August 29, 2008

Put ‘em up, San Diego –again

By Pablo Jamie Sainz

The band Pistolera, which means “trigger woman” in Spanish, brings its rock and roll corridos with its second album, En este camino (Luchadora, 2008).

Three women and a guy make up Pistolera, but their songs are anything but girly.

Pistolera is strong. Pistolera is dangerous. Pistolera rocks and is ranchera at the same time.

The New York band, led by singer-guitarist Sandra Velásquez, mixes rock with sounds typical of regional Mexican music, like accordions and tuba.

Velásquez was born and raised in San Diego (she’s the daughter of prominent immigration attorney Lilia Velásquez), but in 1999 she moved to New York to pursue a master’s degree in humanities.

Pistolera defines the latin alt-folklorico genre. Drawing from traditional styles of Mexican music and fusing it with a pop-rock sensibility, the electrifying quartet features the Spanish lyric songs of vocalist and guitarist Sandra Lilia Velásquez (pictured up front), the driving accordion melodies of Maria Elena (second from right), and the unbeatable rhythm section of bassist Inca B. Satz (far left) and drummer Ani Cordero (far right). Photo by M. Sharkay.

It was there she experienced a culture shock that led her explore the music of her Mexican roots.

“I think part of it was being far from San Diego and the border,” said Velásquez. “It had something to do with missing my people. But the truth is I like ranchera music.”

Pistolera’s first record, “Siempre hay salida” (“There’s Always a Way Out”) was released in 2006. The album’s 10 songs are in Spanish and accordions blasts come from every groove.

The lyrics take aim at female stereotypes and discrimination suffered by Mexicans in the United States.

“I chose the name Pistolera because I wanted something strong and feminine, because that’s how we are in the band,” said Velásquez.

Pistolera’s music has been compared to Latino rock acts like Aterciopelados, Ozomatli and early Los Lobos.

The band’s songs deal with current, controversial, events.

The band was formed in 2005, and its music has been compared to Latino rockers like Aterciopelados, Ozomatli, Lila Downs and Los Lobos. But the music is also akin to the experimental jams of Café Tacvba and Maldita Vecindad.

Now with En este camino they introduce new songs such as Nuevos ojos, where Velasquez plays the jarana.

The themes the band touches are timely, controversial. Guerra is a Spanish-language version of War, a Bob Marley original. Piloto is about a woman who wants to reach her full potential.

“Pistolera is on the same path as the first album”, said Velasquez. “These are upbeat songs with political lyrics.”

But not everything in Pistolera’s music is serious or with social themes. There some songs, such as Un momento, where they sing about love, family, community.

It’s incredible what Pistolera has accomplished in just two year. The band has toured throughout the United States, in Mexico and even in Europe. The band has played Mexico City’s main square in front of 70,000 people, and its record is being distributed in the United States and Mexico.

“We’ve grown as people, musicians, band members and family,” Velasquez said.

Although all the lyrics are in Spanish, Pistolera’s music breaks language barriers like bullets.

“The love they have for what they do and how they have fun on stage is contagious,” said long-time fan Annie Ross, a member of the board at Centro Cultural de la Raza and part of the RedCalacArts Collective. “It’s almost impossible to remain seated when Pistolera’s music fills your ears.”

To listen to Pistolera, Velasquez said that you don’t have to understand Spanish. The band is really popular, perhaps even more so, among non-Spanish speakers.

“If you like the music, you like it and that’s it.”

“To listen to Pistolera and to buy their new album visit

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