Los Angeles singer/songwriter and producer Gaby Moreno has announced her next project with her new single “Luna de Xelajú,” performed alongside fellow Guatemalan actor and musician Oscar Isaac. The song is the first fans will get of her forthcoming record X Mí (Vol. 1) before it arrives in a little over a month on May 5. It’s not the first time Moreno’s talents as a musician has collided with film and television — from being the co-writer of the “Parks and Recreation” theme to having her music featured in “Orange Is The New Black” and Guillermo Del Toro’s “Cabinet of Curiosities.” While her last album Alegoría received a GRAMMY nomination, her second to do so.
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The collaboration with Isaac highlights the duo’s shared roots and love for Guatemala — as “Luna de Xelajú” serves as a kind of unofficial but beloved anthem for the country. Originally written by Paco Pérez in 1944, the song holds a firmly engrained significance in the memories of both Moreno and Isaac. It’s a song devoted to a very specific pining melancholy: one dedicated to the moon that sits above Xelajú — which Kʼicheʼ Maya name for the Guatemalan city of Quetzaltenango.
Against the quiet strumming of both their guitars, a beautifully lilting duet unfolds between Moreno and Isaac. Both of them channel all the compelling, lovelorn emotions that are inspired by the song. The words still echo to this day all the tender heartache Pérez imbued them with, of a person hopelessly and painfully in love with someone they’ll never get to be with. Every lull of Isaac’s featherweight vocals and Moreno’s powerful coos gives profound resonance to those feelings.
The single also comes with a music video featuring both Moreno and Isaac singing the song together in the grand confines of the Palace Theater in Los Angeles. Directed by Diego Contreras, the video sees the duo performing alone on the theater’s stage as a few beams of dusty light cut through the soft gloom. It’s such an incredibly intimate but also stunningly empowering vision of Latin artistry. Seeing two incredible performers relish and bond in their shared pride over their identity and background is something we always need more of.
“‘Luna de Xelajú’ is considered the 2nd anthem of my country, Guatemala,” Moreno explained. “Written by Paco Pérez in the 1940s. I’ve been singing it since I was a teenager and more recently have been performing this song live in my concerts, usually as an encore. I invited my dear friend and incredible artist, Oscar Isaac, to sing it with me for this very special acoustic version. We filmed and recorded it in one take at the beautiful Palace Theater in DTLA. Just two voices with two guitars, singing together this timeless, sweet, and nostalgic song from our motherland.”
“My grandmother Graciela Argentina Nicolle de Estrada would perform ‘Luna De Xelajú’ in the concert halls of Guatemala,” Isaac said of his association with the song. “Growing up it was always hummed or sung as a lullaby by my mother Eugenia, and was a favorite of my uncle Guillermo’s. I’m grateful to Gaby for asking me to share this song as a way of honoring my family and all of Guate.”
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Words: Steven Ward
Watch the music video for “Luna de Xelajú” the new single from Gaby Moreno with Oscar Isaac below!