La Santa Cecilia: “Straight Outta Olvera Street”…



If you haven’t met them yet, you need to know our second headliner for next week’s huge Concert for Fair Food!

Last week we compiled a quick and dirty music/history brief on Ozomatli for you, a celebration of the inimitable LA-based band that will be headlining next week’s free Concert for Fair Food in St. Petersburg.

But Ozomatli will not be headlining the Concert for Fair Food alone.  They will be joined by another Grammy-winning group from LA, the red-hot La Santa Cecilia.  And if you haven’t come across them yet, you are in for a treat!

Their official bio captures the remarkable range of musical influences that make up their unique style:


La Santa Cecilia consists of accordionist and requintero Jose “Pepe” Carlos, bassist Alex Bendana, percussionist Miguel Ramirez, and lead vocalist La Marisoul, whose captivating voice sings about love, loss and heartbreak. Their influences range from Miles Davis to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin to Janis Joplin and Mercedes Sosa to Ramon Ayala. Their common love of music and openness to all genres led them to the concept of La Santa Cecilia in 2007 – named after the patron saint of musicians.

In 2013, the band released their major label debut Treinta Dias (30 Days), which featured a captivating collaboration with fan Elvis Costello on “Losing Game.” Now, just after their GRAMMY win for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album, the band presents their new album Someday New. The album features seven new tracks, which include a heartfelt Spanglish rendition of The Beatles iconic “Strawberry Fields Forever,” plus the unforgettable new Mexican classic “Como Dios Manda”; as well as a fresh new radio-edit of their single “Monedita” and the full version of their moving, and militant “ICE – El Hielo.”

But their music is worth a thousand words.  The video at the top of the post is a fantastic, 30-minute long studio performance produced by the Los Angeles public television station KCET.  It comprises several of the band’s biggest hits and is a great listen to hit for a few minutes now and come back to later for more, or to just leave playing in the background while you go about your morning or get your work done during the day.

Now, if you’re into words and would appreciate a little more analysis of La Santa Cecilia’s history and musical styles, you can’t do better than the profile that accompanies the KCET performance.  Here’s an excerpt:


It’s been an epic year for Los Angeles based La Santa Cecilia, the quartet named after the patron saint of musicians. From winning a Grammy for their latest album “Treinta Dias” (Best Latin Rock Album), to touring with Los Lobos and collaborating with Elvis Costello, to being able to play in Latin America’s biggest music festival as a complete band, to producing a heart wrenching music video for “El Hielo” (Ice) with acclaimed director Alex Rivera, the patron saint of music has indeed been kind to her devotees. 

The band comprised of accordionist and requintero José “Pepe” Carlos, bassist Alex Bendaña, percussionist Miguel Ramírez, and lead vocalist Marisoul “La Marisoul” Hernández, is currently the most visible and critically acclaimed Latin group to emerge from the vibrant L.A. music scene that includes groups like QuetzalLas Cafeteras and Chicano Batman, among many others. While the band mostly records in Spanish, evident in the group’s sound are influences as diverse as cumbia, bossa nova, norteño, and classic rock with a Latin tinge. Case in point, their latest album features a Latinized cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and recent solo performances by La Marisoul have showcased a soulful cover of The Smiths’ “Shoplifters of The World Unite.” La Marisoul’s Aretha Franklin-meets-Lola-Beltran vocals and the pan-Latino grooves of her band mates have established the band as a favorite amongst cultural critics and street-corner critics… read more 

The KCET piece touched on one of the moments that has come to define the band, and to make their music a centerpiece of the collective soundtrack to the national movement for a sane immigration policy:

Photo: La Santa Cecilia, Photographer Humberto Howard

… The band’s most political statement has come in the form of the song and accompanying music video for “El Hielo” (Ice) which uses a melancholic bolero groove usually reserved for sagas of unrequited love to tell the heartbreaking tribulations of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The band, like many Latino families — and many immigrant families in general — are of mixed legal status. The video openly acknowledges Pepe Carlos’ undocumented status. However, thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) executive order Pepe was recently granted a temporary work-permit that has allowed him to travel abroad without fear of never returning. 

“The need to do a song like “El Hielo” comes from our own experiences, from seeing a lot of our friends, even our bandmates here not having the proper documentation to travel, said Marisoul. Through “El Hielo” that band attempts to humanize a maligned group of people by focusing on the stories and feelings of being in such a position. In their acceptance speech for their Grammy win (above) the group dedicated “the award to the more than 11 million undocumented people because we want people to just remember that there are people out there who need it, that are working really hard behind the scenes; in the kitchens, domestic workers, everywhere you look. The country is being moved still by immigrants,” expressed Marisoul. 

They have faith their music will reach hearts and minds… read more

To wrap up, we wanted to bring you a quick snippet of an interview the band did live during last year’s Grammy Awards show.  In the clip, the band’s lead singer, La Marisoul, talks about their hit cover of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and the inspiration for their take on the song.  Once you see it, you’ll see why this exciting new group didn’t hesitate for a second to answer the CIW’s call to join the Fair Food Nation next week at the Concert for Fair Food!  

So, we close with two videos: first up, the interview:


And second, the visually stunning “Strawberry Fields Forever” video itself (just in case you missed it in our earlier lineup post!):


The Concert for Fair Food is fast approaching!  Join us in St. Petersburg on March 21 when we harness the power of music and art to celebrate the groundbreaking changes underway in Florida’s fields and to amplify the rising call for Publix and Wendy’s to recognize their responsibility to the women and men who harvest their produce.