Space, the final frontier—well at least for gabachos. Chicanos and Chicanas have been traveling through the cosmos and putting down roots in the heavens for some time now. In fact some of the more notable explorers are based here in Oakland, California. Going back nearly 40 years, percussionists Pete and Coke Escovedo left Santana’s first band to form their own creation called Azteca. It was a bold project of creating a full 15-20 piece band on any given performance that fused latin rhythms, soul, funk, rock and could pretty much play anything. They made two incredible records that are a lasting testament to their innovation as multi-cultural musicians. In their 2nd record, Pyramid of the Moon, they take full flight as they lead the way through the stars for the rest of la raza to follow.
One of those to follow was my primo Lukumi. Fans of the group BRWN BFLO know him as Giant, aka Gigante. Back in 2010 he suited up for space travel with fellow BFLO, Somos One, for his mixtape Giant vs Doom where they document their travels in his song Xican@s in Space. (download it here for free)
Checkout his latest recordings where he mixes reality, imagination, humor and brown soul. He definitely follows the ethos that we believe in—music has no boundaries and you can use it to take you anywhere.
For many decades now Summer has been the season for music festivals. Long before Cochella and Bonaroo there was the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and Newport Jazz Festival in the US. Both started as showcasing exclusively Jazz music, but by 1970 Montreux began opening up to all styles of music while Newport has for the most part stuck to purely Jazz. 1n 1978 one legendary group from Cuba played at both festivals—Irakere. A ton has already been documented about them (here’s a great piece at Jazz Profiles) so I won’t go too deeply here. This was their release the following year that documented their international tour at these two festivals. After 35 years their fusion of afro-latin folkloric rhythms with jazz, rock and funk still hits hard as ever, not to mention the album art is still one of the best you’ll find.
Unfortunately, one thing we don’t see as much with festivals is the larger grand mission. At best the aim of any festival now is trying to showcase new musical talent. Nothing wrong with bringing new artists to the masses, however there was once a time when organizers were attempting to build international solidarity and peace with their festivals. You may be thinking I’m heading toward Woodstock, not quite. This live record Le Blé Et Le Mil by Toubabou lead me learning about Le Festival international de la jeunesse francophone, la Superfrancofête. (The International Festival of Francophile Youth, Super-French-Party) that was held in August of 1974. It’s goal was to build international solidarity with citizens of the many French speaking countries of the world. Over the course of 12 days the city featured many invited musicians, visual artists and even held sporting events. Superfrancofête was attended by more than 800,000 people in total and on the closing night the local Quebec band Toubabou teamed up with invited musicians from Senegal. Like Irakere, Toubabou were pushing the envelope of fusion by using traditional rhythms in more a modern context of electric instruments with layers of jazz and funk. They may never have attained the international acclaim of Irakere, but they were definitely onto something. Have a listen…
If you’ve listened to our promo mix you’ll know that the inspiration for La Pelanga was born at a summer music festival in Cali, Colombia. Hopefully we’ll all get to return to Festival Petronio Álverez again soon, but in the meantime let us know what other great music festivals are out there. Do you have a favorite?