Grupo Bella’s debut album, Asi Suena, is a joyful adventure through both classical mariachi and modern music. It shows well why Grupo Bella is so popular in their native Los Angeles and in Mexico. The album is a must for the collections of mariachi lovers.
I recently saw them live in the heart of mariachi country in Jalisco state in Mexico and they radiated not only the fun spirit of mariachi, but just plain fun. Asi Suena captures the spirit and fun in 10 great songs that range from classic mariachi to tropical-flavored ballads to son jarocho to romantic cancións de amor.
Grupo Bella is an all-female mariachi – almost, since the harp is wielded by the very much a man Michael Tejada. The other members are Founder and Director Vanessa Ramierez, on jarana, quintera and vocals, Diana McConell on the guitarón, Maya Arce, Lilian Lopez and Maria Reyes on violins and vocals. The album also features special guests Tomas Herrera on requinto and jarocho, Roberto Adán Diaz on the second harp, Salvador Vasquez on percussion and Keiko Okamoto on the flute .
The album begins with the boisterous “Cielito, a classic high energy mariachi with vocals and violins. The popular and much-recorded “La Guacamaya” follows, continuing the energy but shifting the mood by opening with the harp and then moving to multiple voices, male and female. It is followed by Natalia Lafourcade’s “Nunca es Sufficiente” , the mariachi version a nice parallel to Fourcade’s pop-rock song.
Grupo Bella delivers Mon Laferte’s “Por que Me Fui Enamorar de Ti” with tropical beats blended with swaying melodies and the touch of mariachi violins – a real earworm. Then they shift to a pure jarocho “El Canelo” which is nothing but fun. The fun continues with “La Rosa”, moved along by blazing violins with the harp moving cleverly beneath the lyrics and the violins .
The album moves on with the fast-moving “La La Marianita Alegre” then shifts radically to “Viajera del Rio”, a Venezuelan waltz created by Manuel Yánez. Simply beautiful and a very nice break from the energy of the other songs on the album. But the energy comes back in the last two songs, the mariachi classic “El Siguisiri”, and Carlos Vives and Egidio Cuadrado’s “La Casa en el Aire.
Asi Suena is a tribute to mariachi and a nod to its expansion and modernization. The band is absolutely authentic in several regional variations, but also can caress your ears with a modern ballad or even a waltz. The combination is terrific as is Grupo Bella.
Ai Suena is available on Apple Music.com and Amazon.com
Patrick O’Heffernan is co-host of the LA-based, nationally syndicated weekly program, Music FridayLive! and is a music reviewer for online magazines Vents, The Hollywood Progressive and MusicJunkie. He has also co-hosted a national political talk show, The Fairness Doctrine, and hosted the “Uplinks” media segment on Saturday All Things Considered on NPR. He holds a PhD in International Relations from MIT, has been awarded an Emmy, four Addy’s, and a Webby-Honors, among other awards. He has published 5 books and ghost-written others. A project he co-launched, the North Asia Nuclear Free Zone, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He serves on the Board of Netroots Nation.