Best Girl Band 2016 | Betty Duarte-Matwick's Mariachi Pasion | Fiesta | Phoenix

They've never topped the charts like the Supremes or the Spice Girls, and they're definitely not going to play Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville — no matter how much you beg after tossing back too many tequila shots. But Mariachi Pasion, a 13-member girl band that mixes strength with femininity, is a local legend. With hot pink sashes, bow ties, and flowers in their hair, these musicians and vocalists are energetic evangelists for traditional mariachi music played with guitar-like stringed instruments, violins, trumpets, and a flute. Founded by Betty Duarte in 2002 during her days as a student at Arizona State, Mariachi Pasion has played gigs from museums to backyards, and even performed during a posthumous quinceañera — all the while infusing their music with the powerful emotionality at the heart of this Mexican art form.

Priscilla Rodriguez is a Nogales-born bilingual rapper, currently living in Mesa and performing as independent hip-hop artist Nefftys. She is a deft lyricist who grew up very much on both sides of the Arizona and Mexico borders. Nefftys' artistic expression manifested over rhythms and rhyme patterns at a young age, and she has recently started making a more concerted effort to incorporate a mix of English lyrics and songs in her work. She is fresh off of a seven-song release called The Natural Series, Vol.1. Her beats are decidedly hip-hop, but she flexes a more melodic tone in tracks like "Writer's Block" and "Truly Live." Like a lot of Latinos in Arizona, she moves seamlessly between English and Spanish without missing a beat.

Danny Torgersen is the quirky frontman of local psychedelic rockers Captain Squeegee, but he has been touring a lot lately with the Phoenix-based reggae/Latin rock outfit Fayuca. Torgersen's a crazy character who has been lending his trumpeting talents to the band on their album recordings and on tour. He may speak the universal language of music, but his pasty skin and red hair make it impossible to not notice that he is a very white dude, performing with a bunch of brown bros. That hasn't stopped him from mingling at shows across the border and during the band's Spanish-language television spots. He has since rightfully earned the new nickname "El Capitan," and his honorary "Latino Card." Bienvenido, compadre.

Stretching across the seven weeks of Lent leading to Easter Sunday, the Yaqui Easter festival in Guadalupe offers a unique chance to watch centuries-old religious ceremonies up close and in person. In the 17th century, when Jesuit priests introduced Catholicism to the Yaqui, tribal members incorporated Christianity into cultural traditions and tribal customs, resulting in the unique ceremonies and dances celebrated today in Guadalupe.

Public ceremonies feature a procession through the 14 Stations of the Cross. Visitors can also see the emergence of Chapayekas and Fariseos advancing toward Our Lady of Guadalupe church, only to be stopped by Matachin dancers, Deer Dancers, and Pascolas. Hear the sound of rattles made from dried gourds, witness streamers of flowers, and watch the movements of the Deer Dancers, who are chosen for their skill and grace.

Don't forget to observe good etiquette. While visitors are welcome to observe the religious ceremonies, no audio or video recording of any kind is permitted, and no alcohol is allowed. Ceremonies takes place at dusk on Friday through dusk on Sunday each week during Lent.

James "The Manic Hispanic" Rivas has a golden voice — just a little scratchy, but warm and mellow — the kind of voice that makes you feel like you're listening to a buddy. But his pipes aren't the key to the success of his program, Cruising With the Manic Hispanic, which remains our favorite oldies show in Phoenix. It's his song selections, from Latin rockers like Santana, smooth soulsters Earth, Wind, and Fire, and lowrider oldies from the likes of Brenton Wood. Rivas' stated goal is creating a relaxing set of tunes each time he goes on the air, and when he plays songs like Switch's "I Call Your Name," with its smooth glide and easygoing vibe, it's clear he knows exactly what he's doing. But like all good oldies DJs, Rivas' line is always open for requests and, more importantly, dedications from his listeners.

Quartzsite, you say? That depressing-looking RV parking lot off the I-10 on the way to Los Angeles? What of interest could possibly be out there? Well, in 2016, seemingly out of nowhere, there came Rock Fiesta, a tour de force of rock en español. Caifanes, Molotov, El Tri — the lineup was practically a history lesson in Latin rock. It's unsure at this point whether the festival will return to Arizona; festival organizers have stated they found a new location for 2017, but as of press time haven't yet announced it. Regardless, Rock Fiesta took a promising first step last year, hopefully one that's indicative of the coming mainstream acceptance of rock en español.

Mariachi de Grand Ave only has been around for about a year, but these centrally located folks do it right. Led by David Marquez (of the renowned Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra), the traditional mariachi band regularly performs at ThirdSpace on Grand Avenue (at the junction of Grand and 11th avenues) as well as other venues around the city. In the past year, they have shared the stage with bands as diverse as Valley metal masters Sacred Reich (for a Bernie Sanders fundraiser) and touring band Metalachi, who plays classic heavy metal covers mariachi style, as well as sharing their killer sounds with art events and local favorites like Fayuca. Marquez is often joined by a stellar cast of players, including regulars Adrian Fontes, Yoli Bejarano, Gabi Velez, and brother Simon Marquez. Known for their exquisite harmonies and ridiculously tight and authentic musicianship, Mariachi de Grand Ave have made quite an impact on mariachi music in Phoenix, and their future is incredibly bright.

Phoenix rapper Dave Miranda has cemented himself in the local hip-hop scene as one of Arizona's premier emcees. Rocking the mic as Mr. Miranda, he has a smooth, laid-back delivery and an excellent ear for slick productions when it comes to his collaborations. Miranda is a reflection of so many Latino millennials in Arizona; Latin music is as familiar to him as Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan, and the influence of American pop culture is inescapably noticeable in his music. Over the years, he has commemorated everyone from Ritchie Valens and Rick James to WWF wrestler the Ultimate Warrior and Mr. Rogers — he released a mixtape earlier this year called Mister Miranda's Neighborhood. Besides his musical reach, his great-uncle is infamous civil-rights plaintiff and Miranda rights subject Ernesto Miranda.

The after-school music academy Rosie's House offers free music classes and instruments to low-income youth. They are also training the next generation of mariachi musicians.

Combining a lively mix of violin, trumpet, guitar, and vocals, the young performers in the three mariachi ensembles from Rosie's House produce a full, passionate sound whether they're playing heartfelt corrido or a fast-paced polka. Students range in age from 5 to 18 at the academy, which offers classes in brass, woodwind, and string instruments, as well as choir. The academy also offers mariachi ensemble opportunities for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students. It's an impressive bunch: The Advanced Mariachi Ensemble performed recently at both the Tucson International Mariachi Conference and the Governor's Arts Awards.

The Zubia Brothers truly are legends in the Valley music scene. Lawrence and Mark Zubia ooze rock 'n' roll panache and have for a long time. Fixtures in the fabled Tempe scene of the 1990s, the Zubias and their band the Chimeras, or the Pistoleros, could have easily been the most internationally popular of all the local desert rock notables — but fate was not on their side in the early days of their career as it was for peers like the Gin Blossoms or the Refreshments. Regardless of national or international fame, Lawrence and Mark Zubia continue to crank out exceptional rock 'n' roll music, as well as what they describe as "traditional Chicano wedding band" music with their Zubia Brothers combo, which never strays far from the strong musical roots planted by their father, Raul, a longtime Valley mariachi musician.

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