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Lucid Dreaming with MIRA MIRA

rapid pi movement

Producer, performance artist, and La Mariquitas member Samira Mendoza discusses her sleep rituals, reimagining salsa through a transgender lens, and how her new track, “Amor Y Lucha,” was inspired by her Nuyorican roots.

By kiernanlaveaux


Get between the sheets and slip into the dream world with rapid pi movement, a column from beloved mix series and label pi pi pi. Each month, it will feature a cheeky conversation with an artist from the wider pi soundscape about their experiences beyond waking life, alongside an unreleased track that showcases where their head is at between releases. This month, DJ and experimental musician Kiernan Laveaux—a longtime friend, seminal mix-maker, and sometimes wordsmith of the pi pi pi universe— serves as our guide through moonlit worlds and the unconscious mind. 

MIRA MIRA, aka Samira Mendoza, is one of the most unstoppably energetic and versatile artists I know. She does everything from prismatic visual art, to one-of-a-kind horn playing, to anti-colonial performance art, and everything in between the inbetweens.

Our paths first crossed in the so-called “most liveable city” of Pittsburgh, PA. Anyone who has lived in Pittsburgh knows how good it feels when a like-minded freak adventurer crosses your path, and Samira and I bonded almost instantly over love, life, diaspora, the swirling influxes of gender, and alchemizing energy into transformative sound. She then had me teach a DJing class at the artspace she was working at, where I tried to show kids aged five to ten years old how to “beatmatch” and what disc jockeying was.

I have a vivid memory of playing Arthur Russell, Larry Levan, and Francois K’s “Go Bang” for them, and one child telling me, “I don’t know if I like it, but this sounds like eight songs at once.” In a way, this scenario also encapsulates what I love about Samira’s spirit, and her amazing knack for fusing childlike wonder, systemic critique, and a collision with the infinite into one artistic vision. 

Now based in Brooklyn, Samira has followed that inspiration to become a beloved member of Las Mariquitas, a fast-rising group of 15 rotating musicians united in reimagining salsa through a transgender lens. She also remains a part of Dyspheric & UHAUL Disco, two collectives with strong ties to Pittsburgh and that include queer and trans visionaries like XC-17, Yessi, Johnny Zoloft, and Las Mariquitas member Gladstone Deluxe. They’re people responsible for some of the most fun dancefloor experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have in Pittsburgh, and who I am grateful to count as collaborators in my work as a musician and sometimes-event organizer.

This month, rapid pi movement has invited me, Kiernan Laveaux, to in-turn invite MIRA MIRA to share her myriad talents with the column’s voracious readers and musical journeyers. Everything MIRA MIRA is a part of speaks to ideas of pleasure, collective liberation, tranifestation—you name it. I’m proud to have interviewed her about ecstatic dreaming, everyday wakefulness, and intergenerational consciousness.

To kick things off, we chatted about “Amor Y Lucha,” the track she chose to premiere with us today. It’s a poignant piece of music that takes on a journey through the timeless world of Nuyorican Soul velocity—past, present, and future colliding into an invigorating listen.

amor y lucha
amor y luchaMIRA MIRA

What does this track mean to you? Does it have a story?

MIRA MIRA: Whew! This track means a whole lot to me :) 

I grew up on a lot of 90s New York Latine house records from my parents’ vinyl collection—mostly stuff from Strictly Rhythms, Masters at Work, Digital Dungeon Records, and Sneak Tip Records. My dad grew up as a Nuyorican in the South Bronx and spent a lot of his time working at M.K. in the city—a bank converted into a four-floor club. My mom is from El Salvador but spent her teenage years in North Jersey, where she would dig at Alwilk Records in Elizabeth.

A couple of months ago, I was able to piece together my very own turntable set-up with the help of my family and friends (major shoutouts to Phoenix, Amani, Jules, Andre, and my dad). This allowed me to take a deep dive into my parents' collection again, and I started to realize how much these records have influenced how I approach producing and deejaying. I started doing a little research on the musicians on these records and was shocked to find out how many Salsa musicians were featured on them, including Roberto and Luisito Quintero, who played most of the percussion parts on the Masters at Work records. 

It just so happens that my good friend and collaborator in Las Mariquitas, Eden Quintero, is the son of Roberto. I approached Eden asking if he wanted to continue the tradition of New York Latine house with me, and he said yes! Also featured on congas is my longtime friend and collaborator Mobéy Lola Irizarry, who is a creative director and percussionist for Las Mariquitas. 

What role does music play in your mornings, after you wake up? Before bed?

I usually like to start my day just by listening to my surroundings. Lately I’ve been waking up to Lola practicing congas or the barril. Once I make my way to take a shower, I’ll put on a mix that a friend has released on SoundCloud. This week, I’ve been slowly listening to 30000AD’s Nowadays mix for the Sorry Records party.

Before bed, I’ve started to get into the practice of singing a mantra. It’s something that my partner and I started doing as a way to center ourselves and build balance after a long day. It feels very cleansing. 

Dreams are the intangible that we make real. What are some dreams you keep having? Are you living any of them right now?

