Immigrant Punk fuses music with culture, orientation … and lots of optimism
At Cool Beans, 1210 W. Hickory St., Denton. April 30 at 10 p.m. Free. Myspace.com/CoolBeansLiveMusic.
When you talk to Rocio Aranda, you can’t escape her eyes. They are intense with a penetrating stare. Aranda is one serious woman.
That’s a result of her devotion to changing the world — even from her little corner in Denton. And her goal is to do that through her music as Immigrant Punk.
Aranda could be the first musician to mix her Mexican heritage of folk music with a kind of hip-hop laced with a spiritual optimism as a woman and gay. She’s punk and traditional. But that lack of definition may be her best asset.
"I write about anything you can think of that inspires you," she says.
Born in Mexico, Aranda settled in Texas with her family at age 14. By then, she was already writing her own poetry, but soon discovered The Doors, Rage Against the Machine and music she had never heard of: Hip-hop.
"I started doing music [at age 19]," she says. "I wrote about things that relate to my life. But I would also cover songs by Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z, Mana that were like parallel realities to my life. Those self-made, something-out-of-nothing lyrics were poetry."
Those influences melded with her love of Mexican music and experience playing with other bands. Her songs are minimal in delivery: She raps over a djembe drum — that’s it. But Aranda invites other musicians to play with her and is always changing the sound. The lack of consistency and even glossy production is strangely part of her music philosophy. Immigrant Punk isn’t just her moniker —it’s her musical lighthouse.
"The djembe is an efficient, affordable way to do my music," she says. "I’ve been learning to rap and now I write my music that way. It’s my plan to have different instruments all the time but with my lyrics. And I want to give my music out for free."
No lie. She records her live performances and then gives out the CD free of charge. Her first "album" debuted in March. She’d rather sell her merch for funds to keep doing music, but she sees the work as a gift to give back.
"My target audience is the individual who has the desire to grow," she says. "People who still dream and have moved forward and are now in this fabric of America. I wouldn’t call it a struggle because it’s beautiful to want something."
In Denton, Aranda is surrounded by a happening music scene where she finds a jukebox of inspiration by the different bands and artists. But she wouldn’t mind hitting the Dallas venues and even playing more to the community, even though her work tackles more about her identity as an immigrant to Texas more than her sexuality.
"It’s clear I am lesbian and very proud to be," she says. "I’m blessed. I never had a negative response from my family or friends about my sexuality. It’s one of the factors that drive me to do positive things. I feel a sense of responsibility as far as our time right now."
But her spirituality drives Aranda … though she’s not of the Bible-thumping Christian rock variety. She just sees her work as part of something bigger.
"Sometimes I wonder if art is just the language of God speaking through people," she says. "I hope my audience can go away feeling like they’ve seen something fresh, not through me but in the lyrics to remember ‘This is a new day —this life is an opportunity.’"
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 30, 2010.