Mariachi Flor De Toloache
Gig Seeker Pro

Mariachi Flor De Toloache

New York City, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

New York City, NY | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Latin Jazz


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"In full flower A plena flor"

Flor de Toloache is New York City’s only all-women mariachi band. It might be its best.

The seven-member group is known for spectacular harmonies and sparkling instrumentation. Their sound is grounded in traditional mariachi music, with hints of cumbia, hip-hop and blues.
They can be heard throughout the city, including at such diverse uptown venues such as Le Chéile Bar and Restaurant, El Museo del Barrio and Pregones Theater. And on April 4, the band officially rolls out their debut album at the new downtown club Subrosa. Of the 10 songs, five are classics like “Si Se Calla el Cantor” and a heartbreakingly beautiful rendition of “La Llorona.” The rest are original tunes by co-founders Mireya Ramos and Shae Fiol.

Both women came from musical families. Ramos grew up in Puerto Rico with her Mexican father and Dominican mother. When she wasn’t listening to José Alfredo Jiménez, Mercedes Sosa and Stevie Wonder, she’d watch her father perform mariachi in the family’s Mexican restaurant.

“He used to sing to me when I was little,” she said. “He used to sing me to sleep. I have a special bond with that music. But it’s also therapeutic for love, for happiness—for a lot of things.” Fiol grew up in Portland, Oregon, listening to Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey. Her Cuban father and Massachusetts mother had a bluegrass band but also liked funk and rock.

Though Fiol didn’t grow up with mariachi, she says it is the music of love and heartbreak that is intimate and honest. She loves playing for people who have a deep connection to it.

“Like Mireya said, ‘This music reminds me of my dad.’ How many people in the audience get taken to that place—so they are reminded of their family, their country and their home when we are performing?” Fiol said. “It can be really moving.”

They met in New York, and performed together at clubs like CBGBs, The Bitter End and the Elbow Room. Around 2008, Ramos suggested they form an all-woman band.

Both, along with member Veronica Medellin, had just broken up with their boyfriends. “It was so therapeutic,“ said Fiol. “It felt so good. I wanted to feel myself in that kind of music.”

Medellin is from Mexico, but the other members hail from all over the world. They named the band Flor de Toloache, after a white flower used in love potions.

Su álbum lanzará en abril.The debut album will be out in April. Clearly, the potion is working. At Campeón, a Union Square Mexican eatery where the band performs regularly, patrons sway to the music—whether it’s a rollicking version of “Tequila” by The Champs or “Cucurrucuco Paloma” that leaves Lola Beltrán’s version in the dust.
Jason Marzola, the restaurant’s manager, is a fan.
“I’m in love with their music,” he said. “At home, it’s like I’m in withdrawal.”

Ramos and Fiol work hard on the songs, often spending six hours straight testing different melodies, different chords and refining it. At first they played like a traditional mariachi band. But little by little they layered in other influences. One of the songs on the album, “When We Love,” reflects their multiculturalism. It is performed in English with an R&B melody and a bachata rhythm.

Their costumes have changed too. Flor de Toloache started out wearing traje—­traditional long skirts. But now they wear skin-tight black pants with silver ornaments. Instead of classic wide brimmed white hats, they tuck white flowers in their hair.

In addition to club dates, they perform traditional mariachi performances at quinceañeras, weddings and parties. Yet it’s easy to see them realizing their dreams: scoring Pedro Almodóvar films and performing with idols like Erykah Badu, Lila Downs and Juan Luis Guerra.

"Ellos sólo quieren oír la música", dice co-fundadora Mireya Ramos de sus fans. “They just want to hear the music,” says co-founder Mireya Ramos of fans.

They also want to perform in Mexico. The upcoming documentary will record the reaction. The fact that they’re women wearing men’s clothing hasn’t gone unnoticed in traditional circles. So is the fact that that the band isn’t fully Mexican.

“People in mariachi and in Mexican culture take tradition very seriously,” said Ramos. “They have a problem with change—it’s kind of like the whole machismo thing. I think it’s going to take awhile to for that to change.”

Yet others don’t care what they wear or how they look. “They just want to hear the music,” Ramos said. “They’re proud that there are these women from other countries representing their music.” - The Manhattan Times

"Fans in Williamsburg fall for Flor de Toloache, the city’s first all-female mariachi group"

A mariachi group that breaks with tradition — it’s all women — is starting to steal music fans’ hearts in Brooklyn.

