Las Cafeteras is a six-piece Chicano band known for their electric performances that feature a genre-blending mix of musical styles, spoken word, and dance. They are storytellers above all else, and they often use their music as a way to share timely messages on social and political issues. The band’s website says that they “use music as a vehicle to build bridges among different cultures and communities, and create ‘a world where many worlds fit’.”
The bandmates met when taking classes at Eastside Cafe in L.A. to study son jarocho, a musical style from Veracruz, Mexico. Son jarocho combines indigenous, Spanish, and African musical elements. Jarocho was originally a derogatory word referring to African slaves and Indigenous peoples. The people of Veracruz have reclaimed the word and now use it as a proud celebration of who they are. The lively musical style uses a number of traditional instruments, including guitars and a number of unique percussion instruments.
Las Cafeteras formally became a band in 2005 and brought all of their son jarocho education with them. Their music uses son jarocho instruments, Afro-Mexican rhythms, and elements from rock, hip-hop, and Latin American dance music. This genre-blending style is uniquely Las Cafeteras. Adding on top of that their unique, passionate, and always positive storytelling sensibilities, and you have something pretty special. Representing their Chicano heritage, the band sings in a mix of English and Spanish. They have played with groups as diverse as Caifanes, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
A good introduction to the band is their remake of the popular song “La Bamba” – “La Bamba Rebelde.” The original song owes its origins to African slaves in Veracruz who sang and danced to it as they worked. The Las Cafeteras version is a celebration of Chicano pride that also makes some political statements, like an opposition to borders and a denunciation of racist laws. Las Cafeteras is embarking on a nationwide tour in celebration of the release of their second studio album, Tastes Like L.A. Their infectiously positive sophomore effort features songs of activism and songs of joyous celebration. One song from the album, “If I Was President” resulted from a social media campaign before the 2016 election.
Las Cafeteras is also active in community organization, education, and promoting civic engagement. They are indeed “agents of change” both onstage and off.