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Mitre: Music That Transcends Language

Mitre blends the color and form of Mexico with modern instrumentation and sensibilities, moving effortless from traditional to current in a new genre, MitreMusic.

There is a world of south-of-the-border Spanish-language music that many English speaking fans are unaware of. Along with the traditional cumbia, and mariachi and banda, Latin popular music includes rock, rap, Mexican ska, pop and electronic, among other forms. A generation of Latin artists is emerging who are creating endless combinations of traditional and modern, singing in both English and Spanish, blending old-country and contemporary music forms into a new genre, Latin-Gringo rock.


There are a few musicians in this emerging generation – a very few - whose songwriting and performing transcend language – who can strike you deeply whether or not you can understand the lyrics. Such an artist is Mitre, whose eponymous album was released this week at a celebration held in the Gibson showroom in Beverly Hills accompanied by the band Posadas De Los Muertos.

Mitre blends the color and form of Mexico with modern instrumentation and sensibilities, moving effortless from traditional to current in a new genre, MitreMusic. Mitre brings these traditions together through his astonishing voice, generous collaborations with other singers and bands and his own prodigious talent. The result is an album of many parts and a work of art whose whole is far greater than the sum of those parts

Mitre seduces us from the first note in “Aguacero”, sung in Spanish in an intimate Mexican style by Mitre, accompanied by David Garza. Mitre uses his wide ranging voice, which can move from soaring operatic to belt in the same breath, to carry us like the wind that brings the aguacero – the downpour. From the first lines, you feel in your gut the emotion the song is about . No translation needed.

This is Mitre’s genius, his ability to use his commanding voice to convey powerful emotions that transcend the lyrics in a musical reality he creates from tango, pop, Mexican and even recorded street sounds. Originally from Mexico City, but now living in Los Angeles, Mitre has moved easily in music communities worldwide, establishing fan clubs in Columbia, Peru, Italy, Venezuela , Mexico, and soon, I am sure, in the USA. It is no wonder he crosses so many boundaries, given the intimacy of his arrangements and the impact of his delivery. Like a seasoned television actor who can talk through the camera to each viewer, Mitre can sing through the microphone to each listener, regardless of language. He builds a relationship with you from the first note.

That relationship is on bright display in “Depradore”, released as a single last year, and in “Katerina”. In both songs, Mitre begins with street sounds that anchor us and then deftly uses his voice and instrumentation to seemingly serenade us personally like a mariachi – but this is no serenade, especially when the tuba fires up in “Katerina”

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The talking instrumental “Transition” , is mesmerizing. Mitre delivers its emotional payload with beautifully voiced spoken sentiments backgrounded by passionate guitar and piano riffs, The effect deepens his intimacy and deftly sets us up for the next song, “Lloro”. “Lloro” is a pop anthem with a Mexican cadence and high-pitched, almost anguished vocals, carried along by a soft bongos and perfectly inclined brass and piano. “Salto Sin Red” moves into a lusher, more anthemic pop territory with a slow-moving bass-beat and soaring strings that rise with Mitre’s astonishing voice – a song to close your eyes and sway to while the world drifts away.

The mood shifts dramatically with “Bulletproof”, sung in both in Spanish and English. It is day to “Salt Sin Red’s” night, opening with marching feet, Mexican brass with Christian Gurrola’s backing vocals in English providing a beat-heavy synth surface for Mitre and Margaret Cho to skip their voices across. The result is a foot-tapping earworm, demanding listeners clap and sing along.

Mitre moves us back into more traditional territory in “Saudade”, with a circus calliope-like backbone on the piano, accented with organ and synths, and filled in with guitars and a clarinet. Mitre sings with the Ecuadoran artist Gabby de K. The combination is flawless; their voices flying together through the colorful atmosphere created by Mitre’s musical arrangement that is somehow simultaneously traditional and unorthodox. “Ziolote” reunites Mitre with the Texas-based trio, The Chamanas, in a slow-paced, deeply emotional ballad that perfectly matches his voice with the ethereal vocals of Amalia Castro of The Chamanas, carrying us with ascending vocals and letting us drift down with a single piano note that dissolves to Castro’s final words in background.

“Casi Un Recuerdo” is a tidal wave of music and anguish with Mitre’s voice sailing in the stratosphere in the lyrics and the incomparable Irene Diaz punching you in the gut with her lower-key jazz belt in the bridge, singing in both English and Spanish, underscored by Mitre’s fierce piano: My memoires echoing in your darkness…I will banish you forever . No matter what language “Casi Un Recruerdo” is sung in, it nails you to the floor and tears you insides out. And when it’s done, you hit repeat and let it drown you again.

Finishing appropriately with ‘Pergunta Sin Respuesta”, (unanswered questions) Mitre lets us down softly with a simple piano and the seductive voice of Iñaki Vazquez, whose lyrics shimmer like rainbows in the distance. But this is MitreMusic - the rainbows give way to an emotional downpour, Vazquez ‘s voice shape-shifting subtly to a cry for help while Mitre whispers in her ear – in our ears – before fading out with the ticking of a cock.

Mitre is representative of a new generation of Latin artists for whom language and culture are colors on a palette, not barriers to popularity. Prodigous talent, sparkling creativity, and strategic colaborations promise that with this album, Mitre has begun a rapid ascent to becoming an icon of that generation and we are all the richer for it.


Patrick O’Heffernan
Music Friday Live!