Written by Bonnie Adams
The Villalobos Brothers; Alberto, Ernesto, and Luis Villalobos, are a trio of multifaceted musician’s (including violin and music composition) who hail from Xalapa, Mexico, about an hour’s drive from the Port city of Veracruz, Mexico. The Villalobos Brothers many performances range from playing at the Latin Grammy awards, the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, to the New York Mets field at Shea Stadium. Their first solo album “Villa-Lobos” was released in 2009, although they have collaborated with a multitude of famed artists including Morley, Pierre Boulez and even Country singer/songwriter Dolly Parton amongst several other famed Latin musicians. The Villalobos Brothers are known for having a diverse genre, varying from Latin pop and jazz, to classic and traditional Mexican folk music. Giving us high hopes for an amazing performance at the San Francisco Symphony on November 3rd for Día de los Muertos, a very ancient and traditional Mexican holiday honouring loved ones lost to this world, traditionally displaying alters of gifts for their long-lost relatives, we are excited to see how the Villalobos Brothers bring such a unique celebration alive with music! To get a quick “vibe” of their type of musical styling listen to “El Pijul”, beautifully composed and orchestrated song, with a variety of acoustic guitar, violin, drums, and vocals, making such a unique and synchronized sound that races through stanza and stanza. We are truly excited to watch them bring to life such an ancient and traditional holiday, Día de Los Muertos alongside San Francisco’s best Orchestra – SF Symphony. Davie’s Symphony Hall is sure to ring loud on Saturday, November 3, 2018, and its quite possible many spirits might be among us, dancing and enjoying this great concert celebration as well.
First, here’s an insider interview on the Villalobos Brothers (Alberto, Ernesto, and Luis Villalobos). I recently had the opportunity to speak to them about life, music and Día De Los Muertos.
BONNIE ADAMS: You come from a musical family. Do you have a favorite memory of your grandmother singing to you? What musical lessons did she pass down to you?
ERNESTO: Yes! Our abuelita Cristina Vásquez was a great folk singer and she knew hundreds of traditional Mexican songs by heart. She would accompany herself with the guitar, the accordion and the piano, but she never learned how to read music. She felt so proud of us, her grandchildren, and she loved inviting us over to her house where she would cook a delicious meal for us and then sit down by the window and play music with us for hours. We miss her very much, especially around Día de Muertos. Towards the end of her life, we had the incredible experience of inviting her to New York City, where she sang with us on stage at Carnegie Hall.
BA: What does Día De Los Muertos mean to you, and how do you reflect those themes in your music?
LUIS: It is an opportunity to revise our priorities in life. When we become more aware of our own mortality everything else seems to fall naturally into place and we are able to make better decisions about what is truly important in our lives. One of our songs, “Sin Mí” (Without me) is written as a testament, as the last will asking all of my family and friends to celebrate, not mourn, the day that I depart this world. We tend to see death under a negative light, but to me, it is an essential part of life. Without its contrast, we would have no appreciation for the beauty surrounding us.
BA: What can you tell us about your upcoming performance with the SF Symphony? The music, atmosphere? Is this your first time performing in San Francisco?
ALBERTO: We are extremely excited of course! Our Symphonic Project started a few years ago when we commissioned our first arrangement to Mtro. Eduardo Magallanes and later on we were able to commission more arrangements to arrangers in Mexico and Argentina. This concert is the culmination of countless hours of work in a project that involved musicians and arrangers from many different countries. We feel very proud and happy to be able to finally share it with the world and what a better way to do it than with the San Francisco Symphony! This will be our first concert with this wonderful orchestra, but not our first time performing in the Bay Area where we have many dear friends.
BA: What are the best and hardest parts about performing with your family members?
ERNESTO: Making music with my brothers is the best feeling in the world. Talk about synergy! We feed off each other’s sound and it keeps getting better and better with each concert. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. It’s been tough to learn how to be professional and treat each other with respect when you have so much in common. But in the end, the music is always right; it always feels right, you know? And that is the only thing that matters. Communication, and love. And that’s all there, and we kind of invite the audience closer and closer into our circle. We let them in into our secrets and we may yell or whisper; you can see us being silly, competitive, supportive, crazy. On stage we duel, we laugh, we jump, we sing together. Everything you see up there is for real. And I think that’s why we stick together. Now we understand that working as a team we really add up to much more than the sum of the parts.
BA: How do you share the writing/composition process? Is it collaborative, or does one person take the lead?
HUMBERTO: Our repertoire is made up of original music, composed and arranged by the four founders of the group; Luis Villalobos, Alberto Villalobos, Ernesto Villalobos, and Humberto Flores. It is often the result of an individual preliminary version that is enriched by the integration of new ideas by the rest of the members during rehearsals and live performances.
BA: What has been your biggest musical inspiration?
ALBERTO: We grew up listening to a variety of music and genres. Our parents are music lovers and I remember we had two big speakers that they kept on a low cabinet by the living room, so me and my brothers used to sit right next to them, listening to the LP’s that my parents played, with music ranging from Joaquin Rodrigo to Glenn Miller’s Big Band and The Beatles. Our abuela was a self-taught musician and she loved Mexican folk tunes, so she taught us many of her favorite songs. Later we were trained in classical music and we listened to a lot of the Western classical music repertoire. In my case I started listening and playing Mexican folk music very early on and found a great source of inspiration there. l also remember listening to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis for the first time and wanting to learn more, and eventually, that leads me to listen to all the jazz legends like Monk, Dizzy, and Coltrane.
BA: What’s next for the Villalobos Brothers?
LUIS: Hopefully many more symphonic concerts! We are looking forward to bringing this program to as many states and countries as possible in the years to come, and of course, we will keep composing and adding to our repertoire. Please follow us on Instagram: Villalobos Brothers on Facebook: fb.com/villalobosbrothers and YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/user/VillaLobosBrothers
You can find information, tickets, and more at sfsymphony.org/dia
For complete info on the SF Symphony visit: www.sfsymphony.org
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