Las Cafeteras are Chicano musicians and activists born and raised east of the Los Angeles river. Las Cafeteras create a vibrant musical fusion with a unique East LA sound and positive message. Their Afro-Mexican beats, rhythms, and rhymes deliver inspiring lyrics that document stories of a community seeking love and justice in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. Using traditional Son Jarocho instruments like the jarana, requinto, quijada (donkey jawbone) and tarima (a wooden platform), Las Cafeteras sing in English, Spanish, and Spanglish and tell human stories that cross cultural divides, inspire listeners to embrace love and bridge racial and ethnic divides with energizing and joyful dance music. Las Cafeteras do not believe in boarders! Yo No Creo em Fronteiras!
Las Cafeteras plays dance music that is uplifting and fun but all of you are committed social activists. How does your politics come through your music?
All of the band members have been friends for a long time- Jose and Denise went to college together. Hector knows Denise since college, a lot of activism together inspired by Zapatista movement. How do you break down the walls of racism, sexism, xenophobia? Through stories! Stories are not that different. Sharing stories allows us to see each other’s humanity. We are families first, friends second, organizers third, and musicians fourth. If the music isn’t rooted in authenticity, love, community, family, then what are you singing about? I was an organizer for young people through Inner the City Circle organization for eight years. Young people are the most honest. If they don’t like you, you’ll know. Play for sixth graders. If you can get them moving, you know you’re good. Being an organizer is about building relationships. You have 15-30 seconds to let someone know how sincere you are as a person and show your genuine nature so that someone will listen to you and share with you. We bring that to the music word. Same connection.
Your music is very eclectic. Tell us about the various musical influences that come together in your sound.
We’re a band you’ve got to see live. There’s interaction, dancing, clapping, call and response. There’s a lot of engagement. If you want to sit down and listen to a virtuoso, go see Yo-Yo Ma. We’re LA kids so we’re across the spectrum. Denise loves romanticas but she was brought up on Riot Girl music and Fiona Apple. Hector and Frenchie grew up hip hop, Motown, salsa, cumbia, ska. Our music is rooted in traditional Son Jarocho music, a 400 year old musical tradition from Vera Cruz, Mexico, but we are from the States and incorporate all those other influences. The raw rustic real nature of this music drew us. It’s about surviving in rural Mexico, the elements, animals— it drew us. Call and response, stringed instruments, dancing, poetry. Check out our KXP Live album— the NEW one.
Your sound is upbeat and hopeful. How do you maintain high spirits in these times of mass deportations and disparagement of the Latino community?
Because we are revolutionaries. We come from a country that’s about building something new. Love in a time of division and hate is a revolutionary act. Anyone showing love and taking care of their families is a revolutionary. There is a lot of stuff out there that highlights division. But we are about bringing people together who don’t know each other. Stars only shine in the dark. We got to shine. We were prepared for this moment. I am not a great musician. We are a theatrical musical ensemble and we do so many things. We’re humble folks and know what we do well, and that’s bring people together and make them dance. You want to sit down and see a virtuoso, go see Yo-Yo Ma. There’s an African proverb- if you can walk you can dance, if you can talk you can sing. Music is for everybody. Just because we’re on stage doesn’t mean that we’re the only ones who can do it.
Las Cafeteras are: Leah Rose Gallegos, Jose Guadalupe Cruz Cano, Denise Carlos, David Jesus Flores, Hector Paul Flores, Daniel Joel Jesus French, Gloria Estrada, and Jorge Mijangos.
Las Cafeteras will be performing at Michigan Theater through the University of Michigan Musical Society on Wednesday, February 20th at 7:30pm
For tickets: ums.org/performance/las-cafeteras/
For more information, visit lascafeteras.com