Mariachi Flor de Toloache, a group created by a musician whose dad was a mariachi singer, had the crowd whooping and singing Saturday night at Williamsburg bar El Moderno.

“They made this music their own,” neighborhood resident Randy Quiles, 37, said of New York City’s first all-female mariachi band. “They should be recognized for creating something new and unique.”

Hearing female voices sing, “Ay, ay, ay, ay/Canta y no llores,” made him recall that his Puerto Rican mom crooned the well-known tune as a lullaby.

The 19th century Mexican musical genre is usually played by men, and passed down from father to son. Female mariachi groups are rare.

The group’s founder, Mireya Ramos, is proud she and her bandmates do what, according to Mexican custom, is a man’s job.

“It feels powerful, in a way,”said Ramos, 30, who sings and plays violin. “I feel like I have a voice. I feel like I’m making a statement.”

Band members honored tradition by dressing in black “charro,” or horseman, outfits like their male counterparts, down to the silver trim on the sides of their trousers. A point of difference: Instead of wearing sombreros, they put flowers in their hair.

Their repertoire was mostly old-fashioned songs — “La Malaguena,” “La Madrugada,” “Por Un Amor,” and a host of other classics — with original compositions in small doses. But hearing women harmonize on macho Mexican melodies about passion and pride is undeniably different — in a good way, admirers said.

“It’s amazing to see women so young master the essence of Latin culture,” said Shirley Rodriguez, 32, of Williamsburg.

The group — named after a Mexican plant used to make love potions — included Ramos’ cousin, guitarist Sonia Montez, 27, and violinist Eva Lou Vossmerbaumer, 28. Shae Fiol, 33, who has been in the band with Ramos since its 2008 launch, played a small guitar called a “vihuela.” Veronica Medellin, 35, plucked the strings of a bass guitar, or “guitarron.”

Ramos now lives in Jersey City, as does Medellin; the other three women live in Bushwick or Sunset Park.

Ramos’ Mexican dad and Dominican mom moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Los Angeles when Ramos was a small child. Her father sang mariachi songs in a Mexican restaurant he opened.

Ramos, who started taking violin lessons at age 7, left Puerto Rico at age 17 and came to Sunset Park — and soon landed a job playing violin with a male mariachi band.

The head of the group helped her and Fiol when they decided to strike out on their own.

Now, the Flor de Toloache ninas are saving money for studio time to record an album this spring.

It didn’t matter that Jacob Jiles, 37, of Bushwick, isn’t fluent in Spanish. Their songs spoke to him anyway.

“I think I’m falling in love,” he said. - The New York Daily News

"Meet All-Female Ensemble 'Flor de Toloache,' A Mariachi Melting Pot"

While many different kinds of conventional Latin music embrace innovative changes (think Cumbiatronica), there are others whose focus is to maintain tradition ― they just don’t admit any variations to the genre. Yet, every so often an artist will go out on a limb to challenge the norm and this is where we find Flor de Toloache, an all-female mariachi ensemble.

Mariachi is synonymous with Mexican culture and is probably one of the most well-known forms of Mexican music in the world. Mariachi is also a male-dominated industry that includes very little divergence. But New York City-based Flor de Toloache goes against the grain to include a variety of rhythmic and melodic infusions and borrow from other cultures and ethnicities. Their unique rancheras have traces of rock, soul and especially jazz, and some even show Caribbean influences.

“A lot of fans [of mariachi] still carry some of the older elements of the culture ―they see us perform and they wonder things like ‘why are they wearing pants’?”
- Mireya Ramos

“It seemed like a great idea to form an all-female mariachi in such a big city like New York. Especially with all the Mexican migration here, I thought it was perfect timing,” said lead co-founder and lead vocalist Mireya Ramos, 31, who co-founded the band with Shae Fiol in 2008.

Ramos, who is half Mexican and half Dominican (but raised in Puerto Rico) grew up singing mariachi with her father and later performed with other bands in the Big Apple. However, creating what could possibly be the first all-female mariachi in New York was always something she wanted to do.

“I wanted to experience having my own mariachi and learn more about my culture through music. While doing that, I also tried to create a new sound,” said Ramos.

Enter co-founder and lead vocalist Shae Fiol. The two women were introduced over 10 years ago by mutual friends and soon after created the group. Fiol describes herself as half-Cuban and “half-Yankee,” as part of her family is originally from the New England area.

“Growing up I had no exposure to mariachi. I think my mom had the Linda Ronstadt album, ‘Canciones de mi Padre,’ but that was about it,” said Fiol, 34.

