Esteban Alvarez “La Bikina”

Esteban Alvarez “La Bikina”


With a sweeping allure not unlike a newly blossoming rose garden, Esteban Alvarez’s new song “La Bikina” from the album Piano Meets Mariachi, dynamically comes swinging into full scope without any sort of prerequisite warning of the fire that the arrangement will unleash. Don’t let the title of his new record fool you, this is a classical anthology through and through and hardly a recycled collection of Latin sway tunes. Esteban isn’t interested in trying old ways of doing things over and over; no, this highly educated composer and proud Costa Rican-American is hell bent on generating something far more original. He’s blazing his own trail into the next decade of Latino music, and we’re happily along for the ride.

Piano Meets Mariachi is a pretty simplistic record for how ambitiously symphonic its music ultimately is. “La Bikina” is a rare occurrence of a purebred, classically trained artist being able to carve out a slice from his opus and package it as a single, and nowhere during the track does it feel like Esteban is trying to cram a lot of content into a little space. Instead, it feels like we’re reading a chapter in a multi-faceted story full of a diverse collection of personalities and characters all vying for our attention. There’s a little bit of spice to look at in one corner, and all at once it’s countered by a more melodic part waiting just around the bend. Like the whole of the album that it’s on, “La Bikina” is starkly evocative and emotionally charged, forcing us, the audience, to develop some sort of a reaction out of what we’re hearing. The mystique is just too tempting not to analyze.

Classical music is difficult for a lot of spontaneous listeners to build a close relationship with, often solely because of its grandiosity and pomp-laced external persona, which can be a bit much for the masses to easily embrace. But something tells me in my gut that Esteban is aware of this, and when he got into the studio to hammer out Piano Meets Mariachi, he wanted to make a conscientious effort to make a record that would go down easier than his rivals’ work, almost like a cool drink on a hot summer day. His efforts were not wasted on the finished product, and while I love the style that Esteban employs on this record, the only thing I would possibly change would be the title. Instead of Piano Meets Mariachi, I probably would have called this collection Mariachi Meets Esteban, as the songwriter behind this album is the most unique and truly entertaining draw to feast your ears on.

This June, don’t fall back into poor routines of picking up whatever pop radio is pushing you to consume in your summer playlist and take a chance on something that is steadfast in being different and more innovative than the rest of the sheep in the flock. Check out Esteban Alvarez’s new work and even some of his back catalogue – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


Michael Rand

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