Y La Bamba's Luz Mendoza on Healing, Music, and Rediscovery

Luz of Y La Bamba — photography by  Christal Angelique

Luz of Y La Bamba — photography by Christal Angelique

Luz Elena Mendoza began Y La Bamba in 2008 — the name not only deviates from the traditional folk dance, La Bamba, it’s reflective of Mendoza’s persona, her identity which proudly entwines with her Mexican roots. Like the traditional folk dance (bambolear, meaning to sway), there’s a distinct kind of movement in the way Luz carries herself even when she’s not on stage performing. This energy could be compared to a quiet but steady undercurrent, a pulse that hums powerfully but only clearly evident to those pausing to listen.

Mendoza’s journey began in a challenging place, an upbringing in a Mexican American household that engulfed her entire existence. Early on, the artist found herself face to face with life decisions many will never have to endure in their lifetime, a survivor who left home early on to explore a musical path. The journey hasn’t been easy for Mendoza, she wears her history, her turmoil, her passion and wisdom on her sleeve, she’s not hiding from her story but she emphasizes its layers. No story is simple.

These personal characteristics roll over into her offerings, music something that fills the many chapters of her adult life. Released in 2016 through Tender Loving Empire, Ojos Del Sol delivered a mixture of her native tongue, Spanish and also English. It’s an album that touches on Catholicism, her parents, and Mexican folk narratives. In “Libre” (translation: free) there’s a meandering, spiritual presence punctuating the song’s mood; a choir builds on Mendoza’s vocals, there’s something imaginative as the lyrics paint a picture of natural elements, animals, dreams and a place where it all comes together.

“I heard a screaming coming straight out
Of the evening
Where all the animals came
Together to have a talk
They spoke to higher places to protect
Of what the claim to stalk and all the
Fruits that they know so well if they
Come or not”

Melodic through and through, the song shifts over to Spanish halfway, the poeticism feels so true to Mendoza, it’s personal and while not hidden, can be easily overlooked if not paying attention.

A translation flows into something that deviates into prayer, it’s a beautiful plea asking for peace for her first mother, then her father, and brothers. This piece of the song is like a suspension in time and emotions, she honors her ties and the blood that connects them together.

These dual complexities run steadily throughout Ojos Del Sol, the good and bad, tribute to both present and past. Listeners will battle with the question of knowing if the artist is acknowledging both sides or if she is stuck in purgatory between the two.

Luz Mendoza of Y La Bamba — photography by  Christal Angelique

Luz Mendoza of Y La Bamba — photography by Christal Angelique

In between Mendoza’s 2016 release of Ojos Del Sol and present time, the artist intentionally seeks and welcomes a healing stage of life. A true empath, Mendoza’s full fledged passion and commitment toward her community — family, friends, fellow artists — has taken a humanistic toll, encouraging her to seek a rebuilding type of solace from the world.

She explains it in the sense of how the barnyard owl exists and its natural function to operate through a streamlined, focused kind of vision. Mendoza relates to this type of controlled attention and how it applies to her need to hone in on certain aspects of her life, keeping the other trials and tribulations of her past at bay. She wants listeners and admirers of Y La Bamba to see this internal battle of not being able to simply “turn off” or practice ignorance to thrive within creativity. Instead, like in Mendoza’s personal experience of inherently adopting others’ emotions so easily, there’s no easy way to dodge such magnetism.

This struggle to be responsible, compassionate but also practicing self-care has been difficult for Mendoza. It’s also why she chooses to create content with true intention, only developing work when she arrives at that recharged pinnacle moment. In this way, she stresses the importance of surrounding herself with friends and colleagues who can support her on this journey.

As someone who takes on others’ experiences, absorbing the weight of their burdens (even if they’re not meaning to share it), this idea of surrounding oneself with advocates for her health is real; this continuous choice of dividing her energy into the right areas isn’t hard to see when talking to her or even when witness to her live performances. When she’s doing a set there’s a gentle forcefulness behind her music, the walls come down and there’s an outpour of the truths she’s carefully brought to the surface.

In recognizing the need for harmony, Mendoza understands how the healing process can powerful when surrounding oneself with fiends ready to step in — to listen or lend a voice when needed. A glimmer of comfort in knowing certain burdens can be shared is enough sometimes — especially as an empath who continuously piles on others’ worries onto her own.

