Cybertropic Chilango Power
Los de Abajo
The Underdogs of Chilango City
Chilango (n.) – chee LONGO – Hispanics – Specifically Mexico City inhabitants. People from Mexico’s provinces use it as an insult denoting a lazy, tricky, cheating person from the big city. Seen on bumper stickers: “Haz Patria, Mata Un Chilango” (Make Mexico great, kill a Chilango).
Los de Abajo came together in 1992, formed by Carlos Cuevas (keyboard), Yocupitzio Arrellano (drummer), Liber Terán (vocals) and Vladimir Garnica (guitar). They initially had a Latin-ska sound in mind, but as their ranks expanded, they soon began hosting high-energy gigs at various ersatz clubs and spaces in Mexico City’s largely improvised rock scene.
They soon found however, that they were outside the emerging network for bands. ‘We learned that the only way to survive was to do it ourselves, through our people and our own roots, forgetting about the glamour, and making our way as musicians.’
They began playing political events as well as parties. As drummer and founding member Yocupitzio Arrellano puts it, ‘the context in which we developed was this – injustice, neglect for the poor, and lack of avenues for free expression’.
They take their name from a classic novel about the Mexican Revolution, and they fervently believe that change comes from below. “Of course, the ideas had an influence on the music,” says Yocu. “This became the most punk and radical thing: combining our sentiments with the strength and heat of Afro-Latin rhythms.”
We were always looking to translate our ideas into scenery, theatre and installation’, says Yocu. The diversity of ideas and concepts was such that no record company could get the entire picture, so they went DIY, recorded two cassettes that spread through Mexico City’s rock underground, and toured throughout the Republic.
Luaka Bop first heard of Los de Abajo when the band sent some demos to the label’s New York office. ‘They were already a pretty exciting combination of rock energy, salsa, reggae and cumbia. We then asked to see what they were like live and were sent a video of the band performing at a union party in a huge outdoor shed-type deal – they were playing their salsafied rock and the audience was pogoing, moshing and jumping around like mad,’ explains David Byrne.
Luaka Bop went down and hung out with the band in Mexico City, at a rehearsal in a makeshift space on the outskirts of town and subsequently Los de Abajo were signed.
‘The group is a bit of an anomaly in the Mexican alterno-Latin scene, as they don’t really come out of being a punk band or a reggae/ska band … they come out of political commitment and activism. So, although they do play at a lot of the same clubs as the other groups like Molotov, El Gran Silencio and Furia, their roots are different’, says Byrne.
Los de Abajo endeavour to present Mexico in its crazy-quilt glory. ‘We’re not a mosaic, but a kaleidoscope of Mexican life.’
Los de Abajo
Liberty – the power to be who you want to be. I don’t want to be Superman, or some guy on the cover of the latest glossy magazine. I want to be me, the way that I am now. I want to be respected for who I am, and not have to be discriminated against for the colour of my skin, or my accent or my body structure.
Identity – is knowing who you are. And that’s what this is all about – our Mexican identity. We are indefinable as a people. Our blood is restless, because we are the bastard children of a forced marriage between Jesús and Coyolxauqui. We have a demented uncle named Sam, and our brother is Emiliano. On one side of the Rio Grande we are ilegales and on the other we aliens. Aliens in our own country.
Equality – is something the West likes to talk about a lot but there are just four words to describe it – We Are All Equal.
There are no güeyes better than others
Being equal is not a given right; it’s just common sense
You step on the same grass, sit on the same chair as Bush
He eats, he drinks, he shits, just like you and me
Why should we accept that there are some who think they are better than us?
And when the day comes, where alien invaders land on earth
They’re not going to say: ‘This one is black, and this one is white.’
They’re going to see a bunch of humans
That’s all, that’s all, we’re all just human
We’re all just human.
Chilango City, September 2011
| 1. De a cinco
2. Que Mala Suerte
3. El Loco
5. Si Existe Ese Lugar
6. Malam soleil
7. Sr. Judas
8. Matame Amor
|9. El Indio
10. Pa’ Huitzilopochtli
11. Anda Levanta
14. Vuelvo A Comenzar
16. Sin Titulo
August 14, 2001
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