Friday, December 15 at 3:00pm Pacific at The Kennedy Center Millenium Stage
“These songs lull me and take me back to the times when my big Mexican family would gather in my grandparents’ home,” writes San Francisco-based singer and guitarist Diana Gameros of her new album, Arrullo. “I can still hear it all,” she continues, “the voices of my mother and grandmother singing in the living room; the strum of my uncle’s guitars, and their voices harmonizing to my grandmother’s melody; the uproar of happy kids dancing to the tunes; the uneven rhythm of my own guitar slowing down everybody’s beat because I was still learning how to play.” While learning how to play is safely in her rear view mirror, these vivid roots remain at the forefront of Gameros’ music. Having split her life between Cuidad Juárez, Mexico, Michigan, and northern California, Gameros’ songs document her life as a Mexican immigrant and musician trying to make it the United States. This Friday, she will perform tracks from Arrullo at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in Washington, D.C., which hosts and live streams free performances five days a week. Ahead of this stream, here’s what you need to know about Diana Gameros:
Humble Beginnings – After moving to Michigan from Mexico at age 13, Gameros studied music for four years at Grand Rapids Community College as an undocumented student. In 2008, she relocated to the Bay Area, and within a month she was performing gigs every weekend in San Francisco’s Mission district. It took years of playing any gig she could get for her to attract the attention of notable local and international acts, ranging from Natalie Lafourcade to the Oakland East Bay Symphony, with whom she has now shared the stage. All the while, she was fighting for legal immigration status so she could return to Cuidad Juárez and visit her home and family. Only recently, after well over a decade of trying, did she finally receive a green card and work permit.
See footage from one of her San Francisco performances below:
Eterno Retorno – The highs and lows of these life experiences are captured on her first record, 2013’s Eterno Retorno. The songs chart the happiness of living and performing in San Francisco, the devastation of watching from afar as her hometown withstands violence and hardship, and the longing she has to visit Cuidad Juárez. Here’s her performance of one track, ¿Cómo Hacer?, her submission to NPR’s tiny desk contest earlier this year.
¿cómo hacer que la vida perdure
(que nada ni nadie escasee)?
si nadie es eterno
¿cómo hacer que el que camina vuele?
¿cómo hacer que las fronteras se evaporen?
y caminar sin prisa al hogar
sin miedo llegar
¿cómo hacer que mi tierra me perdone?
¿cómo hacer para que su jardín ya vuelva a florecer?
y hacerle saber que lejos duele
decirle también que vivo por volver a verle
how can we make life last?
(so nothing and no one is scarce)
if no one is eternal
how can we make the walker fly?
how can we make the borders dissolve?
so he can walk home fearless
how can i make my land forgive me?
how can we make her garden flourish again,
and let her know as well that
i live to see her again
Arullo – Arrullo, Gameros’ self-released second album, is a collection of 13 covers of classic Mexican songs ranging from pop hits to obscure folk ballads. As she prepares for her upcoming return to Mexico, she calls these songs a “love letter to her homeland.” And indeed, though the album was just released this year, she has been performing some of these songs for years. The video below is from a full-band performance from 2011, showing that these truly are songs that have been with her for the entire ride.
Bookmark Diana Gameros’ set on LiveList here. To learn more about her music and story, visit her website. And to learn more about the Kennedy Center and to see a schedule of upcoming performances on the Millennium Stage, visit the Kennedy Center LiveChannel on LiveList.
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