Anaheim, California-Â Flawless instrumentals, remarkable vocals and vibrant dancingâ€”a combination that makes it clear this mariachi group is anything but ordinary.
The Mariachi Divas celebrated their 6th Grammy nomination with a free concert for fans at Downtown Disney on Thursday. The lively performance included songs from the groupâ€™s latest album 15 Aniversario, which is nominated for Best Regional Mexican Album. It also marks the fifteen years since leader Cindy Shea founded the musical group in 1999.
However, these ladies are no strangers to success. The Mariachi Divas became the first all-female mariachi band to win a Grammy in 2009, then won another last year in 2014. The Divas are also the official mariachi band at Disneyland.
We were able to chat with Mariachi Divas founder Cindy Shea and singer Melinda Saucedo about their success, just in time for the Grammyâ€™s on Sunday.
Q: Your latest Grammy nominated album celebrates the fifteen years the Mariachi Divas have performed together. How would you describe the evolution of your music over the years?
Cindy Shea: Itâ€™s evolved a lot. In the beginning it was just a lot of dancing and stuff like that. People kind of put their label on us as the dancing mariachi or the mariachi that plays a lot of salsa and cumbaya. But, through the years weâ€™ve really become attached to the classics, the rancheras, the beautiful classic mariachi pieces and the composers that have contributed to this beautiful genre.
Now when you hear our albums, itâ€™s a mix of everything. Especially in 15 Aniversario, you can find a little piece of everything. You can find original music, which I always love to record because itâ€™s ours. You can find something pop, something that you find on the radio right now. You can find the old classics like Jose Alfredo De Jimenez and of course you can find the stuff thatâ€™s going to get you on the dance floor like Vivir Mi Vida by Marc Anthony. It really has a wide variety and a mix of music for this latest album.
Q: What is the inspiration for your original songs?
Cindy Shea: Honestly, I would say we start off with the kind of message you want to give. For instance, Mirando Hacia Arriba was composed by my husband Beto Jimenez and Paulina Aguirre, who is a very good friend. Sheâ€™s also a Grammy award winner. Both of them are. I had told them I wanted something inspirational. Iâ€™m so tired of hearing music that bashes men or talks about how depressed I am because my partner just left me and life is over. Itâ€™s always so negative when you hear songs like that. I wanted something that was more uplifting, like there is a tomorrow. Smile, you know, get back up because there is always a tomorrow, Mirando Hacia Arriba.
We have a music video of that on YouTube, its very uplifting. It basically talks about looking up because there is always a tomorrow and there is always a better day. That was a big inspiration for that song. There was another one called Estampas de Mi Tierra. It pretty much talks about all the different beautiful places around Mexico. So, neither one of them has any negative content. I think I like that area more than the bashing. I like more inspirational type things.
Q: Do you have a favorite song that holds special meaning or that you love to perform?
Cindy Shea: Well since Iâ€™m a trumpet player, I like trumpet songs and anything that I get to play a lot of trumpet on. Iâ€™m going to be honest, I like the dancing stuff because I get to play all those high notes and be creative. I like stuff that I can throw a little bit of jazz improv into.
I like the fusion part of Mariachi Divas for myself because thatâ€™s where my expertise is, being a classical and jazz musician before being a mariachi. Thatâ€™s where Iâ€™m most comfortable.
Q: Starting out, what was one of the most challenging things about being in an all female mariachi band?
Cindy Shea: I think the challenges we had in the beginning are the same challenges we have now. You have to double prove yourself. People just look at you and assume you canâ€™t play your instrument and you have to double prove yourself. What Iâ€™ve learned over fifteen years is that I used to get angry and talk a lot. Iâ€™d say, â€œYeah I can!â€ Iâ€™m just quiet now and I let the music speak for itself.
I realize that music does speak for itself. Itâ€™s a universal language, you really donâ€™t have to say anything and you just play. People will figure it out really fast that there is no difference between a girl or a boy. We can all play and thatâ€™s the beauty of music. Itâ€™s not run by gender, age or where youâ€™re from. Itâ€™s just music, itâ€™s for everybody. Mariachi music to me is a world music.
Q: Your latest Grammy nominated album, 15 Aniversario, celebrates the fifteen years Mariachi Divas have been together. What makes this album different from the others youâ€™ve made?
Melinda Saucedo: Itâ€™s pretty much a buildup of everything that weâ€™ve done. Itâ€™s also a product of everything else that weâ€™ve done. The one song that really is awesome is Mirando Hacia Arriba, the one thatâ€™s nominated for a Latin Grammy. We also did a video for that, which you can find on YouTube. Stylistically, it brings together the meaning of what Mariachi Divas is. It has traditional music and it has some cumbayas. It sets us aside from all the other mariachis, not just female mariachis but the guy mariachis too. So, we had our own style.
Q: What is your favorite song on the new album?
Melinda Saucedo: Personally, my favorite song is Ay Papacito. Thatâ€™s just me though. I think all the songs are great, in the sense that musically the girls really put in one hundred percent. Beto Jimenez, our musical director, really expects a lot from us. He sets the bar really high and thatâ€™s a good thing. We have a challenge that we need to meet in order to live up to our name and people are expecting that. Itâ€™s a lot of pressure, but we love it.
Q: What does the writing process look like for the songs on each album?
Melinda Saucedo: Usually February is when we do our preproduction. So, right now weâ€™re in the preproduction mode for our next album. After that we start going into the studio to lay down the tracks. First the instruments go down, then we start bringing in the singers and then we do the choruses and everyone else sings together. Then after that you have the editing and the engineering aspect of it. Iâ€™m just in awe because, I mean, I have to hand it to Beto. I wouldnâ€™t have the patience to do that. But, itâ€™s awesome and he does a great job.
Q: The Mariachi Divas are also the official mariachi band here at Disneyland. Can you tell me a bit about that partnership and how it started?
Melinda Saucedo: Weâ€™ve been here for thirteen years. From day one it was always fun. I love it I personally, I just love it. I love seeing the peopleâ€™s reaction when we come out. I canâ€™t tell you how many birthdays we do, itâ€™s ridiculous. I think they know when they come on their birthday, especially if theyâ€™re wearing their little pins that say â€œHappy Birthday.â€ They know weâ€™re going to surprise them.
Q: What songs are you excited to perform today?
Melinda Saucedo: Definitely Mirando Hacia Arriba. Weâ€™re also doing classics from our other CDâ€™s. So, hopefully weâ€™ll give the crowd a big variety of all the songs that weâ€™ve done and all the styles. Personally, my favorite is when Iâ€™ll get to sing â€œAt Last.â€ So, that will be a little Etta James weâ€™re going to throw out there for everyone. Hopefully weâ€™ll be able to celebrate maybe a wedding proposal or an anniversary, so weâ€™ll see.