By Eva V. Tweet to @evahvargas
Las Cafeteras have garnered recognition in a relatively short period of time. If you frequent/read/listen to NPR’s Alt.Latino, Remezcla or KCRW, you’ve surely heard of them as they have received great reviews from these and other media outlets.
Born in the streets of Los Angeles, Las Cafeteras are immigrant children who are remixing roots music and telling modern day stories. Their sound is brought to life by an eclectic instrumentation, which includes jaranas, requintos, quijada (donkey’s jawbone), Marimbol, cajon, and a tarima (wooden platform) to dance zapateado.
After phone tagging for a couple days, I got to chat with Hector Flores (vocals, jarana & zapateado). Hector had just returned from a weekend in NorCal, where Las Cafeteras participated in a folk music festival, sharing the stage with Joan Baez and Los Lobos among others. Then they had a gig in Santa Cruz. So he had a great excuse for that messy room I could peek at through the magic of video chatting, but me? I had no excuse.
The journey of Hector and Las Cafeteras started at the East Side Café, an autonomous community space located in El Sereno, California. Hector is still amazed on how they found Son Jarocho, how they developed their sound and how it all exploded.
At the Eastside Café, in addition to community organizing, attendees shared spoken word, Aztec dance, poetry and music. In 2005, a member of the café/community center started teaching a Son Jarocho class. So for 6 years they played, and played, and played, never missing a Fandango in L.A., and eventually, extending that Fandango network to Jaltiplan and Xalapa in Veracruz, Mexico. Later, they developed a relationship with Son de Madera, Los Cojolites, Los Utrera and other maestros and started a musical exchange, bringing maestros to L.A. and the Valley to share their music and knowledge.
“I guess Son Jarocho is a very accessible music. If you wanted to sing, here you could do it. With 3 chords you can learn many songs that teach you about life, love and la lucha. Fandangos are all about projecting your voice; it’s not about a singing voice but to come sing, to come here express yourself. I fell in love with that”.
But the connection Hector felt with Son Jarocho was not only musical “Son Jarocho also comes from a mix of people, a struggle, from a story of slavery. So the richness, the struggle, and the story of Son Jarocho are very much connected with the richness, the struggle and the story of the Chicano movement. So in a way, I feel we didn’t find Son Jarocho, Son Jarocho found us, so that we could tell our story”
So after years playing, eventually the band found their own sound, “Nowadays I don’t think we are playing what is traditionally known as Son Jarocho, what we are doing is playing music that is based in Son Jarocho, and we are doing a new music” Their music now has an indelible L.A. flavor, with dashes of Hip-Hop energetic bilingual performances, folk, Native American sounds, and spoken word.
So, what can we expect on July 10 at the New Parish? “We are organizers first, artists second and musicians third, so it’s going to be what we call a “Movement Show”, because you can’t have a movement without movement. We want to bring together and we want to show that you can talk about justice, struggle and peace and you can also celebrate. We are going to have a set incorporating hip-hop, Las Bomberas de La Bahia will be opening and Faviana Rodriguez will bring visual arts. We are also bringing together social justice organizations like Mujeres Unidas and Movement Generation; we are trying to invite an immigrant rights organization too. So we are going to have dance, arts and organizing, in many fronts. It is going to be an amazing night.”
Don’t miss LA’s alternative Son Jarocho band “Las Cafeteras” + Las Bomberas de la Bahia, La Pelanga, and Culture Srike at The New Parish on Thursday, July 10th! Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Doors are at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. See you all there! Click here for tickets.