Immigrant Songs: La Santa Cecilia

photo by David Rzegocki

“We carry it now as a badge of honor,” says Miguel Ramirez, percussionist of Los Angeles group La Santa Cecilia, “to say that we are immigrants or children of immigrants.” After the band had stopped by KEXP a few months earlier to perform live I reached out over the phone so we could talk a bit more in-depth about the group and their insights on the topic of migration. I wanted to learn how it had affected their personal and musical upbringing, and how they had come to be known as a voice for the immigrant community.

La Santa Cecilia, named after the patron saint of musicians, came together in the multi-cultural landscape of L.A. over a shared love of traditional Latin sounds, rock, soul and the other flavors and fusions they had grown up with and were experiencing in the city at the time. Their “iPod shuffle” of musical tastes well represented the new generation of music makers in the United States, and their specific Latin American heritage, both as immigrants and children of immigrants, shapes their unique and ever-growing sound. In the beginning the Grammy-winning group didn’t set out to intentionally represent or speak for the immigrant population and issues touching them here in the U.S. They just wanted to make music. But the voice came and it came naturally, a light and a source of personal empowerment that could positively influence all of us.

Check out their gorgeous live performance with the video below, and dig the interview to learn more about the history of the group and the immigrant experience.

About Immigrant Songs:
Immigrant Songs is a series presented and produced by KEXP, with support from The Vilcek Foundation. Through in-studio performances, interviews with local and national artists, and other written content, co-curators and DJs Darek Mazzone and Chilly will explore the immigrant experience. Read more stories here.

About The Vilcek Foundation:
The Vilcek Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. The mission of the foundation, to honor the contributions of foreign-born scholars and artists living in the United States, was inspired by the couple’s careers in biomedical science and art history, respectively, as well as their personal experiences and appreciation for the opportunities they received as newcomers to this country. The foundation awards annual prizes to immigrant biomedical scientists and artists and sponsors cultural programs such as the Hawaii International Film Festival. To learn more, visit Vilcek.org.

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