Her voice adds an entirely different sound to their brand of mariachi, with a voice that is more jazz than ranchera.

“I am much more of jazzy songbird and mariachi is all belting ― it is totally opposite. It took me a few years and involved a lot of listening to Mireya and other recordings, but it was important to learn the style before you try and create something new,” she added.

The group prides itself on its individuality and on combining alternative sounds into the traditional mariachi. What began with two women in a restaurant has grown into a 10-piece band with members from a variety of countries, including Germany and Colombia.

“I thought that it was a great idea to incorporate all those sounds from all those different countries,” said Ramos.

The band is still working on their first album but Ramos said that, along with a few standards, it will include a cumbia, bachata and a jazzy track written by Fiol, which will showcase their diversity. It will also include English as well as Spanish lyrics.

When asked if they were nervous about all the different elements being incorporated into their sound, Fiol laughed and said “Mireya is like ‘whatever, I know they are going to like it!’”

As the group’s fan base continues to grow, they are also met with many skeptics ― traditionalists who are not thrilled with their approach, their gender and even their choice of outfit.

“A lot of fans [of mariachi] still carry some of the older elements of the culture ―they see us perform and they wonder things like ‘why are they wearing pants’?” said Ramos.

But this sort of criticism does not stop the ladies of Flor de Toloache. They use their unconventionality to introduce mariachi to a whole new audience and give those familiar with the genre something different from what they are used to.

Though they have yet to perform on the West Coast, the group is in talks to open for the hugely popular Mexican pop band Cafe Tacvba during a Dia de Los Muertos festival in Los Angeles, a feat that if accomplished, will be sure to silence at least some of their critical male counterparts.

“Yes, we are kind of outcasts, but if you bother somebody, then you are doing something right. If you try to please everyone, you are not being original enough to break through,” added Ramos. - Fox News Latino

"An All-Female Band, Making Its Way in the World of Mariachi"

One is German, another a New Yorker of Egyptian descent. Others are Cuban-American, Colombian, Dominican and Argentine.

These are the unlikely members of Mariachi Flor de Toloache, a New York mariachi band. Even more unlikely: all of the band’s nine members are women, the pioneers of what they believe is the city’s first all-female mariachi ensemble.

In 21st-century New York City, it may not be surprising to see women popping up in what are traditionally men’s roles. But despite a few notable female performers, mariachi has always been, and continues to be, male-dominated, though a few all-female mariachi groups have begun to gain prominence on the West Coast and in the southwestern United States.

Members believe they are the only all-female mariachi group in New York City.
Members believe they are the only all-female mariachi group in New York City.Credit Marcus Yam for The New York Times
“It’s such a macho culture,” said Mireya Ramos, 31, Flor de Toloache’s co-founder and lead singer, who is half Dominican and half Mexican, but grew up in Puerto Rico listening to her Mexican father’s mariachi recordings and performances. She recalled giving voice lessons to Mexican women whose husbands would not permit them to sing in public. “Even in America, their husbands are really like, oh, you couldn’t do these kinds of things,” she said.

Mariachi Flor de Toloache performing at El Museo del Barrio. Members believe they are the only all-women mariachi band in New York City.
Mariachi Flor de Toloache performing at El Museo del Barrio. Members believe they are the only all-women mariachi band in New York City.

Credit Marcus Yam for The New York Times
Ms. Ramos founded the band about five years ago after joining another (male) mariachi band, then teaming up with a few female musicians she had met performing around the city. None had much, if any, experience in mariachi.

For some of the band’s members, performing mariachi for the first time required greater effort than simply learning new songs. Ms. Ramos’s co-founder, Shae Fiol, 34, a half-Cuban singer from Oregon whose pre-mariachi accomplishments included an original album of soul music, had to learn how to play the vihuela, a small guitar-like instrument. (Other mariachi instruments are more familiar, like the trumpet, flute and violin.)

Mariachi Flor de Toloache performed in October at El Museo del Barrio.
Mariachi Flor de Toloache performed in October at El Museo del Barrio.Credit Marcus Yam for The New York Times
Ms. Fiol could already play guitar, so the mechanics of the vihuela were not difficult to grasp, she said, but she is still getting used to the foreign rhythms of Latin-style music.

The learning curve had not deterred her from agreeing to join Ms. Ramos’s mariachi experiment: “I think I was feeling adventurous,” she said with a laugh.

