Born in Ecuador but raised in New York City, Eljuri has found it impossible to ignore the many influences that inform her music. So she simply won’t do it, with her third solo album, La Lucha, a living, breathing example of what makes her tick.
“It’s organic and that’s what’s running through my veins anyway, so I don’t know how much of a choice I have,” she said. “It’s genuine, and anyone who’s grown up knowing me can identify that in me and my music.”
Easily able to traverse the worlds of Latin and rock music, the singer-guitarist is able to pull off a rare trick in the process — she can get fans of either genre interested in music they were never exposed to thanks to her hybrid approach to songwriting.
“When I play live, I swing through different genres with this blended sound that I have and the audience is not walking away when I’m playing the Latin song, and they’re not walking away when I’m playing the rock song,” she said. “I think that’s the future of what fresh music can bring. It’s not completely familiar to somebody, it’s fresh, but there are some elements that people can grab on to. It’s nice to hear something that’s not quite what you’ve heard before, and I’m hoping that’s what I bring.”
She does, with her chops having been honed in the Big Apple, a place where if you don’t have everything together, you don’t last too long. Eljuri and her music has stood the test of time though, and just seeing the names of Johnny Pisano and Alex Alexander on the liner notes of La Lucha is a stamp of street cred from the rhythm section of the Willie Nile Band. Of course there are the hardcores out there who don’t want anything to stray from the traditional form of their favorite genre, but Eljuri isn’t letting it stray her from her path.
“I think I’m genuinely a bridge for those two worlds,” she said. “I have performed in rock clubs playing Latin stuff, from CBGBs and Luna Lounge to Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom, and you get a lot of people that come to the middle. The super extreme outliers, I don’t know what to say. (Luaghs) But I think because there’s something familiar to the rock people — the drums, the driving guitar solos — you get them that way. And the fact is that it has a little different rhythm, but it doesn’t scare them away because it has a clave. On the Latin side, you do have those hardcore traditionalists, but there are a lot of people that are second generation Latinos that also grew up listening to rock and pop, and they’re very open to it.”
And no matter what you listen to, it’s hard not to get taken in by one of the signature tracks on La Lucha, “Bang Bang,” which ends with a stark recitation of the cities recently affected by gun violence.
“When I was writing that song, it kept haunting me and, frankly, since I recorded it, there have been more (cities), which is insane,” she said. “It’s a modern day crisis that we’re going through and I just want to bring that to light.”
Then again, that’s always been the point of Eljuri’s music — not just to entertain, but inform.
“That’s the crux of my lyrics in general, which is trying to give voice to what I find troubling, and I do feel like what I present with my music is a reflection of what I’m hearing when I connect with people in different environments in the U.S. and other parts of the world,” she said. “We share this concern of how things are, so I do feel that I’m blessed to be able to use my voice to reflect not just my feelings, but those of others, and hopefully not in a preachy way, just in an enlightening way.”
Thankfully, there are those who still listen, and that’s why Eljuri keeps going in what has become an interesting business.
“Whether it’s a cool, bad ass riff that I want people to hear, or lyrics like ‘Bang Bang’ that I just want to get out there, I’m definitely a commercial artist and I want people to hear my music, but I’m driven by my songs and I have been since I was 13,” she said. “The songs have always been the consistent friends to me and the driver behind overcoming all the obstacles and challenges that the lovely music industry presents to us.”
I note a little New York City sarcasm, and it’s always welcome to these ears, but there’s no snark behind a story she tells to truly illustrate what playing music means to her.
“I was playing the Lilac Festival in Rochester and there was this couple in front of me dancing,” she recalls. Afterward, she met the couple.
“The man told me, ‘My girlfriend loves your music, and she’s deaf.’ She was the one who was dancing up front, and she could feel the pulse of it. And I started crying. That’s why I do it.”
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