Here in the U.S. we love labels. That beer is not just a beer, it's a craft beer. What kind of movie was it? It was an avant-garde, neo-Fellini-esque, dark comedy. And music is no different. Raise your hand if you remember the Krautrock movement of the '70s or the Britpop invasion of the early '90s?
For many South American musicians who migrate to the U.S., simply being from a Latin country automatically garners you that regional title, regardless of your preferred musical genre. And with Dallas' large South American population, it's a situation that many local musicians know well.
"For me it's kind of interesting to have that label for music that has influences from jazz to Cumbia," says Victor "Chino" Rimach, the guitarist for local Latin-folk-rock band Mayta. "They call it Latin because they are from Latin America, which doesn't happen in South America at all. It's sometimes very confusing."
So Rimach has made it a point to try and embrace that often over-simplified (dare we say whitewashed?) mix of cultures by orchestrating the Indie-Rock Latin America showcase at Club Dada this Saturday. Dallas' music scene is, of course, an increasingly progressive melting pot, and with the flood of festivals like 35 Denton and Spillover hitting the area over the coming week thanks to SXSW it's a perfect time to showcase this under-appreciated corner of the scene. The idea is to catch these Latin-based artists before they hit the festival circuit, for a pre-tour event of sorts.
"It's a show that focuses more on alternative Latin-American music -- for those [bands] that are going to South By, that stop in Dallas before." Rimach explains. This is the third (or fourth, depending on who you ask) installment of IRLA, which combines the talents of multiple Latin-influenced musical acts with artisans, fashion designers and various culinary wizards.
The term "Latin", as it relates to music, is one that is used in most places around the world, except South America. The main reason being that there are, like with rock 'n' roll, countless sub-genres within that category, that it would be misleading to refer to certain bands as such.
The problem we, as listeners, run into is the incessant need to hone in on certain, sometimes less relevant, attributes of a band, (ex. ethnic background) and allow that to guide our opinions of their music before we ever give it a chance. By doing so, we tend to limit ourselves within the parameters of our musical comfort zones.
SuperSonic Lips guitarist, Saulo Ramon explains, "When you say 'Latin band,' the thing that comes to mind for a lot of people is Santana. It doesn't necessarily have to be in Spanish, it's just the vibe of the music."
While some may look at this generic label as a roadblock of sorts, drummer Jawdat Anguiano takes a more measured look at things. "I don't think it hinders us musically," he argues. "What it does do is it puts a certain label on us that we feel we don't really fit into."
That being said, both Mayta and the SuperSonic Lips agreed that they are beyond proud of their heritage and acknowledge its influence on the music they play. However, both bands are adamant that the Latin label does not define who they are as musicians. Citing everything from Afro-Cuban and Cumbia to prog and pyschedelic rock, both bands also reported that Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and even early Brian Eno were among those who had a heavy impact on their creative styles.
Possibly the most exciting aspect of this Saturday's IRLA show is the fact that while all musical acts share Latin-American roots, they are all so strikingly diverse.
For example, show openers the SuperSonic Lips have a distinct, electro-pop, indie-rock vibe, featuring the Karen-O channeling front-woman Yaya Lion, that is sure to do much more than get the party started. The SuperSonic Lips, with the production help of Son of Stan's Jordan Richardson, will be releasing an EP called Grey Space later this year. (Spoiler Alert: They will be playing many of the new tracks at the IRLA event this weekend.)
Alternatively, Mayta zeroes in on a more traditionally Peruvian, folk-infused, indie-rock format. But while it is sung primarily in Spanish, Mayta's sound transcends language barriers and allows listeners to genuinely understand the music on a much deeper, almost primal level. Oh, and percussionist Bryan Gonzalez can and will rock a theremin.
The other musical acts set to perform at this year's Indie Rock Latin America festival will be coming from well outside the confines of Dallas, making this a great opportunities for locals to appreciate a diverse sampling. Those artists include headliner Chancha Via Circuito and Pommez Internacional (both of whom are from Argentina) as well as Making Movies from Kansas City.
But as the name of the festival itself suggests, the goal is to take some seemingly simple and familiar ideas (like, say, "indie rock") and open doors to a more nuanced understanding of them. Maybe then we'll also appreciate how much more there is to "Latin music" than mere stereotypes.
As Rimach puts it, "It's easier here in the States to just use the label of 'Latin music' to start a good conversation." Here's hoping it works.
INDIE-ROCK LATIN AMERICA with Chancha Via Circuito, Pommez Internacional, Mayta, Making Movies and Supersonic Lips takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at Club Dada, 2720 Elm St., $10/$15 at the door.
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