Extended Interview with Ezequiel “Cheche” Alara
Grammy and Latin Grammy-winning music composer, producer, music director, conductor Cheche Alara on his reasons for participating in this tribute episode to Linda Ronstadt filmed at the Soraya. He also explains how he was able to find new flavors in the music while honoring Ronstadt by incorporating a little cumbia in "You're Not Good" or weaving in a Ranchera flavor to "Somewhere Out There."
Cheche Alara: I'm the music producer and music director
for the production, for the show.
I happily received a call
from my good friend, Thor, here at The Soraya
who told me about the project.
The project was already fantastic before he even got to tell me
who was going to be the featured artists.
When he told me it was just a complete done deal on my end,
because not only they absolutely adore Linda's music,
but I've also known
and have made music together
with both Aida Cuevas and La Marisoul for many years.
I love them,
particularly on stage, but off stage, they're wonderful people.
It's just a wonderful opportunity to make beautiful music.
Interestingly enough, one of the last live concerts
that I was a part of,
we did a live to film performance of Selma of Ava DuVernay film,
here at The Soraya,
live with orchestra
in early February 2020.
It's a beautiful room.
Some rooms have--
it's not about just the technical and the comfort aspects of it.
There's a certain magic, certain intangible things.
This room has it.
It's hard to describe it and I not even going to try it,
but it's a beautiful place to make music.
I really like this room.
There's certain artists that get to you
and you might appreciate their music
coming from different aspects.
You may appreciate the virtuosity,
you might appreciate the memories from a certain part of your life.
Linda is one of those artists that's truly iconic.
She opened so many doors for all of us,
particularly people from a Latin background.
She not only acknowledges her roots,
but at times in which it was a pretty huge risk for her to do so.
She reinforced and made sure that everyone knew,
"By the way, remember that I'm doing this, but this is me.
Don't limit me to being this great pop and country artist.
This is me."
I think that's just amazing.
She's just a trailblazer.
Again, she really opened a lot of doors for people like me.
Also, what was really appealing was to be able to do a tribute
in which we honor her music,
and I dare say this,
not just by performing her music as she did it,
because no one can do it, even close,
right? What's the point, right?
She's the best at what she does.
In a very respectful way,
we took certain elements of her music,
and we took some liberties
to show that her music is still evolving.
I think, for any artist,
to be able to leave a legacy
that's evolving is
probably one of the highest forms of flattery that you can get.
People take what you did
and it inspires them to do something else.
That's what we very humbly try to do at a musical level.
When you have a situation like this, we have amazing songs,
and somewhere in the back of your mind,
"I would like to bring a new flavor to this."
You have to do it very carefully.
You don't want to just change things just to change them.
You have to have a really strong reason to do it.
In this case, there's certain things
that we kept beautifully true to the originals.
Many of the things that Aída is performing
are more on the traditional side of things
and it wouldn't be really the right thing to do
to try to change them drastically.
She's one of the best performers in the world.
So, we let Aída do what she does.
That's really beautiful.
It's one of the most beautiful parts of the show that you will see.
When it comes to Marisoul and La Santa Cecilia,
there was a little bit of an opportunity to try certain things.
To try some new flavors on something.
It's finding that balance
between acknowledging, respecting what something is,
and trying to bring your own touch, your own vision to it.
In particular, what I wanted to do is
to take something that would represent and honor Linda,
and at the same time,
come from Marisoul'’s soul,
pardon the [?].
Something that truly represented Marisoul as well
and La Santa Cecilia.
On a song like, You're Not Good,
I said, "It's a crazy idea, but what if we do this as a cumbia?"
Which sounds completely insane,
but there's always some truth to those things.
You're like, "Let me try it."
I started trying ideas
and I realized that
this could really work and by doing that,
again, we honor Linda's legacy.
We're representing Marisoul and La Santa Cecilia.
It's a humble way for us to say, "Linda, here's our tribute to you.
We're trying something
based on what you've done and making it our own
and reaching, maybe, other people that might not have heard it."
Linda's music is alive,
I guess it's a good way to put it.
Linda's music is alive.
I was really wanting to bring everybody together.
I always like to put a little break
between the way that everybody's days have been going
up until the moment we start rehearsing
or getting connected with art,
or with music in particular in my case.
I always like to acknowledge,
"Everyone ready? Is the technical aspects of everything ready?
But now let's talk about what's about to happen."
I always make a point of that,
Particularly these days.
What I was trying to convey and I think it rang true
with the people in the Mariachi
and in the band, and with the artists is,
we've always been extremely fortunate
to be musicians.
Even more fortunate to make a living as musicians
and to communicate through art.
It's always been a fortunate situation for all of us.
Even more so right now.
We are fortunate, blessed,
whatever word you want to use to describe it,
but the fact that we're able to make music
in the middle of a pandemic,
it's more unique than ever before.
