On October 12th, California-based Mexican roots band Los Cenzontles will release Alma P'urhépecha, an album of songs performed in the musical style of the indigenous P'urhépecha people, native of Michoacán, Mexico. The album was recorded in collaboration with Atilano López Patricio, a composer, musician, painter and artisan of the P'urhepecha traditions.
The P'urhépechas, previously known as Tarascan, was one of the pre-Columbian empires of Meso America. Centered in the northwestern region of Michoacán, Mexico, they are now known for their many folk arts as well as their music and dance traditions.
Since 2000, Los Cenzontles have learned to play, sing and dance sones abajeños (danced rhythms) and pirekuas (lilting love songs) from Don Atilano on his occasional visits to the Bay Area. Los Cenzontles vocalists Fabiola Trujillo and Lucina Rodriguez learned to sing in the native language of P'urhépecha from Don Atilano. In turn, the members of Los Cenzontles teach this tradition to community youth at their Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy in San Pablo, California.
Los Cenzontles has released a number of live video recording of P'urhépecha music and dance, but Alma P'urhépecha is their first album dedicated to this tradition. Of the album, Los Cenzontles Director Eugene Rodriguez says, "It gives us great pride to release this studio recording to express our love and respect for Don Atilano and his beautiful P'urhépecha music, especially in such times where Native cultures are diminished, and working-class Mexican Americans are threatened."
The entire album can be streamed at the following page:
Don Atilano lives in Jaracuaro, one of the islands in Lake Patzcuaro. He learned his traditions from his father Tata Gervasio Lopez, a renowned composer and practitioner. As with most working-class artists, they would learn and play in the afternoons following work in the fields.
In 2001 his sons Roberto and Atilano Jr. joined their father and Los Cenzontles on the Cuatro Maestros California tour. Like many P'urhépecha, Atilano's children have worked as migrant workers in the United States. In keeping with his practice of integrating contemporary reality and migration into their traditional practices, Don Atilano named one of his compositions, that appears on this album, "Flores de Lexington", based on his reflections on Lexington, Kentucky, where his children have worked as migrants.
Don Atilano tells us that the P'urhépecha people were neither conquered by the Aztecs nor the Spanish. And while the native peoples of Mexico have long lived under conditions of great discrimination, the beauty and creativity of the P'urhépecha music provides us a window to their creative vision and spirit. Each of the eight songs on Alma P'urhépecha captures this vision and spirit, and the album's spirit and feel testifies to the authenticity of these recordings:
Atilano López Patricio: voice, violin, guitar, vihuela
Lucina Rodriguez: voice, zapateado
Fabiola Trujillo: voice
Eugene Rodriguez: vihuela, guitarra de golpe
Emiliano Rodriguez: upright bass
Tregar Otton: violin on Naninan Upirin
Alma P'urhépecha was made with support The Jonathan Logan Family Foundation and The Sage Foundation.
"Listen to this lovely album, sung in the Native tongue of Michoacán, and discover the root of Mexico's exquisite folk rhythms, vocal cadences and noble spirit. Sublime music from the heart." –Linda Ronstadt
ABOUT LOS CENZONTLES
Los Cenzontles (pronounced los senn-sont-less) has made a name for themselves among music aficionados across the US and in Europe creating roots music, cross-cultural projects, collaborating on record and live with Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Chieftains, among others. Their media productions have been broadcast nationally on PBS. Their YouTube Channel hosts hundreds of videos enjoyed throughout the world.
"Los Cenzontles is a factory of culture."—NPR, Morning Edition
"[Los Cenzontles] both honors and upends traditional Mexican music, tapping deep roots as it flowers into something completely new, and distinctly American."—New York Times