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Pistolera: Tiny Desk Concert

How exactly do you conjure the sounds of the Mexican desert from a cold basement in New York City's Chinatown? Check in with Pistolera to find out.

The motivation was a longing for Mexican music on the part of the band's principal songwriter and lead vocalist, Sandra Velasquez, a California native who was studying music in New York. Her solution: to form a band that played the music of her youth. Now, after three albums, Pistolera continues to convert fans on both sides of the border — and, during its performance at the NPR Music offices, the band picked up a bunch more, thanks to its stellar musicianship and Velasquez's insightful lyrics.

Velasquez once told a story about introducing songs from the group's recent album El Desierto y la Ciudad in the Southwest: The introspective tone of the first few tracks caught many off guard — especially those expecting party music — but soon the talking stopped, the crowd quieted and the audience got a glimpse of a maturing band.

Pistolera's set at the Tiny Desk highlights a group in full command of its direction and musical identity. It still blows my mind to hear bands take the music made along the U.S./Mexico border and successfully transport it to other circumstances, while retaining the essence of its roots.

Set List:
  • "Polvo"
  • "Ponle Frenos"
  • "La Despedida"

Producers: Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd; Editor and Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Michael Katzif/NPR

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