For 15 years, the band Las Cafeteras has been serving up a mix of Mexican traditional sounds with cumbia, rock and ska and other sounds in English, Spanish and Spanglish. As concerts have resumed countrywide with the easing of pandemic restrictions, the sextet is ready to get back on the road to offer another dose of music made in East Los Angeles.
Las Cafeteras will launch a national tour on Aug. 21 with a performance at the Los Angeles Music Center that is part of Summer SoundWaves, the venue’s new outdoor music series that will take place at its Jerry Moss Plaza.
The band promises to offer an L.A. concert that will showcase its musical evolution, mixing songs from their three past albums along with tracks from their upcoming EP born out of the pandemic. It will also feature guest musicians and a folkloric dance ensemble. Additionally, not surprisingly for a band that is known to be activist and community-oriented, Las Cafeteras will also offer a vaccine clinic for people to get anti-Covid shots.
CREATING MUSIC IN THE PANDEMIC
“Las Cafeteras has been working hard this whole year, and the one thing that we do appreciate is that we never stopped working in this quarantine year,” says Denise Carlos, vocalist and founding member of the band. “We did a lot of work internally for the health of the band for the health of the individuals, but we were also given the opportunity to write new music…and to see the purpose of our music in a new light. And so we are having a show here in our hometown.”
Offering immunization shots against the coronavirus is something that goes along with the group’s music and message, according to Carlos. “This is really a family event,” she says. “And so, when we think of Las Cafeteras, we think of familias. We think of healthy communities. We also think of joy and revolution and so you will hear your favorites, ‘La Bamba,’ ‘Rebelde,’ ‘Luna Lovers,’ because we always know that our audience craves those songs. But we also have new music and new energy.” New means collaborations with artists like Crisia Regalado, Jesus Gonzalez and Moises Baqueiro, who will perform with Las Cafeteras at the Music Center show. The band is also bringing on stage Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles, a group of which Carlos is also a member.
FOUNDED ON FRIENDSHIP
Las Cafeteras started as a group of friends who studied the traditional form of son jarocho, a traditional Afro-Mexican rhythm from the state of Veracruz, at a community center called the Eastside Cafe. Most were U.S.-born children of Mexican immigrants who had never played any instruments but wanted to learn more about their cultural roots. “Most of us didn’t even really speak Spanish in our day-to-day lives,” recalls Carlos. The Eastside Cafe changed them forever, with the music neophytes eventually turning into a popular band that sings primarily in their parents’ language, shows pride in their cultural legacy and also gives back by teaching music and other arts in their barrios.
At Eastside Cafe they learned about the Zapatistas, a revolutionary group born in Chiapas, Mexico, to defend indigenous communities that have been oppressed and discriminated against for centuries. “(They) said you have everything in your power to rise up and to have the life that you want,” states Carlos. She and her friends decided to do just that by forming Los Cafeteros in 2005. The name was later changed to honor the band’s feminine spirit. (Cafetero means coffee drinker or coffee grower in Spanish.)
FROM TRADITIONAL SOUNDS TO ECLECTIC FUSION
Powered by jarocho sound in the early years, the band made a name for itself performing in Southern California and in 2009 recorded Live at Mucho Wednesday at La Cita, a famed nightclub in downtown L.A.
Their following album, It’s Time in 2012, brought them national recognition allowing them to perform alongside prominent stars like Cafe Tacuba and Lila Downs as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. “It’s (the album) a call for action, it is time to make a difference in this world,” says Carlos. Their third album Tastes Like L.A. in 2017 delivered a more definite eclectic sound that fused traditional rhythms with rock, hip hop and other modern genres. “Our music is evolving, just like we are,” states the band’s founding member.
While previous works range from traditional and fusion and even political, an upcoming EP might be more romantic, according to Carlos. “Now, our music is so much about love and so much about joy… We’re kind of playing around with this love song called ‘Thinking About You,’ which we’re going to actually play for the first time that day.” At the Los Angeles Music Center concert, Las Cafeteras will also play “Oaxaca Love Song,” a new track that will be released in September, paying tribute to the ballad music their parents played at home during the band members’ childhood.
NEW SONGS FOR THE ROAD
Energized with new music, Las Cafeteras will visit nearly a dozen cities in California, Illinois, Indianapolis, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin as well as Toronto, Canada. In addition to Carlos, the other band members are Leah Rose Gallegos, Jose Guadalupe Cruz Cano, David Jesus Flores, Hector Paul Flores, Daniel Joel Jesus French and Xocoyotzin Moraza.
“We’re happy and blessed to say (to) our folks… it’s going to be a busy fall tour and you know, after not touring, after a year of not performing live,” says Carlos. “This is a blessing for us and we hope that it can give a little joy to the world. Because we’ve all been living this really hard roller coaster of a year now.”
For tickets and more information about the Summer Soundwaves concert on Aug. 21, visit www.musiccenter.org.
For more information about the band and its tour, visit www.lascafeteras.com.
Featured Photo: Las Cafeteras (Credit: Farah Sosa)