April 21, 2006

Agua Dulce

By Francisco H. Ciriza

Agua Dulce is a great example of a band that has taken the do-it-yourself ethic to heart. The San Diego-based group which specializes in dance and party music and vibe started out by recording and producing their first CD, the E.P. Agua Dulce (1998) which utilized the group’s blend of Afro-Cuban, Nuyorican salsa, samba, Bossa nova, Latin-jazz, Cumbia, and reggae to etch it’s own unique sound.

The band became mainstays at some of the era’s hottest nightspots throughout the county. After quite a few years of local success, the band knew it was time to move on. The group’s members took their roles as in house booking agents, tour managers, and promoters to new levels. The band began touring out of town and eventually out of state and abroad.

“We used to play Croce’s every Saturday and at Papa Jack’s downtown, the G-Lounge in O.B. and Moondoggies in P.B.,” said Dante Loaiza, the group’s vocalist and trumpet player. “Then we went on our own to Hawaii. We just showed up with our instruments and said ‘We’re here. We’re a band, let us play. We got gigs that way. So then we did Cabo San Lucas, too,” added Loaiza.

If it seemed a bit reckless or over confident to arrive virtually uninvited, the move and resulting experiences led to many big things for the band. The group was noticed and eventually invited to do military tours in Europe.

“We went and played for the military in Bosnia, Hungary, and Iceland. We’ve done that tour twice now,” said Loaiza.

Upon returning home, the group kept the momentum and positive energy going forward and began touring the ski resort circuit. The band was again a huge hit and the guys felt like each trip to the mountains was a paid vacation. Playing clubs and mountain resorts throughout the mountain states again earned the band further opportunities.

“We did the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, The Sundance Film Festival in Vail, CO…We’ve toured 20 -30 states now,” said Loaiza.

However, the time came to come back home, take a short break, and regroup. Although none of the members is married, strong ties to home (family, girlfriends, and children) and to jobs drew the members back to the San Diego area for a short while. The band laid low for a short time, but is now ready to not only play, but also to record its fourth album.

“We’ve started writing songs again. We’ll be ready to do the next one pretty soon,” said Loaiza of the group’s plans to record a follow up to 2005’s We got the Bomba!

In further efforts to get back to its roots, Agua Dulce will get the party started this weekend at the 36th Annual Chicano Park Day celebration. The group is sharing the day with two other local Chicano musical institutions, Los Alacranes and Mosaico.

The event not only marks a coming home of sorts for the band, but also symbolizes the closeness and respect Agua Dulce’s members share with the San Diego Chicano community. The theme of ‘family’ runs deep within the group as well. The group remains almost entirely intact. Only one member has changed sin the group started playing in 1997.

“We’re all very dedicated. We’re like family. We all lived together in a two bedroom apartment on top of a 99 cent store in Golden Hill for a while. We’ve lived together and starved together and given up jobs and girlfriends for this band.”

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