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Hecho is sharing the love: read on to find out how you can win free tickets to the Cultura Profética concert!

Good morning Hecho readers! It’s already mid-February, Valentine’s day is around the corner, and we’re feeling all loved up. We’re also getting hyped for the Cultura Profética concert that topped our January/February Hecho Hitlist – the show is this Friday, February 15th. For those of you who don’t already know, Cultura Profética is a Puerto Rican reggae band that has captured a massive following since their debut album was released in 1997. Hits like Illegal, Sube el Humo, and Reggae Rústico have criss-crossed the Americas and beyond with a reggae base that draws from many genres including jazz, hip hop, and afro-caribbean beats.

DIABIZARRO

DIABIZARRO
Often mistaken for hardcore rockers, there’s more than meets the eye with this somewhat tricky to define band. Caught in the musical spotlight of the moment, the band has made a name for itself on the indie scene, well make that two names, they started as BeatAmina, but have really come into their own these past months under the moniker DiaBizarro. What else could these four teenagers, who back in ’09 competed in a Battle of the Bands in front of a tough audience, where the prize was a pizza and coke, wish for?

CULTURAFOLK

CULTURAFOLK
For those of you who believe that good bands are only born in Managua, I´d like you to meet Cultura Folk. A group made up of 5 intrepid youngsters from Jinotepe who have an idea as fresh as the climate in that city

La Cuneta Son Machín: of Love and Hate, Jealousy and Fascination

By Jonathan Jackson, Photography f2.8

In just over year, La Cuneta Son Machín have established themselves as one of the premier bands in the country. I had a chance to catch up with bass player Augusto Mejía, the band’s most outspoken member and talk with him about people’s perceptions of the group, what the band means to Nicaraguan music and the dreaded ‘c’ word…

You guys have been able to break through a lot of the walls that other bands never can. You’ve played all over the country and in all types of places, from Club Terraza to El Chaman, from Managua to Chinandega, on bills with the likes of Perrozompopo, Carlos Mejia Godoy, also Fuzion 4 and El Chayanne de Pochomil and you have been able to perform for all these different audiences with great success. Why do you think that is?

I believe one of the things that has happened with La Cuneta Son Machín (CSM) is that the band has come to fill a gap in the collective subconscious of the young Nicaraguan population. In poor countries, such as Nicaragua, the majority of young people rely on foreign influence to define their identity. CSM broke that notion apart, and people have come to realize that there is tremendous value in supporting traditional Nicaraguan culture and music. They’ve realized it can be fun and entertaining as well.

We also have to recognize that a big part of our success has to do with the enormous support our national media has shown us. They have allowed us to compete with all those things coming from outside Nicaragua.

You told me once that one of the most important things for you is to spark an interest in the youth and keep the young people interested in cultural, musical, and folk roots, from not only a Nicaraguan point of view but also a Central American and Latin-American one. How has that been working for you in the past year?

Well, we’ve come to realize that after going to our shows, a lot of young people start asking questions about national songwriters, trying to figure out who wrote one of the songs we played. It feels great! You hear them saying that they’ll go on the Internet to search for all this information on national composers and it makes you feel good. Some of them even start participating in things which they didn’t take part before, like national popular festivities.

I believe we are accomplishing our objectives little by little. And since everything in Nicaragua is so tough to do, we have had to reinvent ourselves constantly in order to maintain people’s interest in what we do. Nevertheless, in the end it’s also about having fun. That’s how the project got started; we were just having fun mixing popular music with a modern twist.

(Carlos Luis Mejía – marimba, César Rodríguez – keyboard, Carlos “Frijol” Guillen – vocals, Fabio Buitrago – drums, Omar Suazo – guitar, Augusto Mejía – bajo)

I’m aware that all the reactions, at least privately, have not been 100 percent positive, for example I’ve heard the band described as “fresas jugando hacer jinchos…” (very rough translation: preppies posing as “ghetto”) Can you talk about some of the negative reactions you have encountered, and how you all deal with that?

