Let It Floja
Quilombo Arte’s deep lineup features Cambio’s second solo album and Mexico City’s Bocafloja.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
People use music to motivate a workout, to lift up the spirit, to allay sorrow, to set a mood, to lull shoppers. The stacked hip-hop performers at Giovane’s on Friday, under the banner of Quilombo Arte, use music – a bevy of beats, samples, guitar, bass and words – as a political tool. But don’t write this off as message music.
“Good music is always first, then the message,” says Mike Fernandez, aka Cambio, the MC of local hip-hop band Para la Gente. “Tupac, Fela Kuti, Bob Marley – they always said that.”
The show will thundershower audiences with spoken word artists spittin’ poetry and prose to the funk and soul strains of DJ Mike, Seaside/San Jose power-to-the-people rap-reggae crew Realization, local soul singer and PLG collaborator Shannon Michele, Mexico City hip-hop sensation Bocafloja and headliners Para la Gente.
Cambio describes Boca as Mexico’s Mos Def or Talib Kweli – an MC who welds intelligence to urgent social and political issues like racism and colonialism. Boca (his “government name” is Aldo Villegas) founded Quilombo Arte in 2005 to harness the cultural force of hip-hop in gatherings and shows that rally for the liberation of the young and oppressed. (“Quilombo” refers to the Africans and indigenous people who escaped slavery in the West Indies and South America and formed their own free colonies.) It’s an enormous movement in his native Mexico, drawing thousands to musical symposiums; here in the States, it’s rooted in underground culture and leftist politics, but has got powerful proponents and members like political hip-hop duo Dead Prez – and Cambio, who imported the concept after touring with Boca and joining the growing collective.
Friday’s show serves as California’s first Quilombo Arte showcase and a release party for Cambio’s second solo album, Or Does It Explode?, named after the Langston Hughes poem “Dream Deferred.”
The prolific Bocafloja has released an album a year since going solo in 2002, and can draw from a deep discography of jams that possess samples and original music that Fat Joe or Wu Tang Clan would be happy to get their hands on. His song “Es Posible,” featuring Navegante, sounds like disco making out with funk in back of a lowrider.
Para la Gente (with the Weekly’s Zachary Stahl on bass), the official backing band of Quilombo Arte, recently released their album People Living Growing and toured Mexico – including a Quilombo anniversary show with Boca. Their organic brand of live hip-hop includes cuts like “Leaders of the New New School” (a play on Busta Rhymes’ old group), which starts with a tidal swell of staccato guitar riffs and blasts of organ and horns, joined by a lively beat and punctuated by Santana-like guitar licks, on top of which guest MC Alex Lee and Cambio trade verses. Lee also shows up in the slick song “Synth Love.”
“‘Synth Love’ is a new direction for PLG,” says Cambio. “It’s kind of soul music with today’s influences. We’re definitely starting to know our sound.” And staying on mission.
“The goal [of Quilombo Arte] is to expose marginalized youth to international hip-hop – from Cuba, Mexico City, Brazil. We address issues of poverty, drugs, broken homes, gangs. It’s not a clock-in/clock-out thing, it’s an every day hustle.”
Friday’s 18-and-over show goes a long way in addressing those issues. But PLG and Boca go further: the next day they do an all-ages music/youth empowerment workshop in Watsonville. That one’s free for the people.
QUILOMBO ARTE takes place 8pm Friday, Nov. 13, at Giovane’s, 348 San Juan Grade Road, Salinas. 444-6717, www.myspace.com/paralagente. $7. The music workshop takes place 6pm Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Bike Shack, 555 Main St., Watsonville. Free. 206-1438.