Maria Isa

Born and raised in the Twin Cities to NuyoRican parents, emcee, singer, and songwriter Maria Isa is recognized for her dedication towards celebrating her cultural diversity through music and political activism. Read more about Maria Isa.

Maria Isa is also profiled in a Twin Cities Public Television's mn original production. View the video.

Rebekah Crisanta's New POP Art Guadalupe Iconography exhibit at St Paul's Art Crawl

Posted by: Maria Isa under Arts, Art Updated: April 24, 2015 - 4:34 AM

Post-modern folk expressionist Rebekah Crisanta in front of her M-Series at Electric Machete Studios.

Post-modern folk expressionist Rebekah Crisanta in front of her M-Series at Electric Machete Studios. 

I was able to get a preview and catch up with St. Paul based-artist Rebekah Crisanta who premieres her New POP Art Guadalupe Iconogrophy exhibit tonight at Electric Machete Studios for this weekend's art crawl. Rebekah is the Art Director for Ce Tempoxcalli (First House of Indigenous Knowledge Productions) and Lead Apprentice for the MN Flute Project-Ce In Yollotl In Tlapizalli (One with the Heart and Flute).  


Q: What are your main artistic influences?


Rebekah: My main influences begins with my family's story. My father was a refugee from El Salvador who is now a US Citizen. He worked closely with Archbishop Oscar Romero up until through his assassination. That was a very traumatic event for the whole country and it was his reason to leave. He went to Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. In Mexico, he worked with solidarity communities and catholic communities.  My mom's family is Norwegian-American.  With a lot of family in Norway still. Strong Lutheran and on her side of the family there were a lot of pastors. So on both sides of my family I had theology as a foundation. Not one specific denomination of religion, but just the study of God, prayer, iconography and symbols to parallel stories in the way that all of us in the body of humanity, choose to think about while contemplating on, "why we're hear and who made us? Who is a creator? How did we get to this place?"


My mother was in college and went to Cuernavaca and my parents met there. I'm kind of an in-between immigrant generation, because before I was born my mom came back so I could be born in the states. My dad was still in Mexico and shortly he came to the US with the struggle of being an immigrant, not speaking any English but was very educated, but when you com to this country as an immigrant that doesn't mean anything. At the time in Iowa, there weren't many Spanish speakers or many immigrants so it was very very difficult for him. 


My family's stories and the stories of my ancestors are what influenced me to be dedicated to study traditional artesenias.  




Q: What traditional artesenias are used in your work?


RC: Papel-picado (paper-cutting) and repujado (tin embossing). Papel-picado is made for la fiesta (the party) and representing the wind, the breath of life. Also, for a while I've playing with different weaving and making milagros known as versions of Central American and Mexican icons meant for prayer, healing and ceremonies for your home alter. I was self-taught in weaving and just now feeling that I can take those traditional techniques that I have in my tool-box and tell my story. Share my vision in a contemporary way. That's why I call it post-modern folk, because it references traditional art, but it's new and fresh at the same time inspired by what we're doing at this time and at this place here in Minnesota.  



(Photography by Drastic/A.Stanzak and M. Parades)

Q: You're showcasing your latest work at this years Art Crawl and introducing the M-Series.  What inspired the M-Series and what do the M's represent?


RC: The prayers I have for the lives being controlled by military police and gang authorities in El Salvador. I have a lot of layers of prayers with this body of work, and that's why I call it the M-Series, because I'm thinking about Mary, about Guadalupe. I think about Mary as in: what happens when a holy icon is over-commercialized as she is in our culture?  Now Mary's a pop icon. Is she still a holy icon? Is there a grounded medium between authentic Indigenous spirituality and the church that so many of our people find hope in? For me these questions are answered by the symbol of Guadalupe.  I framed this in my sketch book as Mary being a bridge between the flower and the feather. Flower being a representative of the Spanish's church and the feather a representative of our Indigenous culture.    


Another M is represented through manufacturing using 3M recycled products that were discarded and recycled through Art Start a non-profit I do youth work with. Although 3M has a lot of questionable activities effecting our local water sheds…so while I am hesitant to use those materials, i feel it creates a platform for discussions about the environmental work happening here.


