Sound Check: Irish Mariachi Rana Santacruz Strikes Again

Based in the New York borough of Brooklyn, Rana Santacruz has been the dubbed the “Irish Mariachi” for his style of music, a blend of Celtic folk and Mexican swing. His solo debut, Chicavasco (out March 9), is made up of tall tales set to a laundry list of instruments (accordion, violin, cello, sax, jaw harp, guitarrón, vihuela, trumpet, tuba) that bridges his many worlds. I had a chance to catch up with the performer in between rehearsals for upcoming gigs on boths coasts. Here’s what he had to say:

How would you describe your new record, Chicavasco?

I would describe it as awesome! Haha. No really I'm very happy with the way it sounds. It was produced by myself and Alex Venguer, who has also worked with Philip Glass, Aretha Franklin, Sufjan Stevens and Billy Joel. I think he did an amazing job. Chicavasco sounds dark and warm, and yet has a lot of bright magical moments. 

What are some of the songs about? 

“El Funeral De Tacho” is about Tacho El Gacho, who would go from town to town steeling the hearts of all the women he would sing to. When he is murdered by a broken-hearted woman, tears from different parts of Mexico start arriving to say their last goodbye, causing major floods in the town where he is getting buried.

“Guajolote y Pavorreal” centers on the love affair between two animals— a turkey and a peacock—from different social classes. 

You can also read the lyrics in English and Spanish on my website (www.ranasantacruz.com).

Those are interesting storylines; where do you find inspiration to write?

I find inspiration in movies and books that I read. Recently I've been reading a lot of Garcia Marquez and I think my most recent songs have been somehow affected by his magical realism.

Who are your influences?

Tom Waits, Chavela Vargas, The Pogues, Agustin Lara

Why have you been labeled the Irish Mariachi?

There must be some Irish blood in me. Even though I'm from Mexico and have dark hair when I grow a beard it comes out red. So yes, the term Irish Mariachi makes sense. I mix a lot of bluegrass and Irish music with very basic Mexican tunes.