Liliana Rokita - The Hot Toluca Mama
Sexy. Subtle. Definitely stylish. Songs mixed like fine champagne... Liliana Rokita (www.lilianarokita.com) is elbowing her way into the competitive Latin music arena with her debut album, Liliana, which, if not for the wholly Spanish lyrics, could easily be labeled crossover, in the same way that Shania Twain takes the recognizable components of her genre and twists in a good deal of pop.
Rokita is more concerned with that universal feeling - love. She proves by the following track list that there's no English copyright on life's #1 emotion. Liliana and her husband/producer Chris have taken the labor out of this labor of love and made it so cool you could set ice cream on it.
Sintiendo Tu Hechizo
Me Tienes Enamorada
Mi Amor A Escondiditas
Cielo Estas Asi
La Mujer Que En Mi Dormia
Un Poema Para Dos
Iluminando Tu Piel
Entre Luces De Colores
Entre El Y Yo
Un Poema Para Dos
Cielo Estas Asi
MP3: "Caminos Confusos"
"This is my debut album," says Liliana. "It took quite a while to complete (three years) because I wanted to release something I could be proud of. Making sure everything 'feels right' takes time. I created this album with my husband, Chris, and we used Pro Tools software to record and mix. We were learning how to use the software as we were progressing through the project so, naturally it was taking time.
"We were fortunate to also have the opportunity to collaborate with Bobby Balderama, guitarist extraordinaire [founding member of the Mysterians and responsible for co-writing the 1960's Billboard chart smash '96 Tears' with '?', (aka Question Mark)] and Andres Howell, who provides some background vocals which truly gave this CD more of a human feel to it. The CD has a very unique sound. Then, when we felt it was finished, we were blessed to have the album mastered by Ron McMaster/Capitol Records Mastering, Hollywood, California."
As usual, without family support, music might not get made at all. Liliana is lucky to have combined her home life with her career. "This CD was definitely a team effort. We both were involved with all aspects in the production of this album. In the first stages of developing a 'sound', we spent a lot of time experimenting with several styles and rhythms of music. First, we wanted a beat that you could dance to, or just sit down and relax to. Next, we wanted to offer something unique, a sound like nobody else, and yet still keep it Latin.
"It was very important for us not to rush the production, but to spend the time to make sure both of us were completely satisfied with every song. The multitude of ideas that we came up with at the beginning gave the CD its diverse sound. We had to record all of the songs late at night in our home studio in the basement when our children were sleeping. This was the only opportunity for peace and quiet. Let's just say we did not get much sleep for a while."
MP3: "Mi Amor A Escondiditas"
So what of the kids' roles in the music? "Our children have been around music since they were born. They have a natural ability to learn, and that is why we try to encourage them to play an instrument. When they grow up, and if they decide to take up this profession, they will be prepared."
Everyone will recognize the romance in this enhanced CD. This is for lovers, not music for changing the world. "The lyrics in my songs are not social. There are a lot of artists who write about the problems of everyday, but for me, it works in a different way. I enjoy that type of lyric, but only for so long. I don't want my lyrics to depress my audience, but to send an optimistic message, even if the song is about a broken heart. We have to enjoy even the sad moments, and sometimes it feels good to listen to a heartbroken song when you are around your friends at a party. After all, when the song is over, life continues.
"In my album, you are going to find a little bit of everything. Some people may remember their first love, or the first time they cried for someone, or just a funny love story that will make them get up and dance. As you can see, I am a very romantic person, and the feeling in this album is romance, illusion, excitement and a little bit of melancholy."
There are few genres that manage to split the infinitive between romance and excitement, but Latin is at the top of that list. Liliana, the album, is obviously very up-beat and caters to more than mere ballad seekers. Even if you don't speak the Spanish that makes up her album, you'll know what's going on.
"I really didn't expect to see what is happening right now. My audience is no longer just Spanish speaking people, but many who do not understand the Spanish language have conveyed how much they enjoy listening to this CD. I think that when it comes to music, it doesn't matter the language, or the style, as long you can transmit the true emotions of your performance, the connection with the people will come.
MP3: "Sintiendo Tu Hechizo"
"When I am performing live, it's very important to me to get the audience involved, to make sure they are having a good time, so maybe that has something to do with the response of the people. That is the dream of every singer, to be able to knock down the barrier of the language. All over the world people enjoy English music, and many of them don't understand it, but they listen to it and love it, so I guess it's not too impossible for someone like me to do the same."
It's this cross-culture following that is setting the mood (and pace) for Liliana's new tour. "I feel I have the best of both worlds. I am very flexible and am able to perform with a backing band or perform solo by singing and running tracks. Both are challenging in their own right. Performing solo, I am the focal point, whether it is on a radio show, television show or in concert - everyone in the audience is looking at me and/or listening to me. I feel the need to connect with every person - make sure they are having a good time! My recent shows at Madison Square Garden and Club Discotheque in NYC and the Temple Theatre in Saginaw were solo performances.
I feel the same way about performing with a backing band but there are many more things that can 'go wrong'. There really is nothing like the feeling, that energy you get from the audience and the band members. My mainstage performance at Festival Latino 2003 and the 2003 Review Music Awards were with my backing band. Either way it is a lot of fun! My current solo set list contains only my original Spanish songs."
So how did the journey begin? "My father is a musician, and that's been his job for as long as I can remember, so I've been around music all my life. When I was little, my cousin and I would dance and sing the songs of important groups, and we would even put up a show for the neighbors. We would charge a cover for our show, and with the money we made, we would buy material and clothing for our next performance.
"When I was 17, I started singing in a more professional way. My first band was 'Mass', then I was in a band called 'Lider Show', and then a band called 'Onda Corta'. 'Onda Corta' was my favorite because we were all teenagers and the other groups all had older gentlemen. When I married and came to the United States, I thought my singing career was over, but one day I told my husband how much I missed singing and performing. We met a person who sang in a Mexican restaurant, and we would take turns singing mariachi and traditional Mexican songs. From this, I became a co-host of a Latin music TV show introducing music videos."
MP3: "Un Poema Para Dos"
Oddly, she now makes her home in Saginaw, Michigan. But that doesn't stop her from cutting Spanish albums. "My husband's family is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. I met my husband, Chris, through his work travels - they took him to my hometown of Toluca, Mexico. I was a secretary and his company sent him to do business with the company I worked with. We dated, eventually married and I followed him to Saginaw. We have been together for 10 years and have three terrific sons: Christopher, Erik and William.
"It was difficult at first, not knowing anyone in Saginaw and leaving my entire family behind in Mexico. Also, the language barrier - I did not have many friends when I first arrived to talk with in my native language. As time passed, I met several individuals who shared my Hispanic heritage and who have had an influence on my musical career. I began singing covers locally at a Mexican restaurant and moved up to larger concerts. I met a local television producer who encouraged me to write my own material. He invited me to be a co-host on his show HMV-Hispanic Music Videos."
And from there the musical ride began. "This is something that I have dreamed for all my life, and of course I would like to make a living out of this. I've been working on my career for many years, and it's something that I love and enjoy. I want to grow as an artist, and be able to travel and reach other types of audiences... I really don't know how far this is going to take me, all I can do is work, learn and savor every experience... Of course, I would like to be able to secure my family's future and also help my family in Mexico.
"To all the people who have been behind me in so many different moments of my life that supported, and trusted me; all the people who have helped me without expecting anything in return; all my family here, and in Mexico, who always pray for me; my husband, my kids, and my manager, who is my angel, and has done so much for me; of course God, every single day he lets me know that he is with me; and to all the people supporting my CD, and my career... thank you so much!"