Music Monday: Can Rupa and the April Fishes Live Up to The Hype?

Press Photo by <a href="" target="_blank">Judith Burrows</a>

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

San Francisco loves Rupa and the April Fishes. The local world-beat ensemble recently garnered a nomination in the alt SF Weekly’s annual music awards, and packed the space with adoring fans at a performance piece I attended last week.

Part of the appeal lies in the group’s personal narrative, which seems designed to bait music editors: Frontwoman Rupa Marya is a physician; their musical influences include gypsy swing, tango, and polka; they sing in Spanish, French, Hindi, and English.

Luckily, their music mostly lives up to the hype. Marya’s vocals are a fine blend of slow-burn passion and buoyant belting, and her backing musicians are highly skilled and perfectly synched.

At the show I witnessed, where the band provided a musical backdrop for acrobats and actors telling the story of illegal immigrants (SF music scene alert!), they lit up the stage. Packed tightly together in all-white garb, they infused their ballads and up-tempo numbers with fervor and grace. When the final song exploded from a slow, sexy tango into an upbeat dance song, the audience couldn’t help but get up and jive along.

Rupa’s recently released CD, Este Mundo doesn’t quite capture this joie de vivre. Some of the group’s best live tropes—escalating tempos, sing-speak vocals—feel suffocated and repetitive on disc. Part of this might just be that their spirited music requires audience interactivity (clapping, dancing, swaying) to really come alive. But I also wish they’d taken more chances in the recording, especially since those they did take were so successful at keeping the music fresh—like a soulful guest rap interlude in “Soledad” and a beautiful classical string section in “L’éléphant.”

Bottom line: If you haven’t heard Rupa and the April Fishes yet, their new CD is a fine place to start. But to truly understand what’s made them musical darlings, best to catch them live.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend