Gringa, a five-piece band based in San Francisco, CA, weaves infectious rhythms from Brazil and the Americas through catchy hooks, tasty harmonies, and sassy songwriting, creating a unique sound that uplifts and inspires listeners while dissolving cultural barriers and transcending the status quo.
Gringa excites audiences with their ...
It’s easy to fall in love with Brazilian music, and that passion sparked Gringa, the Bay Area quintet of non-Brazilian women who can’t resist experimenting with rhythms and instruments from the overwhelmingly musical country. Cheekily riffing off the Brazilian Portuguese term for a non-Brazilian gal for their name, the band takes everything from samba to forró, and crafts original songs that chronicle their lives.
“I grew up in the US but I fell in love with Brazil. I write songs and hear Brazilian elements in them, but I don’t want to bastardize the source inspirations,” muses Maya Finlay, Gringa’s founder and frontwoman. “You can play with something, but you’ve got to start with the roots. What’s the rhythm? I try to study it and know the traditional ways to play, but after that, you have a lot of influences. You weave them in”
On Letters from A. Broad, they capture the bittersweet exuberance, the seemingly effortless musicianship that’s second nature to Brazilian artists, all while finding their own distinct pop and funk-inspired voices.
“A Bicicleta” rides through baião to maracatu to rock, in a playful song about ruminating too much. While Gringa’s songs are often goofy or quirky (the skankin’ account of a wayward woman in “All About Cheating”), they touch on love’s difficulties (“Canção de Junho”) and its pleasures (“I’ma Build A Home,” based on a loving letter from a past boyfriend). Along with their originals, Gringa has been known to get Jimi Hendrix to dance forró, or to make Paul McCartney samba.
The driving force behind the band, sound engineer, singer, and guitar/cavaco player Finlay, never intended to start a Brazilian-esque girl band. The group springs from a lively Brazilian music scene, one where men far outnumber women, and most female instrumentalists tend not to be Brazilian.
“I haven’t met many Brazilian female musicians playing out in the Bay Area, but I do know many women who aren’t from Brazil who’ve fallen for the music. Female instrumentalists aren’t as common to begin with, but there are a lot of gringas like me who’ve studied the language and gotten into it. We’re often playing alongside guys from Brazil, and getting encouragement from them.”
It was in these circles that Finlay met fellow gringa Kate PIttard, who plays sax and Brazilian percussion instruments like the zabumba, when she’s not writing songs for the band. Eventually, these Brazilian music aficionadas found a rhythm section, playing their first gig at a Carnaval celebration. “My songs needed a bigger sound, and when the bass and drums came on, it clicked,” recalls Finlay. That sound comes from drums (Luna Fuentes-Vaccaro) and bass (Jenelle Roccaforte), as well as from percussion like the pandeiro (Diana Di Battista / Megha Makam).
"The gender makeup of the band had to be intentional. Although sometimes guys play with us, and we would never reject someone we loved playing with based on their gender identification, I'd still like to maintain a matriarchy within the group,” muses Finlay. “Many female musicians are drawn to the band by a desire to create music outside of the male-dominated spaces they often find themselves in. I'm hoping we can break down the stigma of the ‘girl band,’ and show people that the music stands on its own."
Finlay is used to bucking gendered roles in the music business. A love of hip hop got her interested in production and engineering, and she now works in professional live sound. “I’m used to challenging people’s expectations, and I enjoy it. As a sound engineer, I’m often asked, ‘Where’s the sound guy?; I love saying ‘I’m the sound guy.’” Gringa manages to flip the gender on the dancefloor, as well as on stage: “I often look in the audience at our gigs and see that it’s mostly guys dancing, while around me on stage are all women. It’s awesome.”
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