Rana Santacruz

Rana Santacruz


Mexican Bluegrass, Irish Mariachi. Acoustic Folk music with a bit of alternative. Chavela Vargas meets Tom Waits. Agustin Lara meets The Pogues. Colorful and fun.


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.

Santacruz’s solo debut Chicavasco – to be released March 9, 2010 -- is the product of a vibrant musical vision that was shaped by growing up in Mexico City and coming of age in a musical world informed by MTV, where all styles of music are accessible like never before.

Santacruz writes and sings the songs, as well as playing accordion and a variety of stringed instruments. To flesh out his tunes, he enlisted a cast of a dozen versatile musicians who add a folk and neo-classical flare with violin, cello, sax and jaw harp as well as traditional Mexican mariachi instruments like guitarrón, vihuela, trumpet and tuba.

The instrumentation, richness of the sound, and delicate touch are reminiscent of Tucson’s Calexico but with a softer edge and sharper focus. Often singing in a lilting falsetto, the melodies soar, inbued with the kind of passion found in Cuban son and Portuguese fado, while the music takes you not only north and south of the border, but across the Atlantic and back.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Santacruz had considerable success with his rock en español band La Catrina. Courted by a number of labels, the group signed with a major label in Mexico in the late ‘90s. His first experience with the music industry was a classic crash-and-burn; after recording in Mexico, Madrid and Miami, the CD failed to deliver a quick radio hit and his demoralized group soon disbanded.

In 2002, setting his sights well beyond the Mexican pop scene, Santacruz made the move from Mexico City to New York City. Living in Brooklyn and drawing on influences including the golden age of Mexican cinema, the magical realism novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, musicians like Tom Waits, the Smiths and the Pogues, and American bluegrass, Santacruz set about recording a collection of songs assimilating those disparate influences.

The resulting CD, Chicavasco -- named for a small town in the state of Hidalgo where La Catrina played a particularly surreal concert -- is beautifully conceived and artfully produced. Not surprising since Alex Venguer, who joined Santacruz in producing the disk, just took home a GRAMMY© for “Best Traditional Folk Album” for his part in Loudon Wainright’s High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.

In its subtle, understated way, the CD’s opening “Yo Se” (I Know) is quite different than anything you’re likely to have heard: counterpoint between accordion and banjo sets the stage for Santacruz’s vocals; midway through the song a fiddle picks up the banjo line. Although sung in Spanish, the melody brings to mind a Celtic sea shanty. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this cross-cultural mélange is how organic and natural it sounds.

“Ojitos de Maguey” (Little Cactus Eyes) mixes lively Mexican jarocho rhythms with the rich textures of 21st Century folk while “Dejala Entrar” (Let Her In) conjures a neo-classical cabaret somewhere between Mexico and Vienna. Then there’s the Tex-Mex, marching band (and tuba-driven) “Guajolote y Pavorreal” (The Turkey and the Peacock) and “El Ranchero Punk” (The Punk Rancher), an uptempo, ranchero-bluegrass-old-time-polka-rap-yodel. Far from a trendy, genre mash-up, it’s a spirited dance tune that, like the rest of the CD, manages to eclipse all its influences.

Like the classic Mexican songs of Chavela Vargas, Agustin Lara and Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Santacruz’s lyrical descriptions of romance are equal parts love and tragedy, and delivered with passion and conviction. “Mexican culture is very complex, but in a lot of traditional art forms like old songs and films, you find very pure, sweet feelings,” he said. “I tried to rescue this simplicity and bring my songs down to earth as much I can.”

But if Santacruz’s lyrical style is admittedly innocent, he approaches life using both sides of his brain. He earned a degree in the Music Business program at New York University, and hired on to work at Sony Music.

To date, Santacruz has won over American audiences of all stripes at showcases like Austin’s South by Southwest, New York’s Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, Los Angeles J. Paul Getty Museum and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center. Santacruz’s music is indeed music for a new America, if not a new world. And regardless of your Spanish language skills, you will understand every nuance of emotion in these grooves. (Translations can be found at: http://www.ranasantacruz.com)


Cajita De Barro

Written By: Rana Santacruz AKA Rene Hubard

En una cajita de barro dejaste un cachito de tu corazón

En una cajita amarrada con hilo y listón

Y de vez en cuando lo amarro juntito de mi alma y me quita el dolor

Y de vez en cuando lo agarro y le pido perdón

Le pido perdón, le pido perdón

Le pido perdón, le pido perdón

Y cuando las nubes apagan las luces del cielo y empieza a llover

En esa cajita de barro me quiero meter

Y yo ya no puedo ocultarlo y debo aceptarlo con todo mi ser

Sin esa cajita de barro no se ni que hacer

No se ni que hacer, no se ni que hacer

No se ni que hacer, no se ni que hacer

Y cuando los ojos se me hacen chiquitos, chiquitos de tanto llorar

En esa cajita de barro me pongo a buscar

Y cuando en las noches te extraño, te pienso y te extraño y no se donde estas

En esa cajita de barro te vuelvo a encontrar

Te vuelvo a encontrar, te vuelvo a encontrar

Te vuelvo a encontrar, te vuelvo a encontrar


Cajita De Barro (Little Clay Box)
In a little clay box you left a piece of your heart

