New Music

You weren't ever supposed to hear Ely Guerra, you know. Aside from a few scratchy bootlegs of her essential 1999 album Lotofire, fans on this side of the Mexican border never got a chance to buy a copy for themselves. Mexican music executives were freaked out by the audaciously idiosyncratic album, as well as by Guerra's refusal to fit a narrow vision of what a Mexican female singer should do (which, to music executives, breaks down to having big breasts and flaunting them). But continued demand for the album, along with Guerra's show-stopping performances on the Amorres Perros soundtrack and the Los Tigres del Norte tribute album, finally convinced these nacos that hiding Lotofire was a mistake. Rereleased, remastered and revved-up with a new song ("De la Calle"), the three-year-old Lotofire is still way ahead of anything else out there. Built on trip-hop, funk and Brazilian beats, Guerra's journey through guerrasboth personal ("Tengo Frío") and universal ("Vete," a point-of view piece on indigenous exploitation) will likely be imitated for years to come. But the pretenders will never be able to replicate Guerra's voice, an impossibly breathless sigh plugged into the soul of some Campbellian Mother Goddess archetype. It'll play in the bedroom, at a teach-in, even on the rockero floor. If having to wait for Lotofire made it this much sweeter, here's hoping Guerra's next album won't be released for another decade. (Gustavo Arellano)