MACUILXOCHITL: Five Flower,” the Aztec god of music and dance
By Francisco H. Ciriza
There is an interesting phenomenon currently taking place in the independent Latino music scene. It is by no means new, but it is something with which most mainstream listeners are not familiar. There seems to exist a fraternal order of sorts of artists and musicians who support not only each other’s efforts but also are closely linked to their community. They do tour and seek to build followings away from home, but there is a direct link to home and the people there.
Locally, we have Agua Dulce, further north in Los Angeles there is Slowrider and from Austin comes Grupo Fantasma. The group, based in southern Texas, features members from other Texas towns as well as other areas of the United States. The band’s most recent release, Movimiento Popular, has garnered critical acclaim and has served to further its efforts to reach fans across the country. Grupo Fantasma brings its brand of music and social consciousness to San Diego tonight at Winston’s in Ocean Beach for a 9 p.m. concert.
La Prensa San Diego spoke to Grupo Fantasma’s guitarist, Adrian Quesada, as the group prepared for a series of shows through the southwestern U.S. keeping the group busy through the end of October.
The group’s music delivers roots oriented alternative Latino music with an authentic and more traditional interpretation of Latin sounds. “I usually say Latin funk, but it’s really hard to nail it. We play a lot of rhythms based on traditional Latin rhythms with a strong funk backbeat. We sing all or most of our lyrics in Spanish,” says Quesada. “We’re not necessarily trying to stay away from singing in English, but based on our musical style, most of the stuff would sound goofy in English
There is a unifying theme if not feel to the band and its music. It’s one that is exemplified not only by its songs, but also by the make up of the band and origin of its members. Quesada explains a bit about how the group came together. “Half of us are from Laredo. We were in a band called The Blimp, a funk band. The other half of us from Austin and a band called Blue Noise, sort of an avant-garde rock/jazz group. The two groups always had fun playing together so we just sort of ended up joining the two groups together.
Movimiento Popular boasts sounds derived from musicians with rich backgrounds. “We grew up in border towns on cumbia, merengue, and salsa. The rest of the guys are into rock and hip hop, some metal,” Quesada explains further, “We all outgrew rock and metal and punk and went back to learn a real respect for the music we grew up with. We continually work to find a way to make a blend of those two major influential forces within us
“We looked at groups like the Fania All Stars (record label and a band) a lot of them were young kids who grew up on the same sounds. They took their music in their own direction.
Quesada and Grupo Fantasma take much pride in not only following their artistic drive, and being in complete control of their artistic careers, but also in being positive members of their community. “We’ve done everything completely independently. We made things happen. We’ve decided to do things ourselves. We’re living in a time when everyone feels a social responsibility, especially in terms if one’s own community,” says Quesada
That social responsibility is something Quesada feels strongly about. It is a quality that alone makes it worth paying attention to Grupo Fantasma. Add the group’s music and you have an impressive force. It would seem a formula fit for success, even commercial success, but Quesada and his band mates intend on staying true to their convictions. “I can’t imagine not having that awareness and conciousness! When you’re so passionate about music, its kind of second nature to be a musician. In the culture we come from, musicians are people first then musicians and artists later. We have a responsibility to each other first before we assume our roles as performers and entertainers
See Grupo Fantasma with Alffred Howard and K23 at Winston’s in Ocean Beach, 1921 Bacon Street. Showtime is 9.pm. For more information, call 619-222-6822