Las Rubias del Norte, Latina by Voice The group Las Rubias del Norte is led by a pair of singers from Brooklyn who found inspiration in the songs of Tejana singer Lydia Mendoza and other music of South America.

Las Rubias del Norte, Latina by Voice

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(Soundbite of music)


Las Rubias del Norte, which translates in English to the blondes of the north. In music, Las Rubias del Norte translates to a Brooklyn-based band best known for serenading New York audiences with re-arranged versions of Latin popular standards. We're listening to them now. Their new recording is an eclectic mix of re-interpreted cha chas, cumbias, boleros, a smattering of European classical music and even cowboy songs. This is called Amorosoa Guajira.

(Soundbite of song, "Amorosoa Guajira")

WERHEIMER: Las Rubias del Norte join us in Studio 4A. Their latest CD is called PanAmericana. At the microphone are Allyssa Lamb, Emily Hurst and Olivier Conan. Hello.

Ms. ALLYSSA LAMB (Singer): Hi.

Mr. OLIVIER CONAN (Guitarist): Hello.

WERTHEIMER: Let's start with this name, Las Rubias del Norte, which means blondes of the north. I can tell right away that there aren't any blondes here. Where did the name come from, Allyssa?

Ms. LAMB: Well, I actually am blonde in real life. I've been dyeing my hair for several years and basically when we started the band, we felt a little wary about whether it was okay for us to do this since we weren't from South America and we loved (foreign spoken) del Norte and so we thought it'd be sort of a little joke in a way of acknowledging that we're not authentic, you know, but we like to do the music. But I am blonde.

WERTHEIMER: How traditional is the instrumentation? The instrument you play, Olivier, that's a Venezuelan instrument that looks like a sort of extra deep ukulele.

Mr. CONAN: That's about right. It's called a cuatro and it is pretty much the national instrument of Venezuela. It's also played in Columbia and in Trinidad.

WERTHEIMER: Well, why don't you just strum it for a second so we can hear, we can separate it out when we hear it.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: Right, and then of course, the electric guitar we know what that - and you've got the gourd shakers and all those sorts of things are still, that's traditional.

Mr. CONAN: It's traditional in certain cultures. I don't think this particular combo comes from one culture. It's as PanAmerican as the CD is or as we are in a way. I mean, the (unintelligible) is typically used Peru. The guida(ph), which is the big grating instrument, is usually used in the Dominican Republic.

WERTHEIMER: Could you just give us a moment of the guida?

Mr. CONAN: The guida, sure.

(Soundbite of guida)

WERTHEIMER: Allyssa, I'm sorry to be ignorant about this, but what is the instrument you're playing? You blow into it, it has a little keyboard on it.

Ms. LAMB: Yeah, it's -

WERTHEIMER: Green plastic it looks like.

Ms. LAMB: Yeah, they're not always green. This is a special one. But this is a Melodica. It has a piano keyboard so if you play piano, you can do it. Like the accordion. It has three reeds inside, one reed per key.

WERTHEIMER: Can we hear the sound that it makes when you play it?

(Soundbite of Melodica)

Let's listen to a song. This one is called, Corazon, Corazon.

Ms. LAMB: Sure, we love that one. One, two, one, two, three...

(Soundbite of song, "Corazon, Corazon")

WERTHEIMER: Emily and Allyssa, when you sing together, those very high clear pure Soprano voices, it's just not what I expected to hear.

Ms. LAMB: That's part of the reason we felt at the beginning, what are we doing singing this kind of music, we don't have the right kind of voices, but then we just sort of realized that maybe it could work.

WERTHEIMER: You met as members at the New York Choral Society, this is right?

Ms. LAMB: Yes, 200 person choir and we decided we wanted to form a chamber choir. Our idea was to start by singing duets with each other and then expand, and then we just started singing this kind of music.

WERTHEIMER: Looking at the record, though, this one and the one before it, some of that classical influence remains, I gather.

Ms. EMILY HURST (Singer): On the first record, we do an arrangement of the Confutatis from Mozart's Requiem, which actually we did sing together in the choir that we were singing in.

WERTHEIMER: Can you do it for us now?

Ms. HURST: Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: Confutatis.

(Soundbite of song "Confutatis")

WERTHEIMER: Las Rubias del Norte is Allyssa Lamb, Emily Hurst, Olivier Conan, Giancarlo Vulcano, Taylor Bergren-Chrisman, Greg Stare and Timothy Quigley. They joined us in Studio 4A. Their new release is called, PanAmericana. You can hear another live song from Las Rubias del Norte at our Web site, You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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