When musician Catherine John arrived in Cuernavaca from San Francisco in 2008, she could hardly have imagined that her subsequent journey would lead eight years later to the release of ¡Fandango Bragh!, a fusion album she describes as an expression of her “unique Irish-Mexican identity.”
After classical violin training as a youngster and already initiated into traditional Irish music by playing at a well-known pub in Marin County, John became swept up in a whirlwind of musical experiences in Mexico, both native and Celtic.
She took part in regular outdoor sessions, similar to the fandangos jarochos from Veracruz – “transposing the Irish pub to the Mexican patio.” She played with “A Campo Traviesa” a Celtic-World Music band in Mexico City; she learned all about traditional Mexican music from Enrique Barona, the revered maestro of Cuernavaca’s Tembembe Ensemble Continuo; she taught music at local schools and she organized recitals to raise money for youth orchestras.
“My time in Mexico was a total musical immersion, with Irish and Mexican music at the center of it all,” John says. Above all, she adds, her experience in Mexico was empowering, a period when she felt she became a “real” musician.
After three years in Mexico, John jumped at the opportunity to study for a Masters Degree in Community Music at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Not all was plain sailing, though. “I felt some homesickness for Mexico,” she admits. “I was suddenly seeing everything through Mexican eyes.”
Seeking out a Mexican community in Ireland, John met Antonio Garcia Lopez, a talented Mexican violinist living in Dublin. He invited her to join Mariachi San Patricio, the first ever mariachi band in Ireland, playing in its inaugural year.