (the side project of The Black Key's Dan Auerbach), they received mostly positive vibes. "People wanted a show and we were unexpected," says Fiol. "We opened with 'Guadalajara' and 'La Cigarra', both traditional mariachi songs, and then we did a Nirvana cover, a Led Zeppelin cover and an original song that I wrote half in English and half in Spanish".
The band is definitely unorthodox, and their latest release confirms their eclectic and versatile prowess: a cover of the bolero 'Puro Teatro' part of Fania Records' repertoire, that we're premiering here.
This rendition of 'Puro Teatro' composed by the late Tite Curet Alonso (author of many Fania classics) and made famous by Cuban diva La Lupe, is a huapango and is sang by Fiol, who also plays the vihuela. "I didn’t want it to be stiff, I wanted to blend what La Lupe did, a passionate, soulful singing that she does, but on the huapango", says Fiol, who is half Cuban.
To add to the complexity, the final version of Flor de Toloache's 'Puro Teatro' was recorded live in one take. "It's a very dramatic song, and every time we did it, meant expending a lot of energy. It was very exciting when we finally did a take that we nailed," says Fiol.
A studio version of 'Puro Teatro' will be part of Mariachi Flor de Toloache's second album, slated to come out this summer via Chulo Records.
Mariachi Flor de Toloache will be headlining a West Coast tour next week in Oregon and Washington State. For Fiol, that means a homecoming to her native Portland. She has a surprise planned for her Cuban grandmother while she's in town. "My grandmother loves these songs, and through her I realized how important and cherished mariachi is in Latin America. She has never seen us perofrm live and I want to surprise her with a serenade". (We hope abuela Fiol is not reading this or we're spoiling it for her!)
This is the second of three songs that Flor de Toloache and Fania are releasing and that we're premiering. Look for the third and lost one here next week!
And check our Facebook Live with Flor de Toloache here: