Los Angeles-based musical group Trio Ellas (“Three Shes” in Spanish) is mariachi music with a twist. The band consists of three women playing the violin, guitar and traditional guitarron. But there is no trumpet or sombreros, as in traditional male-dominated mariachi bands.
Trio Ellas has recorded with Lady Gaga and Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. And though they have years of experience playing with mariachi groups, don’t call them a mariachi band.
All three members of the group join Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
The LA-based musical group Trio Ellas - that's the Three She's in Spanish - is taking traditional Mexican mariachi music into new territory. Trio Ellas' debut album "Con Ustedes" was nominated for a Latin Grammy last year, and the three members of Trio Ellas join us with their instruments from NPR West. Suemy Gonzales on the violin, Nelly Cortez on a big guitar called the guitarron and Stephanie Amaro on the guitar. Welcome to all of you.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Hi.
HOBSON: Well, let's get listeners a little sense of your style here. I know that "Besame Mucho" is a traditional mariachi song. But why don't you play a little bit of it in your style.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: All right.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Got it. Three, four...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BESAME MUCHO")
HOBSON: You know, with the staccato plucking, you don't really even need the trumpets, do you?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Uh-uh.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: No.
HOBSON: So how would you describe what you just did with that that's unique?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Well, we turned it into kind of a gypsy-jazz thing. I guess for us also being born here and listening to music here, that's where our freedom comes from. Like, we wanted to be able to incorporate that kind of stuff.
HOBSON: Well, one of the wonderful and unique parts of that is that you obviously have female voices and you put a very distinct spin on a song that we very frequently hear being sung by men.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: That is a plus. That is a plus. We've been referred to kind of a Latin Andrews Sisters at times, and I think that's great.
HOBSON: So there is a big question about whether you are in fact a mariachi band. Tell me what you think about that.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: This has been the topic of the week actually for us, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: We all come from a mariachi - traditional mariachi background. We've all been, within our time, with, you know, wonderful groups out there. But there just came a time where we decided to get away from that and play music that we like and put in our own creativity into these traditional songs with - like what they say in our bio, with a contemporary twist. We are only a three piece. Mariachis are, you know, eight and up.
HOBSON: Well, a crowd has gathered on the other side of the glass here in Boston, so I want you to just go out on a song which we'd love to hear, especially since you're about to do a Dia de los Muertos concert. Take us out with the song "La Bruja," or "The Witch."
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Sure.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA BRUJA")
HOBSON: I liked that maniacal laugh there.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: It just seemed to fit.
HOBSON: Well, Suemy Gonzales, Nelly Cortez and Stephanie Amaro from the LA-based group Trio Ellas, thank you so much for joining us.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Thank you for having us.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OJITOS TRAIDORES")
HOBSON: And this is, Robin, "Ojitos Traidores." This is an additional song that they performed for us. You can hear the entire thing at our website, hereandnow.org, and also listen to some of the other music we just heard.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
HOBSON: From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.
YOUNG: I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Jeremy Hobson joins Robin Young as co-host of Here & Now in its new 2-hour format, from WBUR and NPR.
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