I also use Mexican oil tablecloth in the M-Series. All Latinas love oil tablecloths!  It represents the table that to me is a sacred place.  It's where women create a space that is the heart of our home; where we share the bread or tortillas.  The table is where we pray and heal one another. The tablecloth in this piece also represents the tables of all the mothers who lost their children killed by the Maras and were siting at the table waiting for their children to come home. Maras are the gangs originated in the USA which were imported to Central America.  


Then I find the M in Military and Military Manufacturing. The letter M is used a lot in military serial numbers and guns. This ties into the stories of the military along with the Maras turning against our own people connecting with interpretations of how the images of Mary can also serve as a tool of mass destruction towards indigenous people. There's a lot of Ms, this is pretty much the core of the M-Series inspiration. I could go on but I'm trying to protect myself.  


Q: Are there any other upcoming projects you're working on? What are your goals as an artist in the movement?


RC: I have a few projects, one of them being the Dimensions of Indigenous where I am focusing on specific inter-cultural storytelling and looking at the parallels of uniting tribes. Electric Machete Studios is working towards getting our own building in order to create our own space and place to discuss, create and share our work as an Indegenous Latino art hub. My individual goal as an artist is to bring high value to folk it a contemporary lens and to continue to tell my story, my people's story and to carve out and create my own little high art space for that storytelling to happen.  





Rebekah Crisanta's New POP Art Guadalupe Iconography

Friday-Sunday 4/24-4/26 at the Saint Paul Art Crawl.

Studio Party at Electric Machete Studios 106 W. Water Street 5th Floor, St. Paul, MN 55107

Friday April 24 7pm-10pm.  Suggested donation $5. Visit: for more info






So Drastic! MSPIFF screens Muja Messiah's 'Northside Nightmares'

Posted by: Maria Isa Updated: April 10, 2015 - 2:41 PM
After providing the album photography for Minneapolis rapper Muja Messiah's album "God Kissed It the Devil Missed It," it only made sense for Drastic, a Los Angeles-based multi-media film company, to expand the visual collaboration to motion. Appropriately, it took place in Muja Messiah and director Adam Stanzak's home state. After recruiting cinematographer Michael Paredes, the two followed Muja around his old stomping grounds to shoot "Northside Nightmares." Shining a spotlight on issues presently in hoods across America, from drugs to gang violence to systemic deprivation, Muja's authentic depiction of his hometown is nothing short of shrewd. 
"People are afraid of the Northside for no reason at all. The Northside isn't a warzone, 
there's babies growing up in those neighborhoods and the only nightmare is the systematic depression from day 1 and that is the Northside Nightmares. The passion and the presence of the Northside is what creates the empowerment of the people organizing the community despite the confusion."  -Muja
"Coming back home to shoot Northside Nightmares was a proud experience. 
Now to have the project debut in the MSPIFF, it's a dream come true." -Adam Stanzak
"I'm honored and humbled to have Northside Nightmares screening at the MSPIFF after all the hard work the team and myself put into making this film drastic." -Michael Paredes
Everyone involved in the production is extremely pleased to have the project selected for the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. The video will screen at Amsterdam Bar & Grill in St. Paul, Saturday April 11 at 7pm.
There will be a special guest list gallery gathering presente by Villa Rosa Music fans after the video screening.  Those who wish to attend must RSVP to 

You Scream? Who Screams? Little Girls Scream for the Stand4rd

Posted by: Maria Isa under Music, Minnesota musicians, St. Paul Central Updated: November 4, 2014 - 9:54 PM

St. Paul, Minnesota's The Stand4rd (Allan Kingdom, Bobby Raps, Psymun and Spooky Raps) right after their sold out show Saturday night at the Amsterdam Bar. 

It's starting to get closer to winter's song in the Twin Cities, with the fall temperatures dropping more each day into the lower 30s, but that didn't stop an all-ages crowd on Saturday night from lining up outside of downtown St. Paul's Amsterdam Bar to see the first show from the highly anticipated St. Paul boy group The Stand4rd.  

The group is made up of 4 members including the homie Bobby Raps (Rapper, Producer), Allan Kingdom (Rapper, Singer) Psymun (Producer) and the biggest internet teen sensation of 2014: Spooky Black.  

Spooky Black's famous introduction video "Without You," was released in February and struck a lightning bolt on Twitter feeds collectively inspiring the members of the Stard4rd to unify their individual sounds and join forces with a full length album released today.  

