I don’t mean to sound disrespectful of a band that has a serious message, but Las Cafeteras is just great, great fun - in addition to delivering a message of pride and community. Whether they are pounding out the beat on an amplified footboard in "La Bamba Rebelde", or “El Chuchumbe”, or pumping up a song with a donkey’s jawbone or getting a crowd to repeat “Si, se puede”, the six men and women that make up this quintessential Los Angeles - or EastLos as it is known here - band spread joy and pride and fun wherever they go.
Like much of LA’s Latino population – which is almost half of the city – the members of the band are immigrant children remixing roots music, telling modern day stories with what LA Times has called a “uniquely Angeleno mishmash of punk, hip-hop, beat music, cumbia and rock.”
Live onstage, whether it is in a big venue like the El Rey or a community park bandshell, they attract a diverse audience that rocks and laughs and whistles and has a fun. Even though their music is heavily influenced by instrumentation and indigenous music forms from Mexico and Africa, they are totally accessible to gringo audiences steeped in rock and blues and rap. As they say on their website, they don’t know borders - they cross musical borders. They’ve played with bands such as folk/indie favorites Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Mexican icons Cafe Tacuba, Colombian superstar Juanes, L.A. legends Ozomatli, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and Talib Kweli.
But beyond the fun, they are a milestone in the history of America’s second largest city that is now its musical center. They are a leading edge of the American Latin Music (ALM) movement, blending not only Latin and classic North American music forms, but those from Africa, reflecting the polyglot of this sprawling city – a polyglot that mostly gets along, especially when music is involved. Like their forbearers, Los Lobos and Ozomotli, and LA contemporaries like La Santa Cecelia, Irene Diaz and Chicano Batman, they bring together audiences of all races and cultures who see something of themselves in the chaotic joy Las Cafeteras brings to the stage. More importantly, audiences see much they like in the other cultures on display and around them on stage, in the seats and on the dance floor. Las Cafeteras truly knows no borders. I am delighted that they will return to Music FridayLive! this week and catch us up on the new borders they have been crossing.