Mariachi music has long been the domain of male musicians. The genre, which has roots dating back to the 18th century, is about to experience a sea change, thanks in large part to the all-women mariachi group Flor de Toloache, who have already established their dominance of the genre by taking home the Latin Grammy in 2017 in their category.
Now Flor de Toloache (Toloache is a herbal “love potion” flower) from New York City will be performing their upbeat, danceable mariachi crossover music for Vineyard audiences at the PAC on Saturday, April 28. David White, artistic director of the Yard, which is presenting the show as the final entry in its off-season music series, says, “In a time of female assertion in a variety of areas, it’s interesting to see women breaking the barrier of what has been a bastion of male, testosteronic music.”
Gender, however, is not the only thing that makes Flor de Toloache unique. “They meld a fierce loyalty to the tradition while also blending music that ranges from Willie Nelson to Nirvana,” says White.
The members of Flor de Toloache perform in both Spanish and English, interpreting traditional mariachi music and also reinventing the genre by adding some elements of swing, R&B, soul, folk rock, pop, and more. The core group is made up of founder Shae Fiol, who plays the vihuela, a Spanish guitar-type string instrument, Mireya Ramos on violin, Julie Acosta on trumpet, and Eunice Aparicio, who plays the guitarrón mexicano, a sort of giant bass guitar which provides a very deep, rich sound. The quartet are often joined by other musicians, some of whom will be along for the Vineyard show.
The group’s virtuoso musicianship is matched by the member’s extraordinary vocals. “If you know mariachi, it’s a harmonic music,” says White. Flor de Toloache’s “voices blend effortlessly.”
White first became familiar with the New York–-based group through the Global Fest — an annual New York series that features world music. In November 2015, Flor de Toloache toured all over Europe and the U.S., making a stop at the Coachella Festival as the opening act of Black Keys’ singer Dan Auerbach’s new band, the Arcs. Auerbach went on to produce the group’s Grammy-winning second album.
Critics have raved about the group since they first burst onto the music scene with their debut album, which garnered a Latin Grammy nomination.
NPR says, “There should be fireworks named after this band, for all the intensity and color and life that bursts forth from Flor de Toloache.” Will Hermes writes in Rolling Stone, “One listen to Mireya Ramos’ slaying vocals on ‘Regresa Yá,’ and you’ll never think of mariachi as tame tableside entertainment again.” Questlove, mastermind of the Roots, sums up his admiration very simply by saying, “Meet your fav cool lil secret.”
If you can’t make the show, do yourself a favor and check out Flor de Toloache’s performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts (video on YouTube). Your spirits are guaranteed to be lifted, and you may just decide to cancel any conflicting plans and get over to the PAC for a concert that promises to deliver on all levels — musicianship, culture, costumes, showmanship, and not least of all — good escapist fun.
Flor de Toloache, Saturday, April 28, at 7 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center. Tickets: $25 adults, $15 seniors, students, and military, $5 children under 12.
Member and Behind the Counter discounts apply.