Last Thursday evening, after attending the Fine Line Music Cafe's sold-out show for Australian singer Kimbra (which was awesome by the way), I was invited down to the Shock and Audio studio with a few friends for a late-night private listening party by The Stand4rd's manager world-known producer Doc Mckinney.  After hearing a few tracks, I took a look at Psymun and Bobby Raps who proudly sat in front of the mixing board, nodding their heads and shifting around in their rolling chairs to the beats they produced as if they were in agreement that "this is it!"

Both guys in their early 20s, were humbly interested in knowing everyone in the room's honest opinion.  Especially with all of the hype lately built around the criticism of Spooky Black's name (some feel it's racially offensive) along with his FUBU apparel, gold chain and durags; many have blocked their ears and eyes due to whether the 16 year old kid and his group members should be taken serious as artists or not. They had me and my homegirl singing and dancing as soon as we heard the catchy hook of one of their songs "Pretty." 

I was able to chat with manager Doc Mckinney who has a connection with the group of young guys not only through music, but is also an alumni of St. Paul's Central High School, the same school Bobby, Psymun and Allan graduated from and where Spooky currently attends.  I have worked with Mckinney and consider him one of the most talented people I know (not being biased), but honestly in my opinion Doc has created two of the best R&B albums of the past five years House of Balloons and Thursday; introducing the world to the Toronto based artist The Weeknd.  Mckinney has had an amazing year with receiving two Grammys for his work on both Drake's and John Legend's most recent albums.  When I asked Doc (who wears the hat of not only management, but serves as an influential mentor to the group) about how he feels regarding the critics and local comments expressed in recent articles regarding the Stand4rd's talent he answered, "Look, people are always going to have something to say. Sometimes it's positive, sometimes negative, and you know that...especially in this business, but these kids are working at an industry level and are good at what they do! They're a young collective with a new sound with a member who's already a star before his first show." 

Spooky was the first one out of the group to take the stage on Saturday night.  His voice highlighted smiles and cheers from the packed crowd of under aged kids with X-marked hands and their cell phones recording every note while they recited every lyric he sang.  I must say that as the set climaxed, the impacting sultry voices by Spooky, Allan and the well-put flows from Bobby Raps turnt up the Amsterdam making kids jumping around like they were inside the Mall of America's old Snoopy Jumping Bounce House.  

Just last week CEO of We The Best Music Group, Dj Khaled posted a video online endorsing The Stand4d individually and gave props to their upcoming album with his famous shot out "We The Best!"  Khaled didn't attend the Saturday night show, but during the song Dj Khaled Is My Father, he was visually there in spirit as a video backdrop showed the label executive jumping off a boat fully clothed.

After I was finally able to hear the song "Pretty," the singing from Alan Kingdom and Bobby Raps got a little too pitchy.  I guess when you have kids screaming out your name like crazy, one may tend to get distracted of the artistic importance of vocal technique in a live performance. It was apparent that by the end of the set breath control and vocal lessons for their live presentation would be helpful.  I do want to state both Bobby and Allan's energy bounced off making all the crazy little kids in the crowd look like Muppets singing Pharrel's Happy on an episode of Sesame Street.

I also felt the sound man needed to put Spooky's mic up at the times where the other 2 vocalist were feeling themselves playing with the crowd as if they were singing to Dru Hill in the mirror.  But, hey I had a kick of that! It brought me back to my own St. Agnes/Frogtown Jr. high school days, when both black and white boys from midway would sing 112 and Jagged Edge as the girls walked down the highways in between classes. 

After grabbing a much needed drink, I took a look at the merchandise table distributing sweats and tee-shirts. It was fitting for the casual St. Paul teen hoping on the light rail to school after waking up late.  In my world the gear fits for a red-eye flight or tour bus ride across the country, and most definitely fitting for a Zummies store front mannequin. I loved hearing the teeny-bopper fans enthusiasm. One teenaged girl right next to me grabbed her friend and said, "Hey do you think Bobby Raps will sign my sweat pants and Spooky my hoodie? I think Christy knows him!"

