Mixing musical traditions to create a new sound: Primero Sueño
An all-female group of CalArts music students is shaking things up by mixing and matching musical styles and traditions
For the last twenty-eight years, music students at CalArts have been recording at the renown Capitol Studio B. Outside the studio, five young band members are feeling pretty emotional.
After all, recording at this legendary studio, doesn’t happen every day:
“Excited, nervous, adrenaline all over my body…"
The group is called ‘Primero Sueño’, First Dream. The band takes its name from the most important work written by Mexico’s renown 17th century poet, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. It was founded at CalArts by bassist-singer Estrella Arias last September, at the suggestion of band-mate and singer Elsa Lund. “When I first listened to the song that Estrella wrote over the Summer, I thought it was so beautiful and I thought it sounded like the sound of a like group that I would also like to write for.”
Arias’s instrument is called 'Leona', a small, four-string bass, played in the traditional folk style of Veracruz and known as ‘Son Jarocho’.
“I was mostly playing jazz a lot, last year. Then over the Summer I started writing songs, with the instruments that I play all my life. One way or another I identify with this music because it’s the earliest memory of music that I’ve had.”
Arias moved from San Miguel de Allende to LA in 2015 to attend CalArts and enrolled in the Jazz Program. When Arias and Lund put together the core members of ‘Primero Sueño’, they decided to invite other female musicians. Mandolinist Vera Webber heard them perform and was immediately attracted to their unique sound. It’s based on the contrast created by mixing classical and traditional instruments: “This group is such a great opportunity just to experiment and hear what these instruments sound like with each other and that’s one of the greatest things about this group.”
Violinist Rachel Iba says the band creates exciting new sounds by exploring the intersections of music traditions from different cultures.
“There’s a huge world music environment, it’s a big part of CalArts. So we all come to the group with different experience, both of music from our own cultures and things we’ve studied at CalArts.”