RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Chicago is one of the world's great music cities, although this might not be what you expect to hear there.

(Soundbite of music)

SONES DE MEXICO (Musical Group): (Singing in Spanish)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to Sones de Mexico, that's a group of musicians who are all immigrants now living in Chicago, and who play a wide range of Mexican folk styles. They're nominated for a Latin Grammy this year as best folk album and the Grammys will be awarded tonight.

(Soundbite of sone music)

MONTAGNE: This is sone, the traditional Mexican music that gives the band its name. But the most striking songs on Sones de Mexico's new CD, "Esta Tierra Es Tuya," draw on more diverse influences.

(Soundbite of song, "Esta Tierra Es Tuya")

SONES DE MEXICO: (Singing in Spanish)

MONTAGNE: Band members Juan Dies and Victor Pichardo talked to us recently from member station WBEZ in Chicago. They explained how a Led Zeppelin song ended up on a CD of Mexican music.

Mr. JUAN DIES (Member, Sones de Mexico): This is Juan. We were invited to a Led Zeppelin tribute, and local bands would just do cover versions of Led Zeppelin. So they invited us. I think it was a joke in the beginning. They said, hey let's see what these guys do with Led Zeppelin. And we took it as a serious commission.

(Soundbite of song, sones version of Four Sticks)

Mr. DIES: This piece attracted me because it was very rhythmic. It's actually in 5/4 time, which is a very exciting time. And we began to transform it into an Aztec ceremonial dance, and when you listen to Aztec drums, you have the same feeling of power and drive that you would get from heavy metal.

(Soundbite of song, sones version of Four Sticks)

MONTAGNE: Does Robert Plant or Jimmy Page know that their song has been injected with Aztec - drums?

Mr. DIES: I don't think so. We haven't heard from them.

MONTAGNE: I bet they would love it, though.

Mr. DIES: Robert Plant likes Chicago. He comes to Chicago when he has a chance. Maybe next time he comes, he can come to the Mexican neighborhood with us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major")

MONTAGNE: Let's play one now that I think many listeners will recognize.

(Soundbite of song, "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major")

Mr. DIES: This is the "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major" by Johann Sebastian Bach…

MONTAGNE: Huh.

Mr. DIES: …which we have arranged as a jarocho piece. This is a Mexican style from the state of Veracruz.

(Soundbite of song, "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major")

Mr. VICTOR PICARDO (Member, Sones de Mexico): This is Victor. And when I realized the similarities between the piece and the zapatearo jarocho and I decide to incorporate the traditional instruments to make more prominent zapatear which is coming now. It's a foot tapping. Zapatearo means foot tapping.

(Soundbite of song, "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major")

Mr. DIES: In this section we can hear the jawbone…

MONTAGNE: Of…

Mr. DIES: …from the lower jaw of a donkey. When it dries, all the teeth will rattle and you can hit the side of it or scrape across the teeth with a deer antler and you'll make a scraping sound.

(Soundbite of song, "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major")

MONTAGNE: And this might be a sight to behold as well.

Mr. DIES: Yes. Our group specializes in the Mexican tradition of sone. But we are not necessarily preservationists in trying to pretend that we live in a small village in Mexico. We live in Chicago and we interact with the world around us.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Another cover that you've done and not as unexpected maybe a couple of others here. But your version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" and in Spanish, it's…

Mr. DIES: Yeah. It's "Esta Tierra Es Tuya" - "This Land is Your Land."

(Soundbite of song, "Esta Tierra Es Tuya")

SONES DE MEXICO: (Singing in Spanish)

Mr. DIES: Even though Sones de Mexico does not necessarily have a political agenda, being part of the Mexican community in the United States, we're affected by the national issues of immigration. And that was precisely during one of the peaks of this national debate that I became inspired to translate the song into Spanish because it resonated with our situation.

(Soundbite of song, "Esta Tierra Es Tuya")

SONES DE MEXICO: (Singing in Spanish)

MONTAGNE: But, you know, just about the music itself was interesting, your being there in Chicago and thus being border music in the North. It's actually got a bit of that oompa.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: That - said oompa sound.

Mr. DIES: Yeah. That's a…

MONTAGNE: Influences of polka.

Mr. DIES: Yeah. The polka has been a big influence in Mexican northern music. There's a lot of polka. Sometimes in instrumental pieces, you don't know if the song comes from Czechoslovakia or from Mexico until somebody starts singing.

(Soundbite of song, "Esta Tierra Es Tuya")

SONES DE MEXICO: (Singing in Spanish)

MONTAGNE: You break into English towards the end. The - little bit of a defiant quality to that moment in the song. In fact, am I hearing right?

Mr. DIES: We want to reach people and, you know, we'd like our music to be accessible by everyone, so the last verse is an invitation. Everyone knows the lyrics. So we like it when people sing along with us.

(Soundbite of song, "Esta Tierra Es Tuya")

SONES DE MEXICO: (Singing) This land is your land, this land is my land. From California to the New York island. From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters. This land was made for you and me.

MONTAGNE: Victor Pichardo and Juan Dies, thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. PICHARDO: Thank you.

Mr. DIES: Thank you for having us here.

MONTAGNE: Juan Dies and Victor Pichardo are the founders of Sones de Mexico.

And if you'd like to hear songs by Sones de Mexico from beginning to end and discover more music from around the world, go to our new music Web site, npr.org/music.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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