Highly regarded New York band Pistolera has toured its accordion-driven dance songs in six different countries since its debut in 2005. And on Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14, Pistolera will perform at Flushing Town Hall as part of the Carnegie Hall Citywide initiative, where Carnegie Hall partners with local community organizations to present free concerts that are sensational celebrations of sounds from across the country and around the globe.
Led my Mexican-American songwriter Sandra Lilia Velasquez, the critically acclaimed Pistolera has shared the stage with Los Lobos, Lila Downs, Vieux Farka Toure, and many others, and has performed at Town Hall in New York City, Massey Hall in Canada, Teatro Circo in Portugal, and high profiles festivals such as The Montreal Jazz Festival (Canada), Ollin Kan (Mexico), Central Park Summerstage (USA), Celebrate Brooklyn (USA), Antwerp Summer Music Festival, and Sfinks (Belgium).
Velasquez, who also is a vocalist and bandleader based in Brooklyn, is known for her socially conscious and educational bilingual lyrics and Latin rhythms across her three musical projects: Pistolera, Moona Luna, and SLV. Originally from the border town of San Diego, CA, and raised by Mexican immigrant activists, she has dedicated her musical expression to uplifting and empowering the Latinx community in the face of persistent racism and inequality. Her lyrics have reflected the ongoing struggles and hard-won triumphs of women and immigrants for more than 15 years.
“I have been playing music since I was 5. As a young adult I saw the potential to use music as a vehicle to bring people together and a platform to spark social change,” she tells us. “After completing music school, I felt called to New York City, as I knew the culture and pace would propel me forward, and it did. I have since expanded my musical projects which have allowed me to reach more people (like children) and have been able to utilize my music for educational purposes as well.”
Since moving to New York City in 1999, she has released nine albums, performed more than 250 concerts in six countries, released seven music videos, garnered critical acclaim from major media outlets, had her music featured in television and film–most recently season two of Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, and won several songwriting awards.
Through her multiple musical projects, Velasquez has been and continues to be a strong Latina role model as she brings her celebration of Latinx culture and language to a wide audience that spans all ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic status. She regularly performs free bilingual concerts for children through the Brooklyn Public Library system, and her music has been used as a resource in bilingual school curriculum.
She has had the honor of performing on some of the world’s most prestigious stages in front of large audiences, and yet it is the intimate shows in jails, hospitals, community centers, and schools that give her work meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.
“A Pistolera performance will have people on their feet,” Velasquez says. “Our music is a celebration of the Latin rhythms and culture with honest lyrics about social issues that affect us all.”