The sounds of Mexican folk music cross borders, genres and generations. Oftentimes, music is passed through families who play traditional music in celebrations and at home.
The Chicago family band A Flor de Piel is keeping those beloved rhythms alive and thriving by infusing them with a modern sensibility. Along with 16-year-old Sage, Marisol and Renato Ceron perform twists on tradition – like adding a rap breakdown to the son jarocho classic “La Bamba.”
“I’ve known [the song] my entire life from the movie ‘La Bamba’ where I was just excited to see someone that looked like me on the big screen,” said Marisol Ceron, who performs as Marisol La Brava. “And then I started learning more information about it as I got older — learning that it was 300 years old and it was used as a call to escaped slaves let them know to keep going up and up to escape. I just love it.”
Sage describes their first time performing as a family with a laugh.
“So, I wasn’t technically alive to remember it – but when the recession hit, my parents are like, ‘Well, we need to make more money, but we also really love to play music,’” Sage said. “They had their whole show, and then I was born and they brought me along to the shows. And at one point when I could walk, I walked up to the stage, and I grabbed the microphone and I just started singing gibberish and then that’s when I became a part of the group.”
Multi-instrumentalist Renato Ceron said he didn’t learn the traditional music he plays now in his native Mexico. When he moved to Chicago as a teenager, he said, he “had that longing for it. So I went deep into learning all these different styles.”
He credits Sage with bringing fresh ideas to their musical approach.
“That definitely brought in the younger vibe to our sound,” he said.
Sage said braiding elements of rap and electronic and lo-fi beats into folk music is A Flor de Piel’s way of creating a bridge across generations.
“Music, it just transcends time and language and all of that other stuff that gets in the way of, like, a connection to the soul,” Sage said. “I love the folk songs and the tradition that we play and adding the electronic aspect or adding rap or you know, different genres going in there. It’s a way to just connect more people.”