Another girl shouted, "Oh my God! It's like the new Beatles! They're like our Beatles!" I had to say...well I don't know about them being the Beatles, but their appearance and sound did encounter an effective young girl invasion.  It was a mix of a New Kids on the Block praising the molly popin' generation. With their sexual lyrics, I am hoping that condoms and safe sex will be a priority during the rest of the fall tour hitting Toronto, NYC, Oakland, Los Angeles and Chicago. 

First Avenue's main booker Sonia Grover was in attendance along with the hundreds of fans made up of mostly young teenagers chaperoned by their parents.  When I asked Sonia what she thought about the Standa4d  her response was simple:

"Did you hear the little girls screaming?" she expressed, "when you have little girls screaming at the top of their lungs it's a hit and it really doesn't matter what music loving adults think anymore. "

I left the show excited to see where this journey of boy band stardom and creativity will lead to.  As the MTV Diary slogan goes, "You think you know, but you have no idea." 

Follow the Stand4rd on twitter: @allankingdom @bobbyraps @spookyblack @psymun

Stream their music on Soundcloud:

Maria Isa presents her Valleys of the Dolls Intro with video for MARUCA.

Posted by: Maria Isa Updated: May 27, 2014 - 4:27 PM

I am having a party for the World Video Premier of my single SABOTAGE this Friday in downtown St. Paul. As a gift from SotaRico we're going to give you another little teaser off my upcoming album VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.  It's an honor to present to you the Video and intro to my album "MARUCA," produced by Dan Comerchere.  Video directed by Adam Stanzak and Cinematography by Michael Parades.  

If you're in my hometown of St. Paul check out the flier below for more information on an exclusive listening party with performances by Ashely Debose, Ale Carrera, The Whales, Truthmaze and DJ Fundraiser.  After party open to the public. Hit up for more information.

Puerto Rican Salsa legend Jose "Cheo" Feliciano dies in car crash

Posted by: Maria Isa under Music, Culture Updated: April 17, 2014 - 11:50 AM

Above: Jose "Cheo" Feliciano, Legendary Salsa singer and composer died this morning in a fatal car accident in Cupey, Puerto Rico.

I woke up to sad news this morning with a list of tweets informing me that legendary salsa composer and singer Jose "Cheo" Feliciano has passed away in a fatal car accident.  According to the Puerto Rican police reports, Feliciano was driving alone in his Jaguar when he lost control on Highway 176 in Cupey, Puerto Rico just after 4am.  The 78 year-old man who was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico is known for his Fania hits "Anacaona," "Mi Triste Problema," "Busca Lo Tuyo," "y El Raton," and the list goes on.

Jose was influenced at a young age by the bolero music of Trio Los Panchos and at 8 years old, he formed his first group "El Combo Las Latas," (The Cans Ensemble), influenced by their musical instruments being made out of cans.  Feliciano attended the Free School of Music in Ponce after finishing his primary education where he studied and became a percussionist.

In the early 50s, Cheo moved from Ponce, Puerto Rico to New York City's Spanish Harlem.  It was there in El Barrio where he was offered to play in the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra. Shortly after he networked in the Latin music scene with Tito Rodriguez, he became a lead vocal in Joe Cuba's Sextet.  His baritone voice, charm and improvisation skills made him a favorite in Latin music and opened up the doors for him to sing with the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra in the late 60s for years.  

Above: Cheo Feliciano and Eddie Palmieri.

During the 70s, Jose broke sales in the Latin billboard charts recording, composing and touring many hits for the Fania All Stars and in the early 80s, Feliciano formed "Coche Records," becoming the first tropical singer to perform at the Amira de la Rosa Theater in Colombia. Feliciano also persued an acting career in 1987 and landed the role of Roberto Clemente's father in the musical "Clemente."  Cheo was currently working on a project with Panamanian composer, singer and actor Ruben Blades, but the album's release date still has yet to be determined.


Above: Ruben Blades in the studio recording Cheo's latest work and a picture of the two singing with Fania All Stars in the early 80s.

We will miss you Cheo and I am grateful to have been raised on your music, voice and style.  Descanza en Paz Caballero. Una voz de Borinquen que canta ahora en el cielo...aqui en este mundo seguimos tocando, bailando y cantando tu musica. 

Here's a few videos of my favs from Cheo Feliciano. 

Cheo Feliciano and Santana "El Raton."


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