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SJ Jazz Fall Concert: Mariachi Flor de Toloache

In Music
FEMALE FUSION: Mariachi Flor de Toloache founders Mireya I. Ramos and Shae Fiol say they draw strength from their diversity.

FEMALE FUSION: Mariachi Flor de Toloache founders Mireya I. Ramos and Shae Fiol say they draw strength from their diversity.

Traditionally speaking, mariachi as a musical form comes from a specific place. It is played on specific instruments, and its practitioners often limit performances to specific spaces within a specific region. However, while the New York-based Mariachi Flor de Toloache certainly respect the traditions of their art, they are far from a traditional mariachi group.

The ensemble’s co-directors—founder Mireya I. Ramos and original member Shae Fiol—maintain a rotating ensemble of all women, all from highly diverse backgrounds; infuse their western Mexican arrangements with elements of rock, jazz and hip-hop; and are just as comfortable performing at a local cultural center as they are playing with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach at the Bowery Ballroom.

“It’s been a challenge, in one way, to learn mariachi,” Fiol says of her group’s diversity. They currently perform with two American trumpet players—one from Indiana, the other of Dominican descent—their violinist was born in Korea, and they used to have an Australian in their midst. Because mariachi is such a regional art form, and because it is often passed down through families of players, it can be difficult to break into from the outside. And then there’s the matter of their touring the world, playing concert halls with Auerbach’s side project, The Arcs.

“I don’t think it’s very common for mariachis to tour” Fiol says, explaining that mariachi groups tend to stay in a given town—picking up gigs at quinceañeras and heritage festivals. As a result, Fiol says, “We’re reaching a way bigger audience than we anticipated.”

They are also connecting with that audience in a manner that straightforward mariachi acts likely couldn’t match. “We like to play fusion,” Ramos says. “That’s part of our vision. It allows us to be very fluid—going from mariachi to jazz and then another form of Latin music.” This dynamic is apparent during the band’s “Tiny Desk Concert,” available for streaming on the NPR Music website.

Moving from a jazzy arrangement with English lyrics and a soulful melody, to a mariachi with Spanish lyrics, the band shows its dexterity.

Mariachi Flor de Toloache are currently working on a follow-up to their Latin Grammy-nominated self-titled debut. The forthcoming LP will feature more originals and a more “mature” sound, according to Ramos. They perform in San Jose as part of San Jose Jazz’s fall concert series.

Mariachi Flor de Toloache
Oct 30, 4:30pm, Free
Mexican Heritage Plaza, San Jose

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