Friday, October 3, 2014

Briana

Briana at Gaslight in McAllen

It was three months before Briana's 15th birthday but her quinceañera was already taking place. Since plenty of snow was expected in the Northwest during December, the decision was made to move her big party to September.

Two locals bands and a DJ were scheduled for the occasion. As the baile was about to begin, an urge came over her.

"I told my dad, 'I want to sing a song,'" Briana said. "He's like, 'What are you talking about?'"

At that point in her life, she was in the very early stages of putting together her first band.

After some pleading, her dad was finally convinced. When the time was right, Briana went out in front of the audience with her tio, who accompanied her with a guitar he had borrowed.

She walked up to the microphone that was on the center of the stage, and started singing "Siempre hace frio".

"It was good," Briana said. "I had never heard what my vocals sounded like on a microphone or a PA system. It was eyeopening for me at that moment. That was my first time (singing) in public."

Born and raised in the state of Washington, Briana became interested in music while attending elementary school. It wasn't Tejano that first caught her ear though.

"Growing up I was more into R&B and pop," Briana said. "Spanish music came later, mostly influenced by my parents."

Tejano had little exposure where Briana was being brought up.

"We didn't have a Super Tejano (102.1) over there," Briana said. "The music was very different. We'd have to wait every Sunday, for one hour of Tejano music (on the radio). Over there, in California and Washington, tocan mas (they play more) banda, Duranguense, and a lot more of that stuff."

While the internet was around back then, it wasn't like today where you could easily find streaming Tejano music by just going on Google.

While attending high school, she formed Briana y Lokura. I asked her, "What music were you performing when your group first started?"

"Un poquito de todo," ("A little bit of everything,") Briana said. "You had to do a big mix of everything to keep a crowd and we did."

She arrived in the Rio Grande Valley about eight years ago, she estimates. Her mom was from Del Rio, while her dad was native to Mercedes. She's been residing out of McAllen and Edinburg since her arrival.

Through her parents, and local Valley musicians, she began to develop a taste for the Tejano genre. She points to Elida Reyna y Avante, Jennifer Peña, Ricardo Castillon y La Diferenzia, and Laura Canales as major influences. She pauses, then says, "and of course Selena. Who didn't cover Selena songs?"

Briana jokes that the name Lokura is so fitting because there are always different musicians coming in and out of her group, with one exception.

"I have one right hand man that I always travel with, and that would be Roger (El Leon Peña)," Briana said."He does the accordion, and the keyboard. He was a former musician for Jennifer Peña."

Since 2013, Briana's been performing with the Gaslight Club house band in McAllen. This position has helped her stay in the spotlight, and gain new fans.

"We invite you to come to Gaslight, and you'll get a feel for what we do," Briana said. "The majority of the music we cover is from the Tejano scene, but we also do disco, country, R&B, hip hop, Amy Winehouse.  We do a little bit of everything. You'd have to come to a show to actually appreciate the music, and get more of a feel of what we do."

Like most weekends, Briana will be performing there this Saturday and Sunday nights.

In the past year, when she's not singing at gigs, she's been working hard on a new album. Her previous releases of Tu Mayor Tentación (2003) and Besame (2008) were filled with cover songs, so she decided to work on new original material for this upcoming release.

"I'm writing the album," Briana said. "I don't consider myself a writer, but I'm dabbling into that now. I'm my worst critic, so I can like something one day, and hate it the next."

When she looks back at her quinceañera, she remembers how much learning she had to do on her own, and how far she's come in her musical journey.

"When I was chiquita (small), everything was pretty much, 'You're on your own,'" Briana said. "Everything that I've done, I've always had to fend for myself."

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