Rana Santacruz: Crafting Music For a New America

Rana Santacruz plays three shows at MACLA in San Jose. (Photo: Erin Patrice O'Brien)

The opening two sentences of Rana Santacruz’s site explain the musician’s output and mission quite succinctly: “As the ethnic make-up of America changes, so does its music. And with a passel of influences under his belt, Rana Santacruz makes music for that new America.”

That doesn’t mean classifying Santacruz’s output is easy, though. “Mexican bluegrass? Irish mariachi?” asked the Washington Post of his wonderfully eclectic instrumentation, ultimately stating that Santacruz is “helping to redefine Mexican-American music.”

That may be a lot of pressure for the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist to shoulder, but he appears to take it in stride. Santacruz's cross-genre explorations are surely refreshing for the Mexico City-born musician, whose musical direction rose out of his dissatisfaction with former rock group La Catrina.

Unhappy with the group’s inability to achieve widespread success, Santacruz chose to redefine his music by moving to Brooklyn in 2002. He soon discovered a wealth of talented musicians who helped him discover a new musical voice.

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“Living in NYC changed my music a lot,” he recalls. “It’s great for a bandleader because regardless of your type of music, you will find incredible resources in New York to develop any ideas you have.”

And he had a lot of them, as 2010 debut Chicavasco shows. Album cut “Loopita” almost feels like a mariachi band invading an airy, indie session, resulting in the best possible melding of those two disparate musical worlds.

On Cinco de Mayo, Santacruz releases his new album, Por Ahí (Around Here), which incorporates a mix of Mexican, Celtic, bluegrass and Balkan sounds. Of the new collection of songs, comprised of 11 original compositions, Santacruz explains, “I wanted it to be more physical. I think there is music to listen to and music to move to. I wanted this album to have a little more of a foot-stomping factor.”

Santacruz’s three performances at MACLA will feature support from Cado, a local songwriter originally hailing from Rio De Janeiro whose style largely echoes the samba and bossa nova moods and rhythms of his native Brazil. Count on more music from Cado soon, as he just reached his funding goal on IndieGogo to release his next studio album, Imigrante.