For SF WEEKLY: Every Tuesday, as the 12 members of Soltrón begin their weekly rehearsal at a house in Bernal Heights, they pause for a few minutes to check out the breathtaking views, talk about everyone’s day, maybe even vent a bit. They don’t have a bandleader, so open communication is key. Rehearsals are a constant flow of collaboration and genre-mixing.
Samba batucada and Afro-Caribbean rhythms lay a foundation for a fusion of Latin rock, jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music. Instruments include guitar, bass, drums, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, flute, electronic wind instruments, percussion, and sampler pads. By the end of most rehearsals, they find themselves jamming on rumbas.
“When we finish a song, and it sounds the way all of us imagined, it’s a huge satisfaction,” says Adriana Marrero, 31, the group’s singer, who moved to the Bay Area four years ago from Puerto Rico.
Several band members attended the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, and some have studied under Grammy-nominated Mission District local John Santos. From its inception two years ago, the group wanted to be contemporary, but also feel the need to preserve older drum traditions at risk thanks to the Mission’s overall gentrification.
Several members of the band were born and raised in the Mission, and the ongoing problems brought on by gentrification in that neighborhood are built into the group’s DNA: some members played in a jam session in the rain to honor Alex Nieto, the neighborhood local shot and killed by San Francisco police on Bernal Hill in 2014.
“We don’t want to point fingers, we just want to be able to remain in this neighborhood and not give up on preserving culture in the Mission,” Marrero says.”
Image courtesy of Soltrón