In a little clay box tied up with cloth and thread

And every now and then I tie it close to my soul and it takes away my pain

And every now and then I grab it and say I'm sorry

I'm sorry

And when the clouds turn off the lights of the sky and rain starts falling down

In that little clay box I want to take shelter

And I can't hide it any longer, and I must accept

That without that little clay box I don't know what to do

I don't know what to do

And when my eyes shrink and shrink for crying so much

In that little clay box I start looking for something

And when I miss you and think of you in the middle of the night

In that little clay box I find you again

I find you again

El Funeral De Tacho

Written By: Rene Hubard AKA Rana Santacruz

El viento esta seco en un viernes de mayo
Y seis hombres agriados por un trago amargo
Cargan una caja que no quieren cargar

Por mi que se lo comieran los perros
Por mi que se pudriera en el cerro
Pero no quiero que el cura me venga a gritar

Caminan despacio subiendo la sierra
Y unas lagrimitas los siguen de cerca
En Santiago Ixtayutla lo van a enterrar

Y una lágrima llega desde Xochicalco
Otra lágrima más llega desde Chicavasco
Otra lágrima viene llegando de Matanguarán

Y otra lágrima llega desde Chupadero
Otra lágrima más de Vicente Guerrero
Y trescientas noventa y dos tristes mujeres no paran de llorar

Que importa que bebiera y que fuera un don juán
Me cantaba al oído y me quería de verdad
Y la luna, el sol y las estrellas lo pueden confirmar

El tiempo esta fresco en un lunes de mayo
Y Santiago Ixtayutla está todo inundado
Y los militares ya vienen a evacuar

Don Felix Aguayo, su puerco y su gallo
Maldicen el día en que muriera Tacho
Flotando en el viejo portón que los ha de salvar

Y más lágrimas llegan desde Uña De Gato
Otras lágrimas llegan desde Guanajuato
Decenas de lágrimas llegan desde Chumatlán

Y más lágrimas llegan desde Tizayuca
Otras lágrimas más del Valle de Toluca
Y trescientas noventa y dos tristes mujeres no paran de llorar

Y mas lágrimas llegan de Cuajimoloyas
Y lágrimas llegan desde Tlapacoya
Y mas lágrimas vienen desde San Miguel Amatlán

Y más lágrmas llegan desde Bernalejo
Otras lágrimas mas llegan de Topilejo
Y trescientas noventa y dos tristes mujeres no paran de llorar

El Funeral De Tacho
(Tacho’s Funeral)

Wind is dry on a Friday in May
And six bitter men
Carry a box they don’t want to carry

I would’ve left him there to be eaten by the dogs
I would’ve left him there to rot on the mountain
But I don’t want the priest to come yelling ‘round my house

They walk slowly up the hill
And a few little tears follow them closely
They’re gonna bury him in Santiago Ixtayutla

And one tear comes from Xochicalco
And another tear comes from Chicavasco
And another tear’s arriving from Matanguarán

And another tear comes from Chupadero
And another tear from Vicente Guerrero
And three hundred and ninety two women can´t stop crying

I don’t care that he drank, I don’t care that he was a don juan
He sang to me softly, and he really loved me
And the moon, the sun and the stars are my witness

The weather is fresh on a Monday in May
And Santiago Ixtayutla is totally flooded
And the military is coming to evacuate

Don Felix Aguayo, his pig and his rooster
Curse the day in which Tacho died
Floating on the big wooden door that will save their lives

And more tears come from Uña De Gato
And more tears come from Guanajuato
Tens of tears come from Chumatlán

And more tears come from Tizayuca
And more tears come from the Valley of Toluca
And three hundred and ninety two women can´t stop crying

And more tears come from Cuajimoloyas
And more tears come from Tlapacoya
And more tears come all the way from San Miguel Amatlán

And more tears come from Bernalejo
And more tears come from Topilejo
And three hundred and ninety two women can´t stop crying


Chicavasco - 2009
Several tracks have been aired in stations like KPFK, KDVS, KPSU, KGLT, WFMU, Ibero 90.5 (Mexico)

Set List

Cuando Sale La Luna
Ya Me Voy
Yo Se
Si No Estas
Cajita De Barro
Ojitos De Maguey
Cancion De Cuna
Tacho El Gacho
Guajolote y Pavorreal
Dejala Entrar
La Llorona
Se Me Olvido Otra Vez
No Puedo Mas
De Que Manera
Noche De Perros
Ranchero Punk
Juan Charrasqueado
El Funeral De Tacho
La Plaza De La Flor
Por Ahí

We can play from 45 minutes to 1:30 hr. We include a few covers of traditional Mexican Music but with a twist.