From Muse to Kiesza: The Music of Irene Aldana

Fightland Blog

By Djatmiko Waluyo

Fotografía vía Invicta FC

You're on your own now
we won't save you
your rescue-squad 
is too exhausted

and if you complain once more
you'll meet an army of me

Those are powerful words, as were Irene Aldana’s actions, the Mexican fighter who debuted at Invicta last September, when she left her opponent Peggy Morgan stunned by her strikes, and then option-less as she submitted to Irene’s rear-naked choke in the first round. The words are from the song “Army of Me” by Icelandic artist Björk, and they’re the words that accompanied Irene in her first walkout into the Invicta battleground.

“I’m not the biggest Björk fan or anything. I like some of her songs, but that one in particular I love. For the lyrics, the tone, and it’s a song that I identified a lot with when I first heard it. I’ve always liked it and I play it when I train. It motivates me to train even harder,” Irene tells me. “Like in every war you're with your own army. I identified a lot with that and every time I heard I couldn’t wait to train. I always told myself, ‘when I have my first fight, I’m going to walk out to that song,’ and I decided to do that at Invicta.”

Irene’s debut left a wake of optimism in the mixed martial arts world, and, of course, in Irene and her whole team, Lobo Gym, who work out of Guadalajara, Jalisco. The Sinaloan fighter set high standards for herself and she’s meeting them without issues. Although her second fight was derailed by a bad cause of bronchitis, the optimism returned at her last fight, versus Colleen Schneider. Just like the first time, Irene found the ideal words, this time in  the song “Feeling Good”, famously sung by Nina Simone, and originally written for a 60s musical that focused on the conditions of different social classes in the United Kingdom at that time. 

“Feeling Good” came out in an unexpected triumphant moment for the musical’s character of African descent, and celebrates,

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me.
And I'm feelin' good.

To Irene, the win was not unexpected, she’s taken full advantage of the new day that each return to the cage represents. Smiling in her introduction as the “daughter of Culiacán, Sinaloa, México,” you could see the good feeling reflected in her before and after the fight. 

“Maybe I’ll walk out to Muse’s ‘Feeling Good,” Irene told me a little before her fight at Invicta FC 11 last February 27th. “I love Nina Simone’s original version, but obviously when I’m going to fight I think Muse’s version is much closer to the situation, although I like voices like Nina Simone’s or Billie Holiday’s.” 

“I like a bit of everything, but right now I’m listening to this one girl I recently found out about. I’m not exactly sure about how to pronounce her name, but it’s spelled Kiesza. She has an amazing voice. She’s the one I’ve been listening to the most in my training, especially when I’m training alone.” 

Talking about music was a back-and-forth between the past, the present, touching on sounds that seems to bring her tranquility amidst the commotion that is training camp, which had her coming in to train four times a day and eating a very strict diet. 

“I like a lot of 80s music like Simply Red, Chicago, that type of band because I grew up listening to that stuff because of my parents. My parents always shared their love for music with me and I was very 80s growing up and to this day I listen to it a lot, in my car and at home.

“I also really love the piano. My mother played a lot of piano, and my little sister, too, so listening to the piano gives me this feeling of being home—it relaxes me. I also like Yanni, and the soundtrack to Amélie. My mom and sister like Ludovico Einaudi and so I started liking him, too.” 

When we start talking about music in Spanish, Irene mentioned Mexican artist Alejandro Fernández, who started his career making traditional music like rancheras and mariachi and then made the transition to ballads and pop. She also mentioned Spanish singer songwriter Alejandro Sanz, who’s won multiple Grammys. And being from Sinaloa, I couldn’t help but ask her about the banda sinaloense—which to this day has varying socio-cultural connotations—a type of musical ensemble that appeared in the region over one hundred years ago. 

“Honestly I can’t say no, even more being from Sinaloa,” Irene responded with one of her laughs. “I’m not one to put it on in the car, but I still like Recodo and listening to the music. Every time someone puts it on, I like dancing to it.” 

This story was originally published in Spanish.


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