The Politics of Pistolera

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The band Pistolera proves that the accordion can be as mighty as the bullhorn. With its squeeze box, guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, the NYC-based quartet mixes traditional Mexican music with rock and political commentary to create a sound that’s like an outdoor Folklorico festival happening smack dab in the middle of an immigration rally.

In the song “Cazador (Hunter),” the band plays festive Mexican folk music while guitarist/vocalist Sandra Lilia Velasquez sings about Minutemen that patrol the border: “…You with the binoculars, who comes to patrol; GO HOME! Hunter, you have no place here…They say they are protecting the country from illegals, but how, if this land was stolen from the Mexicans?”

Pistolera plays a mixture of norteño (polka beat with accordion), ranchera (waltz or polka feel, similar to mariachi music), and cumbia (a mixture of Latin rhythms similar to salsa and merengue). And their unique sound hasn’t gone unnoticed; their album Siempre Hay Salida peaked at #1 on the CMJ (College Music Journal) Ñ Alternative Select Albums chart earlier this year.

It’s not the kind of music I seek out on a regular basis, but the ideology of the band makes the seemingly harmless music kick a little ass. In a recent Rolling Stone Mexico interview, Velasquez said, “In Mexico, people are not attracted to rancheras, they are interested in anglo indie rock. For me the real alternative in music is to explore one’s roots. People think that if you are born in the United States you should play rock and if you are born in Mexico you should play banda. I was born on the border. I play both.”

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