Imagine you are a singer and a major record label gives you an opportunity to do an album of songs to celebrate your country's bicentennial. For Mexican jazz singer Magos Herrera, it was a dream project.
Herrera decided to record songs by composers who emerged in the heyday of Mexican cinema in the 1930s and 40s. One of those composers was Agustin Lara. Herrera said she was drawn to Lara's embrace of African roots in Mexico.
"You can see that he had a very strong view and acknowledgement of blackness in Mexico, and how we were influenced by Africa in our culture," Herrera said. "We can hear that in Brazilian music, in Peruvian music, in Venezuelan music but in Mexico, it's not that obvious."
Another Mexican composer that Herrera connected with, was Ãlvaro Carrillo.
She remembers listening to her father singing Carrillo's songs in the living room, but she said she didn't really know all that much about him.
"When I started researching the repertoire of this era, Ãlvaro Carrillo was one of the great beautiful surprises. He had this African background, and the way he wrote his lyrics was so poetic and so beautiful," she said.
Magos Herrera moved to New York three years ago. The experience of living away from home has allowed her to see Mexico from a different vantage point, Herrera said, and this album is an effort to point out the richness of Mexican music.
"I really try to do that, to rescue this 'Africanism' that we have in our culture," she said