It’s like a balancing act and every day she seeks out the equilibrium to achieve such harmony, her music being its own language that needs no translation to feel if listening with an open heart.

Stay tuned as we announce the release of Y La Bamba’s lastest single next week. Available for listening on Marmoset’s roster.

Posted on October 17, 2018 and filed under Artist Spotlights, Community, Marmoset, Music, Spotlight: Artists.

Let's Talk About Music Licenses - Pt. I


Navigating the world of music licensing can feel overwhelming if going in blindly. And with a project’s many variables to consider and gauge, the starting line can have the potential to change — again and again.

At Marmoset, we work closely on our own and clients’ creative projects everyday — from films to commercials — so we understand the struggle. It’s the reason we’ve recruited our Creative Licensing Coordinators to step in and share their industry experiences and advice with our readers for this special series on music licensing.

This week we sat down with Music Licensing Coordinator, Nathaniel Schmidt to talk about the most common music license, what to carefully watch out for, and how to choose a music license confidently.

Small Business Licenses

Approaching a project in terms of categories can give a licenser superpowers; in a way, it’s process of elimination by narrowing down what license is best suited for a project and better yet, which licenses don’t apply. No matter what step of the music licensing process you happen to be on, we recommend starting by checking out our license breakdown page here.

From Independent Licenses to Small Non-Profit License, the guide outlines the purpose of each license, the expected cost, and even usage terms.

While Marmoset sees all of these plans licensed daily, there’s one in particular that often has some confusion surrounding it — the Small Business License. Geared toward small businesses and operations, this option allows these clients to obtain an affordable license for usage of high quality music. While the term “business” is in the title, this music license serves the purpose of pairing with content that highlights the spirit of an organization.

“This license is for people not selling a product specifically,” says Nathaniel. “Instead, this music license is more for brand videos, how-to pages, things of that nature. It’s a license for content that’s more informative, something that highlights the brand or company rather than a specific product or service.”

Here's another recap of what a Small Business License entails.

Small Business License — Music for highlighting company culture, events and employees.

  • Tunes for highlighting company culture, events and employees.

    • Permitted Content: You are an individual wishing to license one master recording and composition embodied thereon (“Musical Work”, as defined in the attached Standard Terms and Conditions) for the creation of a film or slideshow that highlights an organization as a whole. Content may include company highlights, event coverage, culture highlights, and employee insights - films that give an overall sense of the spirit of the organization. 

    • Non-Permitted Content: Fundraising campaign or call to action, or any film that highlights a specific product or service of the organization. 

    • # of Spots: Single (1) use 

    • Lifespan: Perpetual 

    • Cost: 

      • ▶ 1 - 20 employees: $199.00

      • ▶ 21 - 50 employees: $499.00

      • ▶ 51 - 100 employees: $699.00

      • ▶ 101 - 250 employees: $999.00

So while the video editor licensing the song works for a company of five people, if the end client (who the video is for) has 150 employees — Marmoset will want the licenser to abide by the latter.

Beyond the License Page

While the aforementioned page offers an in-depth overview of the many different licenses that can be purchased through a couple quick clicks on Marmoset’s site, these licenses are not fully comprehensive. Instead, there are a variety of projects that will require other types of licenses that don’t always easily fit within a simple category.


“When people see click licenses, they think they somehow have to adhere to that,” says Nathaniel. “We can do custom licensing. But keep in mind we have designed these more basic licenses to facilitate the process for smaller projects, independent artists, or what we sometimes refer to as micro budget projects.”

Nathaniel goes on to describe how many of these licenses listed on our license page are geared toward more limited web usage, whereas paid web, broadcast radio, or in-app media projects would need a customized license.

“The click licenses were designed as a kind of like in-between measure where certain things can be pinpointed — like typical classic uses that can be easily identified and just made available. But for example, if it’s just going on a small business website, you don’t need to deal with someone going back and forth in a negotiation, signing a document, being invoiced. Instead you can easily just pay and go through the site.”

Our Creative Licensing Team gets how the details can get muddled from time to time, so keep in mind our team is always welcoming to offer input and guidance.

