As part of FRIGID New York’s 2nd annual Days of the Dead Festival, the Mexican-born NYC-based husband-and-wife team Jaime Lozano and Florencia Cuenca appeared at the Kraine Theater for one night only with their special concert Mi Ofrenda, Mis Canciones (My Offering, My Songs). Traditionally celebrated on November 1-2, the Día de los Muertos originated in Mexico, where loved ones gather to remember those who have died, in a celebration, rather than mourning, of their lives.
Sharing songs and stories, in both Spanish and English, of their journey and heritage, the multi-talented couple dedicated the performance to their ancestors, family, and culture, in a theater decorated with colorful large paper flowers and bright strings of marigolds, in keeping with the custom. As always, their show was filled with meaning, emotion, joy, and love, a fusion of Mexican genres and rhythms with musical-theater ballads, and their engaging personalities and outstanding talent.
The set list contained original compositions by Lozano (music and lyrics) and Cuenca (lyrics) from their musical Desaparecidas, with a book in English and songs in Spanish, about the ongoing disappearances and deaths of hundreds of real-life women and girls in Ciudad Juárez, under a system of machismo, femicide, and gender-based violence and oppression. Cuenca’s stellar lead vocals, with the terrific Lozano on back-up vocals and acoustic guitar, Yahir Montes on guitar, and Jonathan Gómez on percussion, included the gentle lullaby “Hola Bebé,” based on an actual letter of a pregnant mother to her unborn child, which builds to an intense crescendo; the blockbuster “La Cumbia Violeta,” a Columbian style of salsa, with a segment of rap, that had fans dancing in the aisle; and her impassioned delivery of the empowering anthem “El Corrido de las Desaparecidas” (corrida is a type of Mexican ballad usually sung by men), with the cry for “ni una más” (not one more). The audience was invited to sing along to the line “Ay, ay, ay, ay,” and Lozano, with his signature sense of humor, provided a translation for the English-speaking people in the house, so they could join in, too (in English, he explained, it’s “Ay, ay, ay, ay”).
Other numbers featured music by Lozano and lyrics by his chosen “familia” of all-Latinx collaborators, based on the challenges, dreams, and shared experiences of the immigrant population. Among the affecting and meaningful songs were “Hold Tight” (lyrics by Mark-Eugene García), of a father holding his baby; “And the Years Go By” (lyrics by Neena Beeber), of two sisters separated for decades; “The Other Side” (also by Beeber), a call for opening up the world and an end to the borders and walls that divide us; and “No Podemos Regresar” (lyrics in Spanish and English by Tommy Newman), expressing the feelings of what it means and the bravery it takes to leave a homeland that’s always in your heart, in the hope of a better future. And the tribute song “Te Soñé” (music and lyrics by Lozano), honored the late stage and screen star Doreen Montalvo (the original Broadway production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights; Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation of West Side Story), whom he met, and who generously helped him with his hopes and dreams, when he was a student at NYU.
Between songs, Cuenca and Lozano directly addressed the audience with personal memories of their own lives and the path of their careers, often including their seven-year-old son Alonzo, who was seated in the front row. They made it clear that everything they do is about the people and creating songs that will make a difference; even if it’s only one person they help, “it’s worth it.” The intimate concert and beautiful message that is near and dear to their hearts concluded with the uplifting “Familia” (lyrics by Georgie Castilla), which Lozano considers “one of the most important words,” with the couple singing and rapping and soliciting the audience to join them on the chorus “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh” in Spanish, English, or even French!
Of course, they couldn’t get away without everyone screaming for “uno más,” so they obliged with an ebullient encore of “Libre” (English lyrics by David Davila, Spanish lyrics by Lozano), with the entire house singing along and embracing the euphoria of being free. It was a magical night of celebration that fulfilled their mission and brought us all together through song. Muchas gracias a Jaime y Florencia.
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, without intermission.
Mi Ofrenda, Mis Canciones played on Sunday, October 22, 2023, at FRIGID’s Days of the Dead Festival, performing at the Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street, NYC. For upcoming shows in the festival, go online.