With no formal vihuela training, she would ask every vihuela player she came across during the band’s early days for tips. They, and their bandmates, were all male.

While those mariachis were generous with help, Ms. Fiol and Ms. Ramos said, Flor de Toloache has had some skeptics, most recently when Ms. Fiol, Ms. Ramos and the band’s guitarron (bass) player, Veronica Medellin, filmed a ChapStick commercial with a short, catchy song about the lip balm. A few commenters on the YouTube video of the commercial decried their performance as inauthentic, with one commenter posting, in Spanish, “That’s not mariachi!” He said the commercial was “disrespectful.”

Most of the criticism focuses on the fact that they are not all Mexican, rather than on their gender. Ms. Medellin is the only full Mexican; Ms. Ramos is half. But the other players have quickly taken to mariachi: Eva Lou, the band’s German violinist, now writes original songs for the group despite having no background in Latin music.

“Most often people look at us and make an assumption because of the way we look, and maybe they project some of that onto what we’re about to play,” Ms. Fiol said. “But when they hear us playing it’s like, ‘Oh, they definitely sound legitimate.’”

Their performances – a concert scheduled Saturday at Rockwood Music Hall is also a fund-raiser for their forthcoming album — do hew to tradition in other ways. Alongside jazz standards, Brazilian songs, Outkast riffs, an Adele cover and other arrangements that nod to their diverse backgrounds, their repertoire includes Mexican classics like “La Negra,” “El Cascabel” and “El Rey,” and they play the same instruments as other mariachi groups. They say it is important to them that whatever they perform, be it a classic or an original song, they respect traditional rhythms and styles.

But Ms. Ramos founded the band to be innovative, and the musicians say their diversity, and the fact that they live in New York, gives them extra license to experiment. Ms. Fiol said she thought mariachi, like other musical genres that migrated north, was in the process of evolving.

“We’re surrounded by so many different cultures and so many different kinds of music, we just feel, culturally, like we can do it,” she said. “We’re a mix of backgrounds, musically and ethnically, nationally — we like to display all that. And why not?”

And why not embrace their femininity, too, as with the name Ms. Ramos chose? Toloache is a kind of poisonous night flower that, according to tradition, has been used in Central America for love potions for centuries. Appropriate, Ms. Ramos thought, since three of the band’s original members were recovering from painful breakups at the time of the band’s founding. A friend suggested she add “flor,” flower, for a further feminine touch.

When it came to their costumes, however, Ms. Ramos and Ms. Fiol made a counterintuitive choice: pants, the traditional male mariachi attire, black and ornamented with metallic hardware, which Ms. Ramos’s mother and the musicians sewed themselves. Their reasoning was not entirely what you might think: they said they found the men’s wear more flattering than the long skirts female mariachis normally wear.

Still, Ms. Ramos said she got a small, subversive thrill from donning a costume like the one her father used to wear.

“Wearing the suit, it’s kind of empowering,” she said. “You’re like, ‘I can wear this suit, too.’” - The New York Times


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Mireya I. Ramos, violinist, vocalist, composer and arranger is of Dominican and Mexican descent raised in Puerto Rico who embodies all of her musical influences from mariachi to salsa, from jazz to hip-hop, always creating a warm and new refreshing sound. In Puerto Rico, she was part of the Coro de Ninos de San Juan. Moving to New York in 1999, Mireya began playing mariachi with Mariachi Angeles de Puebla.  In 2008 she founded Mariachi Flor de Toloache; New York’s first all female mariachi band and one of the city’s most exciting bands.

Flor de Toloache has caught the attention of a variety of audiences throughout NYC, through which Mireya Ramos was featured on the NY Times, NBC, Univision and as the director of this innovative and unique band. Mireya has also shared the stage with: Chucho Valdez, Omar Sosa, Arturo O’Farrill, Marc Anthony, Elvis Crespo, Luisito Quintero, Juan Carlos Formell, Alfredo de La Fe, El Prodigio, Ruben Albarran from Cafetacuba, soul singer Bilal and many more. Mireya has also accompanied Djay’s including DJ Bobbito, DJ Rich Medina, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Tony Touch, DJ and break dancer Crazy Legs, DJ Velcro, DJ Carol-C (Si*Se), DJ Sake 1, and many more. She has recorded with comedian Chris Rock for his album Never Scared, El Album by Velcro, Jarana Beat, Soni featuring Raekwon 2012, Luisito Quinteros upcoming album Navegante, her first upcoming album When We Love and Mariachi Flor de Toloache’s upcoming album.