To describe Luz Elena Mendoza Ramos, lead singer and songwriter of Y La Bamba, in words, might be nearly impossible. Their rich cultural and familial background, paired with a creative process imbued with introspection on the historic and musical past, present and their current place within it, allows them to be an ever-evolving human and artist. In the wake of the release of their new album ‘Lucha,’ we were able to ask Luz a few questions about how various influences in their life have affected their music as well as their inspiration for our new Madre Radio playlist ‘Luchacha’.
How do I answer this? I am a first-generation daughter of Immigrant parents from the farmlands in Tierra Caliente Michoacan. I grew up with a strong sense of traditional Mexican music. That is all I listened to. I learned to emote and say things from the heart, in fact, I believe I already came to the world singing along with my ancestors' songs. There is a resistance and strength in the music I grew up listening to.
There has never been any music from the Pacific Northwest that has influenced me the way Las Jillguerillas did. Nothing else could replace it. Nothing could come even close to the way I feel when it moves through me.
Growing up in PNW as Chicanx was both challenging and beautiful in a lot of ways. When I think about my musical influences I think about how I was raised by my parents and extended family. I was able to survive in certain spaces by pretending I knew the music that was up to date. I had to play catch up, however all along I've always had a visceral sense to the earth con mis raices. It has been the strongest conviction I have carried throughout my life. And no one can take that from me.
The sounds and rituals I have been exposed to have carried my heart open, my mind curious, and my spirit healing.
It's powerful. When I listen back to the music I've created, I think about how I was learning to adapt in spaces without having the language at that time. I think about my innocent young self trying to be seen as a Mexican American in Portland.
It was awkward expressing myself in spaces where I couldn't relate to anybody so part of my process is to go inward. Go inward for years. So really the root [of] my inspiration is my family. Not the PNW. I’ve been influenced by my experiences in life and now I've had the opportunity, for now, to lean in and explore the motherland as a Chicanx.
Got me thinking about my role here, and the conversations I want to be part of. These have been the most formative years of my life especially right now. It makes sense that I’m here to learn, to listen. Being here opens me up to an expansive world of so much more music! Traditional music from all over South America, omg I can’t even..so beautiful. I will say Mexico is so classist and those who are like this will discriminate by what music you listen to. They will define you by where you come from and what your worth is, like the music my parents love. So it’s wild to come here and get to hear a variety of music from all over and come here with that as my companion and the nostalgia attached to it.
It is however the most important part of my education. The richness of the traditional sounds that hold so much history. The ancient beautiful songs from El Campo Como los Pirekuas, the purépecha group from Michoacán. If I’m living here or not my heart has been my compass and it’s been guiding me to dig as deep as I am able into learning more. To uncover the hidden and shine the light on those stories that were sung long ago. Also to celebrate and support the new music from the younger newer generations.
I myself want to be part of that echo. I can't really describe what’s happening to me in Mexico but it’s powerful.
Mezcal Margarita rimmed with a lot of tajin chili salt and lime. Can't be none of that super sweet shit. The right amount of lime, the citrus..it’s all about the citrus.
I would have a drink with my grandfather Papá Che Ramos. I didn’t really get to have a proper farewell.
Live set photos by Taylor Lee Campbell.
There are a lot of songs on repeat these days but there are recurring sounds and melodies that follow me wherever I go:
What is the creative process of living life?
Experience, Grief, Initiative, Gratitude, Joy, Intuition, Fluidity, and Openness.