Toromata's triple SA debut will deliver rancheras like you've never heard before
Published: April 11, 2012
I owed Azul Barrientos a feature. I had only interviewed her for another publication back when she was part of the Jai (Roots), Azul, y Maya (Guirao) trio in 2004, but I had resisted featuring her as simply Azul. Perhaps it was the fact that her bolero/ranchera-based "Noche Azul de Esperanza" event was hardly news — she's been appearing at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center in the same format successfully for years and didn't need any help from me. But mainly I held back was because I always felt that she could do more. Her voice is disarming, and her traditional repertoire captivating and solid, but, for my taste, it lacks surprise. Her Azul Eléctrico persona, however, through which she delivers an electrified version of some of those same classics and a few originals, began to show her other self.
After hearing Toromata, her third incarnation, I couldn't resist any longer.
Named after a classic Afro-Peruvian folk song about the conquest of Peru, Toromata (literally "the bull kills") is Azul on guitar, jarana (a string instrument from Veracruz), and vocals, Mexico City-based Luis Allejo on bass and vocals, and El Shine on electric guitar and programming. They write originals (primarily written by Azul in her usual acoustic style) that are transformed into an electronic mix of hip-hop, rock, and Latin American folk.
The band's name, chosen by Azul, says a lot about their poetic approach. "[Toro Mata] was a reaction against the conquest of Peru," Azul told the Current. "It is very important for me, personally, to remember that us Latin Americans have suffered the same things. We've all been conquered by the same people, and your pain is my pain. That's what brotherhood is all about, isn't it?"
At times, Toromata's songs sound as if Azul is still trying to find her way within a hip-hop context. But she isn't rapping — she's saying, and the formula works because the songs are there and the trio has known each other since childhood.
"I think and write acoustically, but they turn my songs into something more electric, more urban, and more complete," said Azul, who so far has only played with Toromata in Mexico City. "This [Esperanza] show will be our second show ever, but we have a clear idea of our parts. All we need to do is dust the songs a little bit when we rehearse in San Antonio and just go for it."
Even though Toromata started experimenting in 2003 and 2005, it wasn't until the passing of Azul's father in 2010 that they met again in Mexico and decided to listen to the old recordings. They liked what they heard and, upon Azul's return, they started exchanging ideas over the internet and came up with enough songs for a self-titled, independent full-length they hope to release this year. Their three shows in San Antonio will feature local DJ Vicious as the trio's guest.
"He's great at scratching, and there's places where his stuff would fit perfectly," Azul said. "We'll get together to decide what to use and where to use it. It'll make the whole Toromata experience richer." •
Listen to Toromata at soundcloud.com/toromatamusic.
Toromata feat. Pop Pistol
8pm Wed, Apr 11
Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
922 San Pedro
$5, free for 21+
11pm Thu, Apr 12
502 Embassy Oaks
10pm Fri, Apr 13
2718 N St. Marys
> Email Enrique Lopetegui