Girl In A Coma: Rockers Tackle Their Second Language The Texas trio performs loud Latin alt-rock in both English and Spanish — though its members are only fluent in one of the two.
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Girl In A Coma: Rockers Tackle Their Second Language

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Girl In A Coma: Rockers Tackle Their Second Language

Girl In A Coma: Rockers Tackle Their Second Language

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now a rock band that's using Spanish to grow its audience, Latino-style. The members of Girl in a Coma grew up listening to Selena, the late singer who had huge hits on Spanish-language radio in the '90s. She sang a style of Latin pop music called Tejano. Like Selena, the members of Girl in a Coma are Mexican-Americans from Texas. And like Selena, they are English speakers who are learning Spanish by singing it. NPR's Felix Contreras has more.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Girl in a Coma is a trio of young women from San Antonio who play rock music. Loud rock music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

CONTRERAS: Twenty-three-year-old Nina Diaz is the main singer and songwriter and the youngest member of the band. Her sister Phannie plays drums and their long-time friend Jenn Alva plays bass. They are singed to a label owned by rocker Joan Jett. They take their name from the song "Girlfriend in a Coma" by the '80s rock band The Smiths. They are very much like other rock musicians, working hard to make a name for themselves. They are also like many Latinos in the U.S. who don't speak Spanish.

According to a national survey by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C., 23 percent of adult Latinos here in the U.S. are English dominant. Nina Diaz says she often feels left out.

NINA DIAZ: You know, when the grandparents are talking to the older sister or just even adult conversations, you hear them talking and it seems like such a foreign thing and like - it's like what are you saying? I want to understand you. But then you go off and you play with your toys and you're like whatever, you know, I guess I'll understand it later.

CONTRERAS: Diaz says she grew up very much like Selena, an English speaker who listened to English-language radio and didn't pay attention in Spanish classes in school.

DIAZ: I wish I would have paid more attention then because now I realize I kind of messed up and there's times, like especially with singing the songs in Spanish, I'm basically teaching myself how to speak Spanish by singing it. I'm doing it kind of like the Selena way.

CONTRERAS: The slain Tejano star became a musical and cultural inspiration with songs like her 1994 hit "Si Una Vez."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SI UNA VEZ")

DIAZ: I would always just listen to the music. I never really understood what she was saying. So when it came to doing the song, I wrote out the lyrics, studied it, fell asleep to it, and did it as many times as I had to in the studio. And performing it live is the best way because you get different feels for it, different vibes, it becomes your own.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SI UNA VEZ")

CONTRERAS: Diaz says learning Spanish by singing is helping all of the musicians of Girl in a Coma communicate beyond their generation.

DIAZ: It's hard enough as it is, you know, being an all-girl band, two thirds gay, all Latinas. And whenever they ask us a question in Spanish, all of us are like, can you repeat it again in English, please? I'm sorry. You know, it's a little embarrassing, I admit that. So it's also just to be able to stand up and say I am Latina and I know what you're saying to me, I'm going to answer you back.

CONTRERAS: Nina Diaz says she envisions a day when Girl in a Coma might even produce an entire album in Spanish. Felix Contreras, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SI UNA VEZ")

SHAPIRO: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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