January 31, 2003

MACUILXOCHITL: “Five Flower”, The Aztec god of music and dance.

By Francisco Ciriza

Presentando: Grupo Fiesta

As crisp and eye opening as a cold east coast winter wind, Grupo Fiesta, breezes its way into southern California this weekend for a series of three Los Angeles area concerts. The sextet, which mixes raw traditional Latino sounds with pop and rock influences, reaches this side of the country to play shows at Santa Monica’s Temple Bar, Espresso Mi Cultura in Hollywood, and Self-Help Graphics in East L.A. January 30, 31, and February 1, respectively.

The group’s leader, Cecilia Villar, a Lebanese/Ecuadorian immigrant, recently chatted with La Prensa San Diego as she and her band mates excitedly prepared for their first westward jaunt, almost as excited about experiencing California’s well-known Latino music scene as they are escaping the continuing cold weather of the eastern U.S.

“California has always intrigued us because of the great Latin alternative scene we’ve heard about over the years. We can’t wait to bring our music to a brand new audience. It’s all about more people hearing the music and this is a huge opportunity for us to make that happen. It inspires us to see people grooving to our sound.”

The talented, experienced, and diverse individuals making up Grupo Fiesta seem to personify the eclectic sonic elements they mold into a refreshing and upbeat, and inviting blend. It is a sound that Villar says is derived from her vision when forming the band. “The sound is based on the marriage of two very strong roots of mine. I grew up influenced by very traditional Afro-Cuban music like Orquesta Aragon and great Rock and Pop music like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Those influences make up the ‘Fiesta’ musical journey we want to take you on.”

While the infectious grooves the band delivers live with charisma and outright raw energy have won many fans over regardless of ethnicity, culture, or even musical taste, Villar is careful not to let that accessibility be perceived as a contrived sales gimmick. “We have been told by many that we are the ultimate ‘crossover’ band but, I want to make it clear that although this may be the case, it’s due to an organic process and not by intentional design. I am an immigrant raised in the US with strong ties to my Latino roots. I write songs whose lyrics freely flow between English and Spanish and whose music combines traditional Latin grooves, rock drums and electric guitar.”

Band manager, Paula Romano, has always held on to her belief the band would be accepted by music fans of various cultures. This would seem to be true merely by looking at the types of shows and venues Grupo Fiesta has played. “So far, In New York City, we’ve performed and have been well-received in traditional Latin shows with bands like Yomo Toro and Jose Feliciano, at Latin Alternative shows with bands like Los Amigos Invisibles, and in straight-ahead NYC rock clubs to a non-Latino audiences at clubs like CBGB’s, Elbow Room, and Luna Lounge.”

If Villar hasn’t already impressed readers and fans with her insightful and honest commentary, her words describing her musical project most surely will. “Grupo Fiesta is about expanding minds, hearts and ears to a new sound that may include musical elements that are completely foreign to you, but then again, those are introduced to you via either a beat, instrumentation or a language that you already love. Also, I want people to hear what we have to say. Some songs are about unrequited or lost love and others about one’s homeland and the tortures of war.we want the Grupo Fiesta family to continue to grow.”

If the band’s self-titled debut CD is any indication of what the band is capable of in a live setting, it is quite possible, Ceilia Villar and the rest of Grupo Fiesta will increase their following with their talent and artistic and personal integrity.

Pronto: Look for upcoming CD releases by L.A. rap and hip-hop veterans, Delinquent Habits (Ark 21 Records) as well as from trance/house outfit, Medicine Drum (CyberOctave).

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