Private Playlist: La Santa Cecilia's La Marisoul finds hope for the future in music

La Marisoul. Credit: La Marisoul.

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments. La Marisoul is perhaps best known as the voice of LA's Grammy-winning ensemble (and KCRW favorites), La Santa Cecilia. Over six albums, the band has perfected its iconoclastic mix of traditional Mexican music with Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and rock'n'roll flourishes. Growing up between Mexico and LA, she cut her teeth as a teenager singing on Olvera Street for spare change before co-founding La Santa Cecilia in 2007. As a solo artist, she sang with Elvis Costello and The Roots on their 2013 album, "Wise Up Ghost," and subsequently appeared with them on "Conan" and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." She also appeared in "Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration," the all-star appreciation of Joni Mitchell, and "BREATHEWATCHLISTENTOUCH: The Work and Music of Yoko Ono" at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

I've been home since March 13, trying to stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sane, and also trying to continue to be creative. I love home-life, but I'm a traveling musician, and I love that, too, and it's my passion. So you feel like a bird in a cage, you know? But music always helps to pass the time, to share, to dance it off, to sing it out.


So we're in quarantine, I'm home, and I have a four-year-old. I'm a mom, too, and someone's gotta run this house. A record I've been listening to a lot is Celia Cruz. I'm a big fan of Afro-Caribbean music, and Celia Cruz is, of course, the queen. I love putting on this record when I'm going to clean up, just to get moving, to get dancing. And it's Celia Cruz. You can't get any better than that, you know?


La Santa Cecilia did this show in El Paso, Texas, and we met Cuco. I hadn't really heard his music until a few months ago. And he was such a great, great guy, and his music and his fans were just so beautiful to see. So I picked up the record and, oh man, I completely fell into it. It made me laugh, it gave me my sad-girl feels. "Hydrocodone" is such a sad, beautiful song. It reminds me of those old Bolero songs, or those old '70s, kinda psychedelic, romantic rock bands like Los Pasteles Verdes, but in this new way, and I just loved it.


Almendra is from Argentina in the late '60s. I discovered them during this quarantine because I saw a friend post this very interesting album cover of this guy with a pink shirt, looking very '70s, and he's got a striped pink hat. And you know when you fall into something and you just can't stop? I'm killing my husband and my kid by playing this all the time. And it gets psychedelic and it gets rock and it gets folky. 


I'm a mother of a four-year-old daughter, so she has control of the music. And something that we got into — that I was surprised I was going to get into — is "Trolls World Tour." So we've been listening to the soundtrack. And at first I was like, "uh, I don't know if I can tell my friends about this." But if I have to be completely honest, my kid rules my world too, you know? So we all have to share in the musical listening. I dig this album because I'm a huge fan of Anderson .Paak. They do covers of songs like George Clinton's "Atomic Dog." And because she's been listening to this album, I'm like, "okay, you want to see who Anderson .Paak is?", and I'll play a video. Or we'll show her Joan Jett or Heart or Cyndi Lauper. It makes me happy to be able to share some of that with her too. And she's open to it because of cartoons like these.


Being on stage and playing music and watching people dance, laugh, cry, hold each other, and that exchange of energy is something that I miss so, so, so much. This is a song that has given me so much, and I'd like to share that with everyone. "Todo Cambia" was made popular by one of my all-time favorite singers, Mercedes Sosa. The song talks about how everything changes; nature changes; people choose different roads. And right now, we're going through big changes. More than ever, I realize how connected we are to each other through this pandemic — the whole world, you know? And I see people marching on the streets, fighting against injustice, fighting for dignity, fighting for love, fighting for their lives. This song brings me hope and reminds me that nothing will ever stay the same, thankfully, and that change will always come. And I look forward to continuing on this change.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

Inara George shares tips for raising music-literate kids during quarantine
Chris Cohen shares Algerian synth funk, avant jazz, and more far-out sounds
Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy offers an earthy soundtrack for the homebound
Mia Doi Todd recommends space-age sounds and Brazilian tunes
Neon Indian shares music for your inner monologue
Thundercat on the importance of albums as a journey
Dorian Wood is walking a tightrope and trying not to look down
Jeff Parker is busy studying music in hibernation mode
TOKiMONSTA is rediscovering her love for the guitar
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
Alice Bag is doing the live music withdrawal dance
M. Ward is listening to music by his influences’ influencers
San Cha believes we can create, no matter our circumstances
Bob Mould seeks artful inspiration from Janelle Monáe, Elliott Smith, and the Byrds