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California sounds so different from the way it did when I was growing up. When I was discovering music in Northern California in the 1970s, Afro-Cuban music provided the foundation of bands such as Santana, Malo and El Chicano, and even folk troubadours like Daniel Valdes. It wasn't until the early '80s that I heard East L.A.'s Los Lobos, which added Mexican folk to the mix.
The music of the Los Angeles band La Santa Cecilia places the group in the late-20th-century movement of Latino musicians in California who search out a wider variety of traditions than their musical ancestors did to create a new pan-Latino aesthetic. A mash-up of Colombian cumbia, various Mexican folk styles, boleros, tangos and, yes, Afro-Caribbean music reflects the new sound of the Latino soul in the Golden state.
La Santa Cecilia's new five-song EP, Noche Y Citas, is the band's strongest expression of that mix yet. The instrumentation skews toward Mexico — think requinto and accordion — but the musical vision spans the distance between downtown Los Angeles and the tip of South America.
Saint Cecilia is the Mexican patron saint of music, and the saints did indeed smile down on this band of stylistically adept musicians. Lead singer Marisol's voice carries the emotional subtlety of classic bolero singers, as well as the heart-on-the-sleeve emotion of the mariachi singers my mother used to enjoy.
While La Santa Cecilia's performances and hardcore fans are mostly on the West Coast, Noche Y Citas ought to raise the band's profile a bit. In that spirit, the EP will stream here in its entirety until its release on Dec. 21. Please leave your thoughts on Noche Y Citas in the comments section below.