Estrella Hood and Anand Parmar, partners in life and music, are the love behind World Hood.
I caught up with Estrella Wood, once her voice had recovered from the mayhem of SXSW where Estrella and her partner performed under World Hood at a community venue. They are also the founding members of the Sol Collective, an arts, culture and activist centre in Sacramento. The centre offers everything from music production classes to graphic design to silk screening. They also provide a space where different groups can come in and host cultural activities. They are right near the state capital and run an activist school making sure people are aware of different issues.
- Marika Swan: The discussion about identity is always interesting and I find that this is sometimes different with the Indigenous folks down south. How do you talk about your roots?
Estrella Hood: Yeah it's definitely interesting and it's always different in different places and it really hit home when I was in Canada just in the different ways that people do identify. You know growing up, we're Mexican, so we're Mestizo or Mestiz. I always knew about our Indigenous roots. My grandpa on my mother's side is Matlazinca, Indigenous people from Mexico and he made it a point to let us know where we came from. My dad's side of the family was always proud that their bloodline was Spanish, mainly because of the racism created due to the hacienda system in Mexico. Growing up, I would hear family members on that side say things like she’s the “daughter of the Indian”. I don’t think they meant it in a good way, but I was always proud of that, and I’m glad that they did not allow me to forget. On my mom’s side of the family, her eldest brother still spoke the Indigenous language. They still had their traditions. As I got older and many of them came to California it became less and less throughout the years, with assimilation. Definitely as I got older I wanted to look into that and really get a good grasp of who we were. I had a lot of conversations later with my grandfather.
In California there’s a lot of politics around being Native. A lot have to do with the politics around casinos, specifically where I live. There is a bit of a divide in the community around folks that are Mestiz and folks that are full-blooded Indian, who can say they are Native and who can’t. I think some of these tensions have risen because some people have right to money from casinos and some people don’t. So even though we’re not Native from California, I still felt that tension around cultural identity.
When I went to Canada to see Indigenous people from all over the place and Mestiz people from all over the place it was very interesting to learn about the politics of cultural identity outside of my own community.
MS: When did music become a big part of the work that you do?
EH: I think I've always had that as an outlet. When I dropped out of high school and I hadn't told my parents yet - I would take off and go to my friends place and we would record music. Its always been a way of expressing myself and getting my thoughts and my ideas and my energy out. Recently with the World Hood project it's the first time I've really put it out there and allowed other people to hear it.
MS: And this is a music project with your partner? It sounds so romantic.
EH: (laughs) Yeah, he's a producer and an amazing beat-maker so it's convenient because we have a studio set up in the house. We have two children so when they go to sleep we can work on a project together. He's East Indian, his family is from India and he was born in Africa so he brings a whole different cultural element. We go back and forth with the sound, adding different elements of who we are. It's been fun working with him.
MS: How did your show go at SXSW?
EH: It was cool, it was a little difficult 'cause we were organizing the event. As a band, it was difficult because we were doing way too much as usual. We were on the sound and hosting the guests. So that part was hard to put myself in the role of now I am going to perform because I was running around but as far as the show itself it was a wonderful experience. We got to invite all of the different artists who's music we really respect. It was nice to meet face to face with people who have similar music or similar ideas around activism. And represent some kind of cultural element in their music. That we're not trying to assimilate, we're trying to keep our culture intact out here. So everyone had some kind of cultural element to their music which I think is really important.
Especially for us, physically we’re outside of Mexico and going into the next generation. My kids are the second generation. They say that by the third generation children will completely assimilate and there is basically no trace of where we’re from. So the cultural centre is a way for me to combat that. To try and keep our culture intact as much as possible for our generations to come.
MS: Was there any other music that just blew your mind out there?
EH: One show that I just loved was 3BallMTY from Mexico. It's three DJs that are super young, like 17-19 years old and they mixed a lot of different styles of music. From traditional to Indigenous sounds and electronic so its just such a great mix of music. It totally blew me away. It was amazing to to see them. I really feel like they are a good representation of Mexico today, of who we are from our roots until now. Who we are as a people and how we are continuing to move forward and evolve as a people.
MS: What's coming up for you?
EH: We have a new EP with 5 tracks coming out in the next month and dropping a full length album in the summer.
MS: Wow you are a such a busy woman!
EH: Yeah we are always doing too much. Life is short so you have to live out all your dreams and everything that you feel inspired to do. Everything that you visualize, move forward on it.
MS: I think it's so key to mix the activism with the arts and music. It's so important to have that balance.
EH: Music and art are such powerful tools to communicate with people across culture or boundary or gender. Images and sound are able to move people in a way that words aren't. They are such an integral part of our culture anyways.
You can check out World Hood on Bandcamp here.
Here is Indigenous 808 by World Hood:
and hey why not? Here's Inténtalo ft. El Bebeto, América Sierra from 3BallMTY