Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, June 05, 2006

La Banda Gozona

I’ve always loved Sousa and marching bands in general, but it was my grandpa and Wynton Marsalis who got me really thinking about brass bands. Doesn’t matter where the band is from -- I want to hear it. Klezmer, New Orleans, Roma, India, North African -- I’ll probably like it.

And, of course, Mexico.

A couple months ago a friend brought me a CD of brass band music back from vacation in Oaxaca, and then, a little over a week ago, I finally saw other friends play Oaxacan-style brass band live. La Banda Gozona played a lively set at the Seattle Folklife Festival, full of the trad Mexican combination of 6/8 and 3/4; the rhytms whipped energy. A local group of Oaxacan women danced traditional Oaxacan dance. My friends in the band also help organize the Anti-Fascist Marching Band, which I’ve marched with, playing percussion. Brass bands make a big invigorating sound.

Mexican music hasn’t gone through a “hip” phase in the U.S.A. yet, unlike Cuban and Brazilian and Argentinian and even, to a lesser extent Peruvian. (I’m dissatisfied with the lifestyle choices Paul Simon offers in that hammer v. nail song, but he did steal a nice tune.) I don’t know why that is. I love the ardor of the singing on the Latino pop stations we get in Washington State, as if absolutely nothing else in the world would do for the singer than to say exactly what he is saying right this moment. Maybe that ardor is exactly why it hasn’t been hip. No cool eye of detachment.

* * * *

I meant to post on this but forgot -- a couple weeks ago I saw a couple Latin American buskers downtown, a singer-harmonica player who also played washtub bass, and a rhythm guitarist. When the singer wanted to emphasize something he played faster. He was mostly out of sync with the guitarist, and yet his harmonica playing was conventionally solid. But on the whole the ensemble was incompetent. And still very rich, very complex, and not at all unpleasant -- I liked them quite a lot -- their rhythmic phrasing was emphatically accented.

* * * *

Tonight before bedtime, Fingers Hilarity asked for a song on the piano, “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.” I got the old children’s songbook out and plunked through on the piano. After the song I commenced noodling, and the kid climbed into the cradle my arms form when playing the piano, then pressed his feet against one arm and pushed. It was the most emphatic audience participation I’d ever encountered -- even more than that performance in college when two friends without warning me beforehand leapt onto the stage and wrapped me in string as I played guitar and sang. That time in college I kept a stoic mask and sang my song (don’t remember the song). Tonight I cracked up.
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