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.