There was a time when Juno Award-winning musician and Paperboys frontman Tom Landa wasn't that interested in his heritage.
“When I first moved to Canada, I didn't really want to have anything to do with Mexico,” he said. “I was more interested in fitting in to my new home. I didn't even speak Spanish.”
Born and raised in Mexico City to a Mexican father and a Canadian mother, Landa moved to Ontario as a teenager and immersed himself in the music of his Canuck peers.
“I listened to heavy metal,” he said. “Growing up, I just thought traditional Mexican and Latin music was so unhip and uncool.”
But then he discovered the Grammy Award-winning American Chicano sounds of California's Los Lobos, who mix traditional Spanish and Mexican music with rock, blues, folk and soul — and he was hooked.
“Through Los Lobos I rediscovered my roots,” he said. “I think as you grow older, things like connecting with where you come from become more important.”
At the time, Landa was already in the multi award-winning Canadian folk band the Paperboys, and soon the new Latin influence was being felt in the group's music.
“It started with Molinos,” said Landa of the disc that earned the 1997 Juno for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year. “And it can really be felt in the next album we did called Postcards, with our very first song sung totally in Spanish.”
That's also around the time he applied to the Canada Council for the Arts for a chance to study Latin music in Mexico, which led to studying the Son Jarocho genre in Veracruz, under the tutelage of Ramon Gutierrez of the group Son De Madera.
Son Jarocho is a regional folk style from Veracruz, featuring a fusion of Mexican, Spanish and African musical elements.
“He is one of the masters of the genre,” he said.
Although still active fronting the Paperboys, writing new songs for the group, recording new albums and keeping up a busy tour schedule, Landa spent the past few years creating new material for a brand new side project called Locarno.
“Although the Paperboys do feature a Latin-influenced sound more and more, I really wanted a band to showcase and feature my heritage,” he said.
Locarno plays a unique hybrid of Mexican traditional, salsa, pop, folk and funk, with strong doses of Cuban rhythm mixed in there for good measure.
“We do play some traditionals, but we mostly play our original music,” Landa said. “And it is just a fabulous band I have. All the players are just so talented. We are kind of like the Paperboys in that we are a really fun band that the crowd will really enjoy.”
The band includes Miguelito Valdes on trumpet and percussion, Sam Esecson on drums and percussion, Kalissa Hernandez on violin and vocals, and Nick La Riviere on trombone.
Locarno plays the Brackendale Art Gallery on Saturday, April 27 at 8 p.m.
“I love playing at the Brackendale Art Gallery,” Landa said. “It's just such a great venue. We can't wait.”
Tickets are $20 and available at the BAG or Xocolatl.
For more on the band, go to www.locarnomusic.com.
Listen to Locarno -