I dream of coming up with my friends and creating spaces together where people can celebrate themselves and each other. I dream of playing and learning from my heroes. I’ve seen and felt both of these things happening this year. Even being interviewed by you is a dream come true! You’re someone I looked up to well before meeting and becoming friends with you.

I feel that way about a lot of my friends right now. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m in the same room collaborating and growing with the people that inspire me. This past year, I’ve had people I’ve never met before telling me that they feel safe and seen at the events I organize and through the art that my friends and I create. That’s how I know my dreams are starting to come to fruition. 

What does it mean to dream with others?

To dream with others is to build a future and life together where we all feel safe, seen, and at peace.

You are one of the most multi-faceted artists I know. Tell me about how your projects connect and intersect with each other, both in your subconscious and out in the world.

My work is informed by my personal and familial histories. I often try to recreate and abstract these memories from my research, which leads to me making sounds and objects based on them. So if I’m thinking of memories that connect my mother’s history of growing up during the Salvadoran civil war and the role the U.S. played and my own childhood, I might end up making a playground that has monkey bars connected to barbed wire. A lot of my sets also incorporate like-minded artists and musicians who are actively engaged in social movements, like Archie Shepp. It’s an acknowledgement of the work that has happened, and that needs to continue.


Someone sees you in the fog and haze of the club and says, "You're so dreamy." What's your dream club or DJing scenario?

My dream club is a space where my community can dream together and ultimately organize collective action to make that dream come true. A space that allows artists and movers to deeply explore, freely. A space for tough conversations where people are there to learn from one another and expand their consciousness. A space that makes way for intergenerational skill sharing. For love for what has happened, and for what’s to come next. 

Your surroundings are everything. What surroundings help get you through your day to day?

My housemates! I live with two good friends, Lola and Lindaluz. They’re both passionate creators and compassionate people. Seeing them do their thing inspires me and pushes me to keep exploring my own path every day. Our home is an active making space and communal space. We always have friends and lovers staying at our place, who also participate in making sound, visual art, and food with us. It’s constant collaboration, love, and care.

My plant friends. Plants teach me so much about trust, patience, and the willingness to grow with others. 

Highland Park! It’s just a block away from my house. I try to go on a long walk every day to keep my physical and mental health in check. There’s an amazing reservoir trail that feels like you’re in the middle of a forest. It’s my favorite park in Brooklyn. 

How has moving to NYC been for you?

It’s had its ups and downs. When I first moved here, I was pretty depressed. I moved from Pittsburgh, where I was very busy and actively performing almost every day. I also had some rando roomies who were passive aggressive; they didn’t like any sounds, plants, or good vibes. After a month or so, we started Las Mariquitas, and that quickly became one of the most rewarding ensembles I’d been a part of. Some of the members were people I had never met before but who are now my close friends. 

Being in the band immediately opened my life to a loving queer community, as well as a spiritual awakening connected to the music that I grew up with. It was a healing journey that I didn’t know I needed from the path of a conservatory musician. Shortly after, I also moved into the home that I live in now.

Once we got to the summertime, I was back to being a full-time performer. Being in NYC has also connected me to my family and the history of a lot of the music I grew up with. I’m able to attend concerts and actually speak to the elders who created that music. It’s also been really refreshing to be in a neighborhood that primarily speaks Spanish and in a city that is filled with Black and Brown culture. 

What's your favorite breakfast to make for somebody else? 

Thinly sliced and heavily seasoned potatoes in a cast iron, with sunnyside eggs that have been slowly cooked on top of them.

Tell us about any new projects you have coming up. 

I’ve been working on two performance pieces that I’m excited about! One of them is called “Is this a battle or is this a game? No jueges con migo pero I’ll play with you…” It originally premiered as a part of a showcase at Abrons Art Center for EmergeNYC. I’m continuing to develop an hour-long version of this piece. As it stands, it begins with me playing the Taino game Batu against myself. 

Batu was one of the first pieces of Taino culture that the Spanish colonizers tried to erase; they were afraid that it preserved their ability to be good warriors and would eventually be used to overthrow the Spaniards. While playing this game, I want to speak out about the displacement of my ancestors and how my family has had to flee to the U.S. because of U.S. “interventions'' held in our lands, and the feelings that arise from being in a colonized “land of the free'' that doesn’t want us here.

I’m also excited about a project that I started with Mobéy called Tó Ara. I see it as a form of sonic protest. We released our first single, “Comiendo Sandia,” a month ago. It is a song that speaks about the forced displacement of indigenous peoples and how the bombs that the U.S. military created that are being used in this genocide were originally tested in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Gaza, you are the tip of the spear. You will be free and so will we.

Here’s some upcoming gigs:

February 11: Dendarry Bakery is playing at Trans Pecos. It’s our first live set in about a year. Dendarry Bakery is an experimental performance trio composed of Gladstone Deluxe, Mobéy Lola Irizarry, and myself. 

February 22: Las Mariquitas comes out of hibernation for a night we’re playing and organizing at 3 Dollar Bill. Expect trans Salsa until midnight and DJ sets by Gladstone Deluxe and myself, accompanied by live, improvised acoustic instruments from an array of musicians.

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