“There’s no need to rush; we understand that your project is important and you might be on a tight timeline but the world isn’t going to end if you don’t necessarily get it right the first time,” says Nathaniel. “But because of that we suggest reading through the licensing page that covers all the click licenses we offer. After reading through that, if it doesn’t sound like it fits then it probably doesn’t and you should reach out.”

Thanks again to Nathaniel on our Creative Licensing Team for kickstarting our music licensing series! Stay tuned for next time when we dive into frequently answered questions and clarify what you should know when asking about custom licenses.

Have music licensing questions you’d like us to address? Send them through the form below, then head over to Marmoset’s Instagram page as we chat about licensing with Nathaniel.

Posted on October 15, 2018 and filed under Marmoset, Music, Education.

End of Summer New Music Roundup Mixtape

Marmoset group,    4444    (Ally Hoffmann and Kevin J Simon) now on Marmoset’s roster

Marmoset group, 4444 (Ally Hoffmann and Kevin J Simon) now on Marmoset’s roster

The official summer wind-down is upon us — can you hear us crying into our metaphysical pillow? Not really though, a new season means a fresh start in routine, a new chapter, so to speak. As we embark on this new season together, let’s take a moment to review last month’s selection of emerging music, handpicked and added to our roster by none other than our A&R team.

Peruse, listen, download, and get ready to license!

Posted on October 4, 2018 and filed under Mixtapes, Music, Marmoset.

The Pioneering Artists Behind South America's Evolving Genres

Marmoset artist, Nicola Cruz.  Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Mora-Bowen

Marmoset artist, Nicola Cruz. Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Mora-Bowen

Embedded in the evolving South American movement, Nicola Cruz delivers music that honors the traditions and cultures of his homeland Ecuador.

There’s a richness to the instrumental choices utilized by the artist, it’s a bold crossover of old and new. Such intended connection between ancestral influences and modern approaches aids Cruz’s mission in existing beyond the fold. While yes, this vein exists in cumbia, the music runs a deep and personal course that when traced together is telling of Cruz’s identity.

Born in Limoges, France to Ecuadorian parents, Cruz was immersed in an enriching musical education. When he eventually convinced his parents to purchase him a drum set at the age of 12, Cruz would begin his exploratory phase through an array of genres. While the work he produces doesn’t come close to the musical category of metal, Cruz began his music career by learning and playing Megadeth covers.

Before casting the cumbia fingerprint onto Cruz’s body of work, one must first look to the shifting and emerging changes occuring in South America’s music scene — the surging nightlife trends and happenings.

“It’s easy to fall into this classification since Cumbia is something that’s so broad, it’s not just music but a complete tradition of dance, history, poetry, geography if you will, that is included in this movement that started in Columbia and spread throughout Latin America,” says Cruz. “I think when people from outside the common Latin American perimeter refer to this music as cumbia, is for lack of a better name, which in a way is acceptable because understanding this context is proper of living in places like this. I would say that what I compose these days leans toward contemporary electronic music, where defying music rules is always present, but that’s always been a part of me — experimentation.”

With Nicola Cruz DJing on an international scale, one need not look far to recognize the ease in which his music translates to non-Spanish speaking audiences.

Marmoset artist, Nicola Cruz.  Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Mora-Bowen

Marmoset artist, Nicola Cruz. Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Mora-Bowen

The success of this kind of international recognition came about from his 2015 release of Prender el Alma, listeners finding diversity and range throughout the album. The electronic downtempo drew together a fanbase eager to see how Cruz would continue developing the Andean musical elements through a modernistic spin. An integral part of Cruz’s signature style is rooted in technology and his embracing of Western influences, it’s proof that honoring the past can simultaneously accompany new invention.

With Cruz experimenting through his music’s compositions, the folkloric sounds merely are one of the many vibrant threads woven into the Ecuadorian artists musical stylings. In “La Cosecha”, Cruz incorporates classic sounds of the acoustic guitar with a drum machine, the complete work sounds like a bright and joyful tribute to something truly profound and sacred.

Looking to Andean cosmology, ‘Cosecha’ refers to a time of harvesting, a period of recognition on what can been extracted from the earth and in turn, a deep appreciation for everything that’s been collected. This sort of homage speaks volumes about Cruz’s intentions to remain rooted in heritage, honoring the history of his ancestors’ stories. And yet, such sincerity and deep reflection doesn’t inflict a barrier. One underlying reason? Cruz knows how to produce compelling music that translates for and beyond the dancefloor.