The interesting thing about these kinds of opinions is that they reflect the exact opposite of what we are trying to convey with our music. We are fighting against the notion that what we do is “jincho.” The only kind of person who would see our band project as some type of mockery of the lower class is someone who would consider traditional music inferior. For example, if I were to dress like a metal head, or like a punk, or even dress exactly the way TV tells me to dress, then it would be all right and there would be no criticisms. The fact is that if you copy something that everyone thinks is inferior, the only explanation they could come up with would be that you’d be making fun of it.

I grew up listening to popular music through my Dad (Carlos Mejía Godoy), my uncle, and all sorts of musicians I have known. Most of us in CSM weren’t part of the rock or pop scene when we started out. If we were really joking around and didn’t take this seriously, then we wouldn’t be putting so much time and effort into the band. But, the most important point is not whether we are joking around or not, it’s whether we are making a difference in young people’s perception of our cultural values, roots and traditions.

The truth is that in Nicaragua you constantly have to fight against these types of opinions because our nation’s collective self-esteem is so low… especially amongst the younger crowd, which seek their identity from foreign products, and instead of looking on the bright side of things, they end up searching for whatever’s wrong so that they don’t have to be a part of it. You constantly find people who sabotage your efforts instead of trying to help you out, because they have to convince themselves that nothing made in Nicaragua is ever going to be good. For them it’s easier to get their identity from “imported” culture. Luckily the people who say things like that are fewer than the ones who come to our shows.

One of the other big complaints from some of your critics is that you guys are a glorified cover band. But I know recently you have been creating original material with a similar theme and sound as the other songs you perform. Do you see yourselves as a cover band? Can you talk about some of your original songs, where does the inspiration come from and how has or will that change you as a band?

Ironically for us, the cover band business has changed in the past ten to fifteen years. Before it was considered OK to cover songs, but now people don’t like it. It got stigmatized, and it went from being good to being considered bad and unoriginal. The bright side is that national bands have been encouraged to write their own songs. The problem is that you can’t compare covering a marimba song from Masaya to covering Guns n’ Roses. Both require you to play something that already exists, but one allows you to dig out your traditions, whereas the other has already enjoyed massive commercial success. We focus on playing songs that are not heard on the radio anymore, songs that have been lost in time, most of which would never get any airplay if it weren’t for us. In a regular modern music radio station, you would never listen to Nicaraguan popular music. Never! And we are making it happen!

I believe the work that marimberos (marimba players) in Masaya have been doing for the past 100-150 years is of incredible importance. If I would go up to a marimbero and tell him “look, enough with the covers, play something original” popular music would disappear in a flash, because no one would be willing to take on the work that these marimberos have done for so many years. If you think about it, radio doesn’t play these songs, and if there was no one to interpret them live, then we would lose them forever. So one of our main objectives in the band is to somehow continue this tradition that began many years ago between local Masaya marimberos, and keep the popular music going. People who play traditional music on the streets do it for the love of the art. No one that decides to become a marimbero does so with the hopes of earning millions. Like all marimberos, they know their quality of life will remain fairly the same. They do it mainly because they love the music they interpret. We all feel inspired by that attitude and somehow we humbly consider ourselves to be a continuation of the popular musician’s work. Just think of all the music that would’ve been lost if these popular musicians didn’t play “covers.” So we think that we are in the same business as they are, we are trying to reproduce these songs in such a way to get them in the collective subconscious of the young Nicaraguans. The new songs we play are almost like a side project we work on in parallel, but it is not our main objective to write new songs.

Our success was not premeditated, because when we started the project it was simply because we wanted to play this type of music. We never imagined we would have such success. The inspiration was to mix the popular music concept with an urban focus, always trying to make it fun to listen to. At the same time though, we wanted it to carry a message that goes beyond having a good time, we wanted to create songs to make people conscious and proud of their roots as Nicaraguans.

Espiral

As their name implies, the group Espiral (Spiral) began with a broad idea that over time has wound itself into a tight-knit concept. At the end of 2008, musician and guitar player Francisco Cedeño started creating songs along with a vocalist but says he soon realized they needed a band “because two guys is kind of boring.” Once drummer Gabriel Sevilla and bass player Luis Munguía were added to the mix, things really started to spiral into control for the group.