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La Doña gives a taste of conjunto music to ACL Fest 2021

The Chicana artist, who recently collaborated with Los Texmaniacs from San Antonio, plays everything from norteño, cumbia, salsa and reggaeton.

AUSTIN, Texas — When the ACL Festival lineup was first announced in May, there was a noticeable lack of Latin artists. The festival quickly corrected itself after criticisms, adding artists such as Karol G, Yendry and Lunay. But one artist has been a shining light on the lineup from the beginning – San Francisco’s La Doña.

La Doña, aka Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea, grew up playing trumpet and percussion with her family, performing professionally for the first time when she was just 7 years old. She plays everything from norteño, cumbia, salsa and reggaeton, or what she calls mujer-powered “femmeton.”

“My musical roots come from a lot of different places,” La Doña told KVUE after her Weekend Two set. “I grew up playing regional Mexican music with my family band and I, you know, we also played merengue, salsa and cumbia. I saw a lot of different Afro diasporic Latinx music. But I also came up in the tradition of American folk and bluegrass all the time, you know, like the folk revivalist movement, all of that. So I think that my music kind of incorporates a lot of that.”

Credit: John Gusky
Photo: John Gusky, KVUE

After an exciting set at Weekend 1 and a bonus show with Austin’s Gina Chavez at Antone’s, La Doña got festivalgoers dancing again at Weekend 2.

“It's been so fun,” she said. “We played last weekend as well, but I think this weekend has been such a dream, like the one that was solidified. Our sound team was really awesome. The crowd was really involved and very tuned in. So it was just a really, really amazing time.”

For La Doña, it’s good just to be touring again and playing live music in front of a crowd. Her debut EP, “Algo Nuevo,” was released March 12, 2020, just as the reality of COVID-19 lockdowns hit the U.S. It was bad timing, to say the least.

“It was especially compounded by it being the release day of my project,” La Doña said. “That day I was supposed to have a huge party. I’m a mariachi teacher, so all of my students were set to play for the opening. And I was going to. My audience is very intergenerational, so I was going to have, you know, like my niece and nephew and all the grandmas and everyone there.”

La Doña loves Texas and Austin, but as a San Francisco native, she sees a predicament she knows all too well. Much like in the Bay Area, the exploding population growth, driven by an influx of tech companies, is pricing out longtime Austinites.

Her song, “Quién Me La Paga,” is about the rising cost of living in her hometown. But it’s also a celebration of those who choose to stay.

“First of all, the first thing I want to do is to definitely acknowledge and apologize for the impact that California tech industry has on us,” the musician told KVUE. “You know, coming up in San Francisco, you feel so much pressure, obviously, of an incoming industry and demographic and taking over your city. But I have been talking to a lot of Austin natives and the people who live here. I've been able to recognize that that's what's happening here, and almost like peripherally to San Francisco – like, that's the second wave. So I feel that pain and I see that impact.”

Credit: John Gusky
Photo: John Gusky

While her music and lyrics are deeply rooted in where she’s from, the singer feels a connection with Texas and the Tejano music tradition. Most recently, she collaborated with conjunto band Los Texmaniacs out of San Antonio.

“I met Los Texmaniacs when they did a house show in San Francisco, and we stayed up all night jamming and partying and playing, and they invited me to San Antonio to record with them. So yeah, we just had a really great week. We were in the studio, we made a bunch of music and it felt very organic. That's why I did music – to meet people, to connect with people, to create new things that like we all know about and care about,” she said.

La Doña has a new song, “Mi Nuevo Amor,” coming out on Oct. 12 and a vinyl release at Amoeba Music in San Francisco on Nov. 12.

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