Songwriting is storytelling. Since man began making melody and music, songs have come together to weave tales of history and heritage that have carried on into the rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop age.
While Los Lobos may be the best-known East Los Angeles band to blend rock and traditional music of Mexico to deliver their stories, there’s countless more up-and-comers gaining momentum in the business,
One is Las Cafeteras, an east L.A. band singing songs of the immigrant experience in a multi-cultural city, while adding a mission of kindness and acceptance into those songs; it’s their own vehicle for social change.
Las Cafeteras will be on the Fort Lewis College campus Monday for the “Real History of the Americas” celebration, followed by a performance in the Community Concert Hall that night.
Columbus Day isn’t what it used to be. A nationwide trend is turning this day into the recognition of people that lived on this land prior to its “discovery.”
“In L.A., we call it Indigenous People’s Day verses Columbus Day,” said Denise Carlos, who sings and plays Jarana and Glockenspiel. “It really honors the experience for folks that have been silenced in communities, and put into these spaces that not a lot of people understand. Being of Mexican decent and having this country right now hostile to anyone that might not look the way they think America looks like,it’s definitely important for us to be able to say, ‘We’ve shared oppressive situations, we’ve shared spaces of silence,’ but in that we can celebrate and learn from each other.”
Their music is rooted in the Son Jarocho-style of Veracruz, centuries-old music played with traditional and not-so-traditional instruments. The original “La Bamba” is Son Jarocho. Las Cafeteras, like rock musician Richie Valens, the man behind popularizing “La Bamba” before them, have let modern genres mix with the traditional. As they convey history through song, there’s a melting pot of modern American music coming through.
“We share our experiences using traditional Son Jarocho instruments, but adding some hip-hop, cumbia, salsa, everything we grew up listening to,” said Carlos. “When you grow up in Los Angeles, you listen to all kinds of stuff. We really want to use this music to tell our stories. Its social justice-minded really, telling stories of the streets of L.A. that you don’t really hear in the news or in the movies. We’re touching upon stuff that’s messed up, but we celebrate who we are, our roots and how we’re all connected as different communities in the United States. We connect with the heart.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.