“We are very eager to fight everything we are watching and listening to,” says Miguel Ramírez, “Oso,” percussionist of La Santa Cecilia when asked about the current immigration crisis. “The only thing we can do is use our voice to represent our community in a dignified way, so that people see who we are really as immigrants,” he adds. La Santa Cecilia is a band composed of two Latino immigrants (José Carlos, “Pepe,” from Oaxaca, Mexico, and Alex Bendana, from Venezuela) and two Americans of Hispanic descent (“La Marisoul” Hernández and Oso himself).
La Santa Cecilia was born in Los Angeles. Its members met while working in groups and orchestras performing traditional Latin American music, jazz, and funk. Each player was anxious to do something original and give something back to the city of Los Angeles. So they decided to create the band.
Since its inception, La Santa Cecilia has paid tribute to both Hispanic and US cultures. In their songs, Latin American rhythms, such as bolero or salsa, are mixed with American sounds. Oso says that as children in the kitchen with their parents, the band’s members listened to Juan Gabriel, Yuri, and Los Bukis, while in their bedrooms with their siblings they could listen to Led Zeppelin, The Doors or Bob Marley.
The members of La Santa Cecilia write their own music. While composing, they consider their immigrant status a bridge that unites nations, “Our experience is interesting because we live in both cultures. That gives us a great strength,” he says, celebrating bilingualism as a natural part of their songs.
Winners in 2013 of the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock Urban or Alternative Album, La Santa Cecilia has frequently spoken about immigration in the United States. In that year, with their song El Hielo (ICE), the band gave voice to the undocumented’s fear of deportation. The lyrics speak of their daily life: the fear of their families and the wounds left by uncertainty.
Oso comments that La Santa Cecilia tells its story from the perspective of the immigrant community. “We did not start as a political band. We started as a band that has a great faith in what can be achieved with music. People say we are an activist band, but we just do what we feel in our souls, in our hearts.”
Can music make a difference? Oso answers without hesitation, “Music has a great power, but each of us as individuals has the same power to change the world simply through our way of seeing things, our education, and our strength to do something positive.”
Anchorage Concert Association will present La Santa Cecilia at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts on November 10.
On November 9, the band will hold a conversation with UAA’s students, and will perform at Out North Art House’s 4th Avenue Marketplace Gallery, along with an exhibition of local artists with pieces inspired by their song El Hielo. Both events on November 9 will be free, and open to everybody.