Like the music of New Orleans, Tucson’s musical make-up is defined by the fusion of various cultures and their respective musical heritage. The second largest city in the state of Arizona, 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexican border; It benefits from the Latino diaspora within it’s limits as well as the arid landscape of the surrounding Sonoran desert. It’s home to bands like Orkesta Mendoza, their musical brethren Calexico and Friends of Dean Martinez, who each enrich their music with varying degrees of Latin flavour, desert rock and psychedelia, drawing from the culture and landscape of the region.
Sergio Mendoza is the man responsible for the sound of Orkesta Mendoza. Born in Mexico but raised in Arizona, he is ‘Tucson’s cumbia king’ (Tucson Weekly) and his early love of The Beatles, Cuban artists like Pérez Prado and Silvio Rodriguez and Mexican artists like Chico Che and Ramón Ayala was what planted the seed for his musical vision.
The project was realised when Mendoza assembled an Orchestra for a tribute to ‘The King of Mambo’, Pérez Prado, in 2009. The intention was just to play the one-off show, but Calexico frontman Joey Burns was in the crowd to witness it and made sure that it wasn’t to end there. He took the band on tour with Calexico, before making Sergio a fully-fledged member of the group in 2012. It led the way for Orkesta Mendoza’s debut album, as they became one of the region’s foremost live acts. Speaking in the Phoenix New Times, Dan Gibson states ‘Sergio Mendoza’s stylish act has a simultaneously post-modern (including sound manipulation and samples) and classic take (trumpets that recall ’40s American jazz) on the mambo, without becoming a self-conscious retro act, just playing music reflecting what Mendoza heard his father listen to.’ Discussing the band’s latest album, Bandcamp say ‘¡Vamos A Guarachar! paints a vivid portrait of Latin American folklore. It takes listeners on a celebratory journey, one where mestizo-infused genres like boogaloo, cumbia, chicha, and mambo intersect.’
Aside from the Orkesta, Sergio has a variety of other projects, one of which ties him to Manchester’s musical heritage. Along with Camilo Lara of the Mexican Institute of Sound and a host of other Mexican musicians, he worked to create Mexrrissey, a homage to the music of one of Manchester’s most revered lyricists and frontmen, Morrissey. Morrissey’s work ‘chimed with generations raised on rancheras and mariachis’ and Sergio’s arrangements helped to realise his finest songs in an altogether new style.
Watch the trailer for Orkesta Mendoza’s Band on the Wall show and pick up tickets here.