An Interview with Marian Li Pino of La Luz

By Erika Delgado


On August 10, 2015 I finally caught La Luz live at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. I had been wanting to see them for a couple years now, and finally seeing them just brought a bolt of energy and inspiration through me. So I walked up to the lead singer and guitarist, Shana Cleveland, and asked the most personal question I could ever ask anyone “Are any of you guys Latinas?” Really it’s not that personal. It’s just something you usually don’t ask people. I overall just hate asking people about their ethnicity, I feel like that should be something someone should share themself. This day was different because these gals were so badass and I just wanted to see if I could relate more to them than I already did. Shana pointed me in the direction of Marian Li Pino, the drummer.

I then started talking to Marian about Chifladx and how I would love to interview her because I think she’s a role model the Latinas of the world should know. We exchanged emails and in the next couple months, while she was on tour and my life was just hectic, we emailed each other.

“I don’t usually recognize that I’ve had a different cultural experience from my American peers until I look at the kind of music I was exposed to by my parents. I think it played a big part on my musical style and my view on drum arrangements as a whole,” Marian Li Pino wrote to me in the first email. “I identify as latina to some extent, as my parents are Chilean and we visited Chile a bunch as I was growing up. Just a very Americanized latina.”

Statements I feel that many Latin@s relate to, and this all just made the interview seem more important.

You spoke about the music you were exposed to as a kid by your parents? What kind of music was that exactly? Do you have a favorite memory with music from when you visited Chile with your family? 

Even up to a later age in life, my parents had a pretty profound influence on my music taste.  In no particular order, albums on rotation were Arturo Sandoval, Astrud Gilberto/Antonio Carlos Jobim, Buena Vista Social Club, Carlos Santana, Juan Luis Guerra, and probably a ton more that I can’t recall.  My mom loved Los Iracundos and Nicola Di Bari and Luis Miguel.  Going to Chile and hearing what type of music is on the radio really fascinates and excites me.  They don’t seem to be owned by a corporation that only allows the same 200 songs to be played for eternity.  They’re playing all genres, old and new, in whatever language.  My brother and I usually set up a radio in my grandmas spot and just kind of let the good tunes roll.

What were some of your favorite songs and musicians as a kid and teen? (Does not have to be latinx)

This is all gonna be pretty embarrassing.  I, again, was very influenced by my family.  I guess I just didn’t really feel the need to find other music with all the stuff playing at home.  I was listening to anything from Destiny’s Child to Dixie Chicks to classical composers, to Red Hot Chili Peppers and a plethora of horrific tween bands I can’t even name.

Can you remember your first concert? 

I know I must have gone to see orchestral and jazz concerts all the time with my family, but as for my first individual outing?  Something terrible like Fall Out Boy, but worse.

Maybe going too far, first memory with music? 

I have a few.  I’m pretty one of my first memories of music had to be when I was around 3 or 4.  I remember being in a room and listening to a classical sounding record that my dad had put on. It’s possible it could have been Peter and the Wolf.

What was the moment that you knew that music was more than just a sound to you? Can you remember the day you decided you wanted to be a drummer? How did your family react when you started to play? 

I think there was no other option, music was always music.  I feel really lucky to have been exposed to really musically and rhythmically complex stuff early on.  It made me crave that with songs in general, and appreciate the musicianship more.  My brothers both played instruments and it was expected that I would learn one too.  For as long as I can remember I’ve been drawn to the drums.  It took 6 years of piano playing before I was allowed to crossover, but I think it was always clear that I loved percussion.

What’s a song that brings you back to a memory that just makes you happy? 

Me and Mrs. Jones, because the first time I heard that was in Chile with my brother.  And Berimbau, because Astrud’s voice feels like home no matter where I’m at.


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