“There’s a poster we have framed in our home, which you can see in the video,” Luba Mason, Broadway veteran and omnivorous singer, tells Billboard, alluding to the Manhattan apartment she shares with her husband, singer/songwriter and actor Rubén Blades. “It says, ‘Americanos Todos. Americans all. Let’s fight for freedom!”, and it pictures two arms each holding a different hat; one holding a Mexican sombrero, the other holding an Uncle Sam-style top hat.”
The fusion of Mexican and American cultures, for Mason, is about far more than just interior decorating though. The poster inspired her mariachi-centric arrangement of “Calm Before The Storm,” a 1988 composition by Blades and Lou Reed that is from her latest project, Mixtura, which will be released tomorrow, June 24, via Kolbalt Label Services. To keep things authentic, Mason invited Grammy-nominated mariachi ensemble Flor de Toloache to assist on the recording and in the video, which is premiered exclusively on Billboard below.
“People are more familiar with male mariachi bands,” says Mason of the process of filming the video, which is set all across New York City, from the subway to Union Square to the High Line. “When you see all women and insert an American blonde gringa in the mix — singing a serious song by Lou Reed and Rubén Blades — it called for one to stop and observe.”
Explaining the choice to cover the song, Mason alludes to its political implications — particularly relevant as the presidential election draws nearer. “You see the lyrics of this 1988 song are timeless,” she says. “It’s about the fear we live in, whether it’s about war, terrorism or anger towards immigrants. The message is that cultures need to bond together so that the lyrics of the song [While the orchestra plays, they build barricades to help close the doors/While the musician sings, the holocaust rings cymbals of war] do not become a reality.”
Watch the video, which features a cameo from Blades, below.
Mason and the band put together a behind-the-scenes video while they were in the studio for the one-off collaboration — watch how it all came together below.
Pre-order Mixtura on iTunes here.