The all-female mariachi group Flor de Toloache looks and sounds nothing like the sombrero-clad ensembles roaming local restaurants, but audiences on the group’s national tour are still getting the whole enchilada.
“It always works to our advantage to see a bunch of women playing all these beautiful instruments,” said Mireya I. Ramos, founder of the New York City-based group coming to Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington Friday.
“We make our own outfits, and they look great on stage, and they are like, ‘Wow look at these women, where did they come from?’ ” added Ramos, who is also lead vocalist and plays the violin and guitarrón, aka the big Mexican guitar.
A Band’s Origins
Although artists such as Mexican pop star Thalía and Linda Ronstadt have recorded mariachi songs, and all-female groups reportedly perform in Los Angeles and Mexico, Ramos said Flor de Toloache’s trailblazing career in New York is “a pretty important thing in mariachi history.”
“I started this group because I wanted to do my own arrangements but also because I wanted to work with other women and share the network I had created for myself,” said Ramos, who was born in California and raised in Puerto Rico. A major influence was her dad, a professional mariachi singer from Michoacán, Mexico. As a girl, Ramos performed with him at the Mexican restaurant her parents ran in San Juan.
After moving to New York City and earning a living as a mariachi, Ramos rebelled against “the machismo” which she said “is still very vivid in the culture and the genre.” In response, Ramos founded Flor de Toloache in 2008 with Shae Fiol, a half-Cuban Oregon native who plays the vihuela, a guitar-shaped string instrument. They named their band after a flower used in love potions.
Recording with a Legend
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW
In 2017 Flor de Toloache became the first female artists to win the Latin Grammy for best ranchero/mariachi album (“Las Cadas Lindas”). They followed it this year with “Indestructible,” a bilingual album featuring collaborations with John Legend and singer-songwriters Alex Cuba and Miguel.
Billboard named their cover of Juan Luis Guerra’s “Quisiera" with Legend one of the best new Latin songs when it dropped in June.
Legend recorded his track separately, but Ramos and her bandmates did get to see videos of him recording the song. "Every time we would get a video, it was chills all over," she said.
The collaboration was more intimate between Miguel and Ramos, whose grandmothers were cousins who sang together on Mexican radio. Their remake of “Te Lo Dije,” Miguel’s “Told You So” translated into Spanish by Ramos’ brother (aka DJ Velcro), “was such an emotional session because our grandmothers had just passed away,” Ramos said by telephone from the road.
A New Musical Genre
Ramos said the Long Island audience can expect an “explosion of cultures” from a band that includes musicians and singers either hailing from or tracing their family lineage to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and the United States. They specialize in a new musical genre, known as mariachi fusion, blending Mexican rancheras, jazz, salsa, flamenco and reggae. “You can cry on a ranchera, next you’ll be dancing, or remembering a family member or your trip to Mexico,” she said.
Just don’t expect bows with a sombrero sweep.
“They are very heavy and very uncomfortable to wear,” Ramos said of the traditional mariachi headgear. “That’s probably why they usually take them off during a show.”
Flor de Toloache
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, Landmark on Main Street, 232 Main St., Port Washington
INFO $25-$29; 516-767-6444, landmarkonmainstreet.org