Vox Urbana is a seven-piece bi-national band from Tucson, Arizona that infuses Latin sounds with elements of rock. The band breaks language barriers and stereotypes through their repertoire and distinct grooves, and includes a guitar, keyboard, sax, trombone, bass guitar, congas, and drums played by a diverse roster of musicians. Vox Urbana is a small ensemble of incredible talent who aim to expand their musical horizons and share the stories of others.
The band uses a style of folk music known as corridos to compose songs about the border community. A corrido is a story told in song. The word comes from the Spanish verb “correr,” which means to run, and indicates there will be a running narrative. Corridos are often about oppression, history, and the daily life struggle of those less fortunate. The band has been working on a project called Cumbia Corridos, a musical story-sharing project that tells the stories of immigrants crossing the border and Tucson’s marginalized denizens.
I spoke with Saul Millan, the band’s trombonist, who joined the band about four years ago when he bumped into Enrique “Kiki” Castellanos, the band’s co-founder and guitarist, at a supermarket. This chance meeting catapulted Saul onto an extraordinary journey of personal growth and experience.
The Cumbia Corridos project has helped immigrants tell their stories of struggles and overcoming challenges. How has the project influenced the band’s approach to music, as well as your personal lives?
For the band, this project definitely helped shape the understanding that our music can be a powerful tool. It influences us to write music that carries a message and theme, emulating corridos–the classic Mexican-style of songwriting that includes writing a story. This was the first time I wrote on a concept album and the testimonies redirected my approach on how I composed music.