There's very few people in the world making music, live music today.
I believe that as musicians, as artists in general,
our purpose in life
is to get whatever art we have inside of us,
bring it outside, and share it.
Bring joy, emotion,
whatever we were going for at the time,
we bring it from our soul to the people that are listening,
to the people that are enjoying it to make this communication.
It's about us giving it, and people receiving it.
To have a chance to do this
in the middle of a pandemic is unique.
I'm very honored, happy,
truly happy to be able to make music with other people,
to make it live, such a beautiful room,
performing Linda's music, which is just amazing
with Aida, with Marisoul,
with La Santa Cecilia, with Mariachi Garibaldi,
I guess one thing that we all learned
with what's going on in the world is we cannot take anything for granted.
This is a wonderful way to acknowledge that.
This would have been a good day a year ago,
a great day a year ago, I should say.
Now, it's a unique, extraordinary day,
and I wanted to embrace that.
Somewhere out there,
a beautiful, iconic,
all-around amazing pop song,
one of those pop songs that you listen to.
Check every box on what makes a truly amazing pop song.
It was Linda and James Ingram,
at the absolute top of their skills and games,
singing with each other a beautiful arrangement,
James Horner, it was just a really well-crafted song.
We wanted to do the song.
Again, if you're going to go for something so iconic,
and you try to go exactly for the same thing,
you're set up for failure.
There's no way that anyone can make that version any better.
They closed the door on that.
But, I started thinking, What can we do with this?
What can we do with this song to make it, again,
a tribute to Linda,
but also a tribute to who we have on stage honoring Linda?
I came up with the concept of, Let's make Somewhere Out There.
Let'’s turn it into a duet.
It's a duet like it was Linda and James Ingram,
but we're going to have Marisoul and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos.
That was already great,
but I said, We have to make them be represented on the song."
I had the idea to do it as a ranchera,
as a mariachi ranchera.
I started trying some ideas,
and again, it was one of those ones where you're like,
"Hey, this really could work out."
[laughs] I love those moments. because it's unique.
We wanted to have something that would happen here tonight.
One time only, and to have something that,
hopefully, is as unique
as the original performance ofSomewhere Out There ,
with a completely different flavor,
but we're going for this something unique
that will happen here tonight.
So, the melding, the blending
of these apparently very different styles
in this song that we're going to have tonight,
it was my idea just to almost take a picture
and to take a photo of our reality
as Latino performers that live in the US.
We are a hybrid and this applies--
Aída lives in Mexico, but she does a lot of work here.
Marisoul is a true hybrid.
I am a true hybrid.
I'm originally from Argentina, from Buenos Aires
but I've been living most of my life in the US.
It was a way to document,
that's a way to put it, who we are musically.
It's a blend,
a song likeSomewhere Out There that's a pop song,
reach my heart equally as a mariachi, a traditional Latin American rock,
or like all these things.
This is who we are.
I think it's time for us to try to make these things
be seen and heard in the best way possible.
Also, we come up with some unique things that people appreciate.
Art, again, in my case music,
is essential for all of us,
not just for the people making music.
It's essential for the human race.
It's one of the highest ways and forms of expression that we have
to express not just joy, but uncertainty,
the fear of the unknown.
All of these things need to come together
and we need to have a platform.
It's like, let us play for you
because we need to play for you.
I dare say it,
you need to hear our music.
We feed each other.
Linda was taking similar risks musically.
As to these ones that we are describing
that we'll take in tonight
with the big exception.
She was taking this risk many years ago
when it was way more riskier,
pardon the way to put it, but way more risky,
and it was way more of a challenge to come out saying,
"Hey, this is who I am,
listen to this.
You might have never heard of this music,
but I promise you in three minutes,
I'm going to change your life
by what is going to reach your soul musically."
That's a true artist.
There's things that are hard to explain in words.
I would say that it's easier to listen to music
than to talk about music
and let the music do the talking.
That being said,
occasionally you run into moments,
if you're fortunate enough,
in which just some intangible magic happens.
Accompanying a singer like Marisoul
with such an amazing, well-crafted song
with just a piano, it's extremely powerful,
it's just a voice and an instrument.
There's no gimmicks,
there's no computers, lights, fireworks,
there's no dancers, there's nothing.
It's the singer,
the song and the accompanist.
We had a truly special moment.
I welcome it.
Anytime that I can accompany La Marisoul,
it's just beautiful.
This is what we're here for, this is our purpose.
More Episodes (13)
Audra Mae: Songs of Joy & Peace with Dylan MeekDecember 23, 2020
Barbara Morrison: Standing On Their ShouldersDecember 09, 2020
A Tribute to Linda Ronstadt at The SorayaNovember 18, 2020
Civic ImaginationNovember 04, 2020
Watts Towers FestivalsOctober 21, 2020
Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra N.Y.E.L.A.October 07, 2020