“I've never felt stuck in a genre or category, it's always about how I feel everyday,” says Cruz. “For instance, I woke up today with “Moon” by Björk in my head so I revisited that. I constantly find myself discovering new songs from the Beatles, those dudes recorded a lot of music back in the day. The Division Bell by Floyd has been another comeback, or the amazing STROOM records from Belgium if I feel for something more sci fi — and don't get me started on modular techno. It's endless really, and so I consider my musical aspirations to be.”

With “Colibria” — the feminine Spanish word for colibrio, an instrument used to record the song — the story unfolds by honoring the concept of mankind’s origins. There’s reference to mother nature, discovering and celebrating the natural elements of this world. Rhythmically Latin through and through, there’s clear conjunction of cutting-edge electronic tempo and indigenous sounds. Songs such as this tie Cruz’s creative creations to this roots while still remaining wildly universally understood.

Cruz is currently working with ZZK Records to produce his new upcoming album. This new body of work is said to emulate a wider perspective of music and a projection of ideas Cruz has been carrying with him since Prender el Alma.

Posted on October 2, 2018 and filed under Artist Spotlights, Marmoset, Music, Spotlight: Artists.

The New Festival Changing How Feature Films Are Being Made

Several StudioFest finalists from left to right: David Siev, Millie Rose Heywood, Rolv Lyssand Bjørø, Anna Mikami, and Daniel V. Masciari (Photo credit:    StudioFest   )

Several StudioFest finalists from left to right: David Siev, Millie Rose Heywood, Rolv Lyssand Bjørø, Anna Mikami, and Daniel V. Masciari (Photo credit: StudioFest)

When one thinks of the pristine Catskill Mountains, a film festival isn’t necessarily the first thing to come to mind. But at the quaint but humbly stylish Graham & Co. hotel five filmmakers and five screenwriters assemble as StudioFest’s finalists. The weekend would wrap with only one director and one writer teaming up to create a full feature film through the festival’s support.

Festival judges and attendees (Photo credit: StudioFest)

Festival judges and attendees (Photo credit: StudioFest)

The thing about StudioFest is they’re paving a new path for the film community, their mission being solely for the gain of the artist.

Quick insight to the existing festival climate — best case scenario for many struggling directors is to get their short film accepted into a notable film circuit then hope and pray the right producers are in the audience. From there? From there, the horizon is littered with endless logistical hurdles before securing enough funding to make a feature length film.

So when Marmoset had the chance to partner with StudioFest, we knew where we’d fit in — we’d have the privilege of working alongside the festival’s winners to create the ultimate soundtrack for their feature film.

Arriving Friday night, the festivities are already in motion. At the end of the gravel road, attendees are roasting marshmallows over a crackling bonfire. The heat mixes invitingly with the fresh upstate New York breeze, it’s hard not to feel at ease amidst the dense forest that meets all edges of the premises.

Tucked beyond pruned greenery, there’s an open field with a white tent and banquet styled picnic table in the distance. There’s bustling chatter as screenwriters, directors, judges, and organizers exchange stories over a candlelit meal. A projector plays Grease in the background.

The event’s co-founders Jess Jacklin and Charles Beale raise their glasses and make an introduction toast welcoming everyone, there’s a genuine warmness to them — it’s evident this festival is an extension of their generous, kindhearted nature. With industry experience and background in film production, both know too well the struggles and pitfalls of getting a film produced from start to finish, their advocacy then fueling the festival’s strides further.

No matter the conversation one is part of that night, everything comes back to the admiration behind what StudioFest is setting out to accomplish. There’s agreement how this marks a new generation for filmmakers, how this feels like leaping forward past common obstacles and arriving at the stage they’ve been ready for all along: making a feature length film and sharing it with others.

Congratulations to StudioFest winners Matthew Sorvillo and Anna Mikami, we’ll be working alongside their vision to craft an amazing soundtrack for their film. Stay tuned as we feature other upcoming filmmakers, their work, and the music behind their movies.

