Must Hear is CBC World Music’s ongoing series dedicated to sharing the talents of singular artists from around the globe.
Sometimes those singular artists come from close to home. And in this case, chosen by someone close to home, too – Tracy Jenkins, programming director at Lula Lounge, one of Canada’s leading venues for world music concerts (and partying).
As for the artist, it’s Café Con Pan, who specialize in Son Jarocho music – you might have seen/heard a Q&A with Café Con Pan not too long ago on the site. But in this Must Hear, Jenkins brings an outside perspective to why this Canadian/Mexican band is one you should hear.
Listen to Café Con Pan perform "Canto Castizo."
Q: What was it about Café Con Pan that first struck you?
A: With the exception of "La Bamba," I don't think that I had ever heard Son Jarocho music before hearing Café Con Pan, so the genre itself was new to me. Café Con Pan evokes a very specific part of the world and somehow gives you a feeling for what people's lives there must be like. Although on first listen the music seems very simple, I find it extremely powerful, especially when performed live. There is something about the purity and honesty of the voices and instrumentation that really brings home the fragility of life and how art and love make everything possible. While the lyrics completely stand on their own as poetry, the idea of savouring the sweetness of life, the countryside and song comes across through just voices and jarana, the small guitar that is traditionally used to play this music.
Q: Why is Café Con Pan important?
A: Alec and Kali [founders of Café Con Pan] are important because through their music (as well as research, visual art and educational projects) they are helping to keep alive a very specific form of music. While there has been a resurgence of interest in Son Jarocho music in recent years, many of the masters of the genre are dead or quite old and there [are] no or very minimal recordings of their work. Alec has done some work to record, and document through his visual art many of these older artists. By working with Son Jarocho masters, contemporary U.S.-based artists like La Marisoul and players from other musical traditions, Alec and Kali are breathing new life into this fascinating musical form.
Q: What do you think people should listen for?
A: As in pretty much all music from South America, Son Jarocho music has traces of indigenous, Spanish and African elements. It's really interesting how well the Iranian tar fits in so perfectly on some of the tracks on Café Con Pan's album, Nuevos Caminos a Santiago. Many of the songs are in décima, traditional 10 line format. In a live performance situation, these lines would often be improvised and, like in rap, sometimes used to compete or best other singers.
Q: What's your favourite memory so far with Café Con Pan?
A: Earlier in the year, Jose Ortega, artistic director of Lula, and Alec were part of a visual art show in London presented by Sunfest. Alec and Kali had been invited to perform at the reception after the art exhibit. Later we were all invited to the home of a friend of Sunfest director Alfredo Caxaj for an after, after-party party with four or five Latin American couples. Songs from Chile, Guatemala, Ecuador, Venezuela and Mexico were sung for at least a couple of hours more. By 2 a.m. we were all feeling pretty exhausted. Kali said that she was tired and joked that unless there was some tequila that she had to go back to the hotel. The host sprung to his feet and ran to get his hidden stash of super special tequila. That must have been some very good tequila because Kali sang for another hour with renew[ed] vigour, and by the time we left had every man in the room completely at her feet in love. Alec was about six feet away, playing jarana and smiling but with his eyes almost closed. Every few minutes someone would yell at him "Solo!" and he would jump up as if woken from a dream, play an energetic burst then sink back into the couch, eyes half shut again until the next request.
Q&A: Café con Pan on new album, and loving Son Jarocho
Quique Escamilla’s top 10 Mexican tunes
Q&A with Lila Downs: Carnality and the church
Café Con Pan's website
on Jun 22, 2012