When he thinks back to the late ‘80s and the formation of the band he would spend the next three decades with, Quique Rangel recalls an uncertain time when nothing was for sure.
When: 5:30 p.m. July 6 at Taste of Chicago
Where: Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park
Tickets: $22 (seated), free (lawn)
“There was a sense that this wasn’t going to last so we had to live it to the fullest and make the best of it,” Rangel says. “So we took every opportunity to perform. It made us work harder to make something of it and enjoy it while it lasted.”
And last it did. The band, of course, is the Grammy-winning Café Tacvba (the name was lifted from a Mexico City coffee shop), a quartet born out of the rock en espanol movement that was exploding all over Latin America. The blend of regional traditional music with rock proved to be a potent blend for bassist/singer Rangel and his band mates Ruben Albarran (lead vocals, guitar), Joselo Rangel (guitar) and Emmanuel del Real (keyboards).
Produced by their longtime collaborator, Gustavo Santaolalla, Café Tacvba’s new release “Jei Beibi” (pronounced “Hey Baby”) adds to the band’s reputation for eclectic reinvention and experimentation. Over the years, the band’s music has been influenced by traditional Mexican folk music but also by punk and ambient electronica, among other styles.
“On this record, I think the influences and sonic interpretation are much broader,” Rangel says, adding that people have told him the new album reminds them of the band’s ground-breaking 1994 album “Re,” which Rolling Stone listed as No. 1 on its 10 Greatest Latin Rock Albums of All Time.
“That record opened up for us the spectrum of possibilities in our music,” he says of “Re.” “And I think the new one reflects that we are still looking for new paths to explore.”
The new songs on “Jei Beibi” range from tropical rhythms, folk-funk and spacey psychedelic rock to pop, classic rock and even a lullaby, “El Mundo En Que Naci,” that keyboardist del Real wrote for his two young children. The album’s vibrant opener “1-2-3” is an infectious pop tune perfect for summer listing and dancing.
All four band members contributed songs to the album, which is their first release in five years. Rangel penned several including “Futuro,” a song built on cumbia beats. Inspiration came after the recent death of his mother, a loss that made him “aware of the present as the building block of the future.”
“Living in Mexico City, you cannot be distracted from the realities of living in this country,” Rangel says. “I wanted to examine eternal questions like ‘What is now, what is the future and how can we be aware of it and change?’”
As the band members head into middle age, Rangel, 47, admits that their lives as songwriters and musicians have changed (although they continue to rock as hard as they ever did). As they’ve lived their lives, gotten married, had children, lost family members, their songs have gotten richer with ideas and feelings that are universal.
“Yes, we are not young anymore. Our vision of life is much different now,” Rangel says, adding with a laugh, “I don’t know if it’s better or wiser but it’s different for sure.”
Café Tacvba has never shied away from politics and has always been aware and vocal about the political situation and other issues in Mexico that have an affect on the country’s citizens. Rangel says with the current political climate in the U.S. and the debate over immigration, it’s an important time for the band to perform here.
“Our music, like much of the music from different cultures, is a mix of influences. Our music is not one thing; it’s not pure. And I think the U.S. can be proud of not being pure but rather having all these different cultures within it. With music and with food, like at Taste of Chicago, you can see all the different cultures link together with no problems getting in the way.”
Mary Houlihan is a local freelance writer.