Sound Check: Irish Mariachi Rana Santacruz Strikes Again

Adam Cohen via ranasantacruz.com

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.

 

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About this author1

Grace Bastidas, Deputy Editor

Born and raised in Queens, New York, where more languages are spoken than anywhere in the world, Grace Bastidas is Latina’s Deputy Editor. She oversees lifestyle content, including topics as diverse as career, health and relationships, and occasionally writes about her own experiences in The Good Life section. As a writer, Grace’s work has appeared in The New York TimesNew York magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Travel + Leisure. She is fluent in Spanish.

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