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Hispanic Heritage

Café Tacuba

Cafe Tacuba

Rock en Español, Worldbeat
Formed c. 1990, in Mexico City, Mexico
Based in Mexico City, Mexico

Members: Anonymous, vocals; Emmanuel del Real, keyboards; Joselo Rangel, guitar; Enrique Rangel, bass. (All members are from Mexico.)

Café Tacuba, one of the leading bands of Mexico's "rocanrol" movement, have managed to reinvent rock music to suit their own needs, something that's evaded British and American bands for decades. In the process they've become demi-Gods in Mexico and may become the first Mexican "alterlatino" band to cross over to the U.S. market without singing in English. Named after a local hangout that was once the Mecca for mestizo (Mexican, Indian, and North American) culture, Café Tacuba began as a series of all-night discussions between four friends who had gathered to solve the problems of the world. One night they discussed the way Mexican rock was being shaped by what U.S. and U.K. bands were doing. The inspiration was coming down from the record companies and radio stations, not up from the streets, and despite Mexico's immense musical and cultural diversity, no rock band had ever built their sound on the various styles of Mexican folk music. That's the task Café Tacuba set for itself. The band "went acoustic" and began cranking out tunes based on traditional motifs. The group's eponymous 1992 debut rocked the nation and in '94 it released Re, a 20-song collection that went even deeper into its roots. Re was a success, even though it lacked a "pop" flavor. Tacuba's most recent outing, Avalancha de Exitos (Avalanche of Hits), which has become one of the first Latin rock albums to break onto the playlists of Anglo radio stations, showed the band moving in a new, more eclectic direction. The songs are all covers of well-known Latin American hits, arranged in settings that combine techno, tango, rock, cumbia, ska, bolero, punk, huapango, Tejano, and more.

By covering well-known tunes and recasting them in a variety of Latin American forms on Avalancha de Exitos (WEA Latina, 1997, prod. Café Tacuba), Café Tacuba has created a worldbeat sound based on the Latin continuum, thereby breaking new stylistic ground. It's a major creative leap for the band's members, but their chops have muscle to spare and every track is a little gem. Re (WEA Latina, 1994, prod. Café Tacuba) is slightly less eclectic, but still impressive. For the band to move away from the hard-core sound of its debut and take on the Mexican folk tradition was a real risk, but the result has created a revolution in Mexico's rock underground.

Source: MusicHound World: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 2000.

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