Posted on September 28, 2018 and filed under Filmmaking, Community, Marmoset, Music, Shared Work, Spotlight: Marmoset.

A/VEC 5: The Unfinished Portrait of Migrant Workers

Musical artist, Luz Mendoza (Y La Bamba) and documentary filmmaker, Claudia Meza at Marmoset Headquarters on the night of A/VEC

Musical artist, Luz Mendoza (Y La Bamba) and documentary filmmaker, Claudia Meza at Marmoset Headquarters on the night of A/VEC

When picturing the rolling landscape of wine country, picturesque leisure comes to most minds: people basking in a bounty of fresh air while clinking their glasses of wine, mumblings of salute exchanged wistfully. Many will fail to pose the question of how this wine came to be, blissfully unaware of the working hands that have constructed the perfect scene before them — erring in thinking magic is behind it all.

It’s not magic. Nor is it from nothingness. There’s backbreaking work surrounding each aromatic pour and tasting. It’s easy to overlook as this work occurs behind the scenes, commencing at an hour many are still in bed. It’s work that’s hidden in plain sight but should be recognized, discussed, even questioned — something that filmmaker, Claudia Meza sought to pose in the original film she created for Marmoset’s fifth annual A/VEC 5 showcase.

Meza’s mission was to offer insight into this generation of migrant laborers, following the story in a ‘day in the life’ terms — the film opens on an early morning backdrop, we’re visually introduced to unnamed workers who hustle in a way that’s unprecedented by what you’d commonly see in any office environment. There’s a ferocity and propelling drive that catapults the subjects forward, it becomes nearly impossible to focus on any single person. In a way this is intentional, Meza aspiring to present the facts while still protecting identities.

“The reason I wanted to make this, I wanted to know what a migrant worker does because we hear so much about migrant laborers, undocumented workers, Mexican immigrants,” says Meza. “But we have no clue what is actually going on. Trabajo pesado, what that means is “hard work,” it means heavy work. And whenever your parents tell you to study, or tell you what they're doing for you so you don’t have to do — trabajo pesado.”

Y La Bamba

Y La Bamba

As Marmoset’s A/VEC series is constructed around the premise of music and picture working together to create a single experience, there’s something deeply profound in they way Mendoza’s score (Y La Bamba) resonates seamlessly with the visuals. An impressive feat considering neither artist was allowed to communicate with one another leading up to the screening (naturally, part of the entire A/VEC premises).

While this unknowingness of one another’s identities throughout their individual creative process existed, there is an unshaken connecting thread of understanding — there’s clearly an unspoken recognition of the film’s weight and a shared compassion for what the visuals exposed that Mendoza registered. Despite Meza’s intentional decision to omit vocals captured on the day of filming, the context hits home through Mendoza’s lyrics within her original song titled, “The Screams.”

“It’s not so often that this gets to be presented in my music scene,” says Mendoza. “I feel like my life, my parents’ lives — and I know some of us here too that can also relate — how our lives and our stories are being magnified.”

Mendoza recounts her family lineage entwined with a similar kind of physical labor, her story is similar to Meza’s and to those featured in the film. And while neither artist knew who was on the opposite side of this collaboration, both shared a similar personal journey and appreciation of the previous generation’s trabajo pesado.

“We have always lived and carried this knowledge, this is part of living and breathing and surviving, and it’s something really rewarding but it breaks me in front of you to share this and actually exercise what’s been killing me for so long. It’s like this emotional awareness.”

“A well-incomplete story
that hides in a dark corner.
and the snake runs awake
feeling the heat that comes from the earth”
— Y La Bamba

As the event enters its Q&A portion, questions revolving around ‘what’s next’ fill the room. A stirring statement is made by a member of the audience thanking Meza and Mendoza for sharing art that speaks volumes within our rugged political landscape. The attendee reverses the ‘what’s next’ inquiry, prompting fellow audience members to ask themselves what they can do rather than placing the weight of responsibility solely on the artists.

Marmoset commends these artists for allowing their art-form to speak for those who often go without a voice. In an effort to assemble in what we can do together, we’ve listed resources and references in support of America’s migrant workers.

Posted on September 26, 2018 and filed under Filmmaking, Community, Marmoset, Music, Spotlight: Marmoset, Spotlight: Artists.