Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dos Santos' pan-Latin brew

Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta

“When it comes down to it, the story of ALL music is one of change, of hybridity, of a diversity of experiences and encounters. So, when we talk about crossing musical borders, there needs to be the recognition that music has always been crossing cultural, social, and expressive borders. This is its history—one of multiple crossings. We shouldn’t try to fix music (or its audiences) in place, that is, construct borders around it.”

If you've read any number of this blog's articles over the past year, you might assume that I wrote that. I could have. It sounds like me. But it's not.

The above quote comes from Alex Chávez, guitarist, organist and songwriter for Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta, a stripped down, rocking electric cumbia group that's been playing all over Chicago for the past year. They are celebrating their first anniversary with a show next week at Beat Kitchen. I discovered Dos Santos about the same time I started writing this blog, and in fact I devoted a paragraph to them in a post about a festival in my neighborhood.

It may seem like I'm cribbing my Border Radio posts lately from stuff I've written for the Afro-Latin organization Agúzate, but I guess that just means that my passions and those of Agúzate are well aligned. Which is a way of saying that I interviewed Alex Chávez and the members of Dos Santos (who have roots in Panama, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S.) to learn more about the band and why they play, of all things, cumbia.

My introductory comments are reproduced below, but to read the far more interesting stuff the band had to say, click on through to the original Agúzate post.

Last summer, I went to the Celebrate Clark Street Festival in Rogers Park and stumbled across a band whose musical style was simply described as ‘psychedelic cumbia’ on the festival website. I was intrigued by this description as well as the group’s name: Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta. I subsequently learned that the band had only recently formed and that this was one of their first gigs, but the tightness of their sound suggested a group that had spent years getting to know one another. The farfisa organ and fuzzed out wah-wah guitars that Dos Santos employed resonated with my rock n’ roll youth, while at the same time the deep cumbia rhythms compelled me, and a lot of other people, to dance.

They were playing what I identified as chicha, a Peruvian variant on a traditional Colombian sound. It’s a music that sprung up in the 1960s and 70s when Caribbean rhythms, Andean folk melodies, rock instrumentation and a strong dose of the mind-altering indigenous corn liquor called chicha mixed together in Peru’s newly urbanized environment. It’s a sound that only recently came to the attention of North American audiences through a handful of reissued recordings from that period. Dos Santos pretty much blew me away that day, and I’ve been keeping track of them ever since.

Click here to read the rest. But you might want to watch this first.

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