A band that found its sound and soul in El Sereno and fights for social causes in greater East Los Angeles is making its debut in New York this Friday at the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LACM), a showcase for up-and-coming Latino musical groups. For Las Cafeteras, it’s a chance to take their unique twist on traditional Mexican folk music to a larger audience.
“We began playing in a small community center in East Los Angeles, called the Eastside Café, which is no bigger than a garage,” band member David Flores told EGP Wednesday by email. “Fast-forward, and we are playing in the same conference as Calle 13, Ana Tijoux and some of the biggest names in Latino Music in New York!! WOW!!”
Las Cafeteras, named in tribute to the Eastside Café collective in El Sereno where the group formed in 2005, is scheduled to release their new CD, “It’s Time,” later this summer or in early fall. The seven-member band performs son jarocho music, a regional style of Mexican folk music.
Las Cafeteras’ Upcoming Local Performances:
—Thursday, July 12 at 7pm: Aloud Series at LA Central Library [Free], Downtown Los Angeles, for more information visit www.lapl.org/central
—Sunday, July 15 at 3pm at MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Art) in Long Beach, CA, for more information visit www.molaa.org
The group, however, unapologetically adds several instruments to create a distinctive sound—including the jarana, requinto, a quijada (donkey jawbone), a Native American drum and flute, and the tarima (wooden stomp box).
What does Las Cafeteras sound like? Their promoter compares them to Rage Against the Machine, Lila Downs, Ed Sharpe, Manu Chao and Ozomatli, and says they have melded a sound that is livelier than Veracruz’ usual Afro-Mexican son jarocho beat.
Las Cafeteras perform in English and Spanglish and their music includes an undeniable activist message about their experiences fighting for justice “in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles.”
Flores told EGP that the group is excited about the opportunity “to share our music with the East Coast and tell the stories of Chicano/as who live, love and struggle in Los Angeles.
“Maybe its coincidence, but several of the top names playing at the Latin Alternative Music Conference, like Calle 13 and Ana Tijoux, are also speaking and making music about the social issues affecting people all over the world.”
All of the band’s members have been organizers and activists involved in a variety of movements and struggles in the Los Angeles area, said Flores. “As artists, we believe that we have an important role in documenting the injustices happening at the time, but also highlighting the beauty of our culture and communities,” he said.
The group has no qualms about updating traditional lyrics with more contemporary references.
The first single off their new CD is “La Bamba Rebelde,” a twist on rock and roll legend Ritchie Valen’s 1958 hit La Bamba that not only sounds different, but also takes on the heated issue of immigration.
“Yo no creo en fronteras, Yo no creo en fronteras, yo cruzaré, yo cruzaré” the group sings, defiantly saying “I don’t believe in borders, I don’t believe in borders, I will cross, I will cross”.
“The meaning of ‘La Bamba’ is one of history’s mysteries. [But] to them it is an expression of ‘telling our modern realities through traditional sounds.’ It also represents how Latinos raised in the U.S. are returning to their roots,” according to the group’s press release.
They see La Bamba Rebelde as “a Chicano anthem that tells the stories of Latinos migrating and growing up in the U.S.”
Las Cafeteras has strong ties to the Eastside Café where its members participate in community projects and organizing, and where son jarocho workshops for budding musicians are held. The group recently performed at the May Day protests in downtown from a stage presented by the Occupy LA organizers, and participated in a fandango to celebrate the recent anniversary of “Mi Vida,” a Chicana owned store in Highland Park.
Today, ahead of their New York debut, local fans of Las Cafeteras can hear them live during a free concert at the Los Angeles Central Library in downtown LA. The show starts at 7 p.m.
For more information on Las Cafeteras visit Lascafeteras.com or visit the group’s YouTube Channel “Las Cafeteras” to hear some of their music.