Alt.Latino
3:21 am
Fri December 28, 2012

Cafe Tacvba: A Legendary Mexican Rock Band Stays Fresh

Originally published on Mon March 4, 2013 11:32 am

When Cafe Tacvba first emerged in the early '90s, the band's fusion of rock and traditional Mexican styles was revolutionary for Latin music. Now, its first album in five years, El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco (The Object Formerly Known as a Disc), finds Cafe Tacvba experimenting even more with a mix of rock, folk and electronic sounds.

According to Ernesto Lechner, who writes about Latin culture for the Los Angeles Times, Latin American music in the '60s, '70s and '80s was based on what was happening in England or the U.S. Lechner says Cafe Tacvba assimilated what was happening outside Latin America, but also incorporated its members' own backgrounds. At its core, Lechner says, Cafe Tacvba is undeniably a Latino band.

There's not a lot of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll on El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco — instead, the band sings about real-life concerns, from getting older to the environment to the drug-related violence that plagues Mexico.

Cafe Tacvba is one of the few bands from the '90s Latin rock scene that's still going strong, commercially and creatively. Bassist Enrique "Quique" Rangel Arroyo says that one of the group's secrets to longevity is that its members take time to get away from each other. Then, each time they're together, they take a powerful and vital snapshot of Mexican life.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

As 2012 comes to an end, we're catching up on some music we missed. That includes the first release in five years from one of the founders of Latin rock, Mexican band Café Tacvba. NPR's Jasmine Garsd has more on the band's unique sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: That's "La Ingrata" from "Re" album, which broke Cafe Tacvba in 1994. It features the band's trademark mix of rock, ska and traditional Mexican music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA INGRATA")

GARSD: It's a humorous song about an ungrateful lover. Bassist Enrique "Quique" Rangel Arroyo says the musicians didn't realize it at the time, but their songs filled a void in the Mexican scene.

ENRIQUE RANGEL ARROYO: People who was expecting what we did in music to happen and this has started to grow and there was a voice of Mexican music, something we had to get out of our bodies.

GARSD: The band's fusion of rock and traditional Mexican music was actually quite revolutionary for Latin rock. Ernesto Lechner writes about Latin culture for the Los Angeles Times.

ERNESTO LECHNER: Even though there was some great records coming out from Latin America in the late '60s, '70s and '80s - there was some originality, there was some great songs, some great melodies, but it was based on what was happening in England and the U.S.

GARSD: Lechner recently compiled Rolling Stone magazine's list of best Latin rock albums of all time. He crowned Cafe Tacvba's "Re" number one.

LECHNER: What really struck me about listening to Cafe Tacvba the first time was that here you had a band that, yes, it assimilated everything that was happening outside, but also incorporated - I mean, at the heart of Café Tacvba's music was its ethnicity, the fact that it was a Latino band.

GARSD: Café Tacvba's celebration of Mexican culture extended to their lyrics. In their song, "Labios Jaguar" or "Jaguar Lips," they sing about leaving a rich white girlfriend for her indigenous servant.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LABIOS JAGUAR")

CAFE TACVBA: (Singing in Spanish)

GARSD: The band's newest album, its first in five years, is called "El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco" or "The Object Formally Known As A Disc." It finds Café Tacvba experimenting even more with fusing rock, folk and electronic sounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TACVBA: (Singing in Spanish)

GARSD: There's not a lot of sex, drugs and rock and roll here. Instead, the band sings about what seems to genuinely concern them, getting older, environmental consciousness and the drug-related violence that plagues Mexico today.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TACVBA: (Singing in Spanish)

GARSD: The song is called (unintelligible) which in Mexico and Central America means Vultures.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TACVBA: (Singing in Spanish)

GARSD: Cafe Tacvba is one of the few bands from the golden era of Latin rock in the '90s that's still going strong. Bassist Enrique "Quique" Rangel Arroyo says that one of the secrets to their longevity is that they take time to get away from each other.

ARROYO: Everybody has the opportunity to work with another project. All those things separates us from Café Tacvba and help us to have big picture and then the needs to get together with the band again and enjoy the pleasure to be together.

GARSD: And each time they're together, the members of Café Tacvba, as they put it, take a snapshot of what Mexicans are going through today. Jasmine Garsd, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.