“The story or prophecy says at one point there were no borders, and the condor and the eagle were united. Around the time of colonization, when the land began to be divided, the condor went towards the south and eagle went towards the north. Now we’re in the cycle where the prophecy says that we’re coming back together as we go back to our traditional ways”, explains Beny Esguerra, Bogotá-born, Toronto-based spoken words artist and arts educator.
As one of the artists selected to showcase at Montreal Mundial 2016, Esguerra is describing how he seeks to bring together indigenous traditions from both North and South America in his music.
Over 300 delegates from all over Canada as well as other lands participated in Mundial’s four-day whirlwind of musical discovery curated around the theme of a “world without borders” which included a concert by Esguerra and about 30 other artists as well as the Aboriginal Sounds concert series highlighting the music of Canada’s First Nations artists.
It was fascinating to witness the role that music will play in the current indigenous arts resurgence, as nations such as Canada evolve through a period of “truth telling and reconciliation” in response to the harm experienced by Aboriginal people and the need for continued healing.
We also had a chance to chat with artists from the Aboriginal Sounds series as well as several of the Latino artists who showcased at Mundial Montreal. Those conversations highlighted an experiential convergence between First Nations Artists and immigrant-descendant Latino artists. For example, we discovered how Métis artist Moe’ Clark’s song “Butterfly Ashes”, a homage to the missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada references the migratory patterns of Monarch butterflies and the paths past and present that are traveled by aboriginal women, references which echo the rich monarch butterfly and migratory references in the Mexican-American collective imagination.
To hear in one long weekend both the music of First Nations artists at Mundial Montreal as well as a variety of Latino artists highlighted the eclectic ways they are envisioning a post-colonial present in which the condor and the eagle may once again fly together.
Here are some of our favorite musical moments of artists from the Aboriginal Series and Latino artists showcasing at Mundial. You can also check the music and conversations with Moe Clark, Beny Esquerra, the Villalobos brothers and Mariachi Ghost on Beat Latino’s recaps of Mundial Montreal 2016.
Colombian spoken words artist Beny Esguerra leads the 13-piece New Tradition ensemble, uniting elements from the indigenous music of both North and South America. In the ensemble, Esguerra plays percussion as well as a 2000-year old instrument called the Kulsi flute of the Kogi people of Colombia. He also brings in vocals and instruments such as the hand drum from North American indigenous traditions, stitching all of this together with incisive rap and rhymes.
Multidisciplinary Métis artist Moe Clark layered singing and spoken word to create trance-inducing sonic landscapes rooted in Treaty 7 soil. Clark presented songs from her latest album Within which builds upon stories and truth-telling much like an “archeological dig”, which included a hauntingly beautiful interpretation of “Butterfly Ashes” incorporating throat singing.
Argentinian La Yegros’ family hails from the rainforests of northern Argentina (bordering Brazil), La Yegros seamlessly combines tropical music, folklore, and reggae with the occasional middle-Eastern bent into an explosive new cumbia that bridges the past and present of Latin American music in a supremely danceable groove.
Winnipeg’s The Mariachi Ghost was formed in 2009 by filmmaker and visual artist Jorge Requena. The eight-member ensemble fuses traditional Mexican song, progressive rock in dramatic dance-laden tableaus created by dancer Alexandra Garrido, taking their cues from Requena’s graphic novel writer background and Mexican legends such as that of the Charro Negro, a mythical figure who sought to bring justice to the oppressed.
Logan Staats is a guitar and harmonica player, vocalist and story-teller blessed with a haunting, distinctive voice. The Mohawk, Turtle Clan singer songwriter was born on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Now focusing on his solo project, Staats is the lead singer also of the Ghost Town Orchestra, given the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Award in 2014. Staat’s heart-rending ballads such as “Running like a River” show his promise as a romantic troubadour, and we look forward to his sophomore album, set to be released in 2017, “Set Myself on Fire Just to Keep you Warm”.
From Xalapa, Mexico, New York City-based trio of violinist Villalobos Brothers (Ernesto, Alberto and Luis) blend elements of jazz, classical and Mexican folk. Their first album, Aliens of Extraordinary Ability album’s name makes reference to the artist visas that the three brothers received to come to the USA. The band veers wildly and with unmitigated enthusiasm from Irish tunes to Veracruz jarocho tunes, weaving in different genres into a vivid musical tapestry with a heavy Mexican folk music motif that uplifts the spirit.
This year, the Stingray Rising Stars award at Mundial Montreal was given to Boogat, a Canadian hip hop artist of Mexican and Paraguayan background. Using programmed and live instrumentation, Boogat’s melodic rapping incorporates cumbia, reggaeton and other Latin genres. Having returned to Montreal after living in Mexico City for several years, Boogat has acquired a new and vibrant je-ne-se-quois, and accompanied by a complete band with an extraordinary trumpet/trombone player, he shared a loose and vital musical blend that suits him well.
Rooted in Son Jarocho tradition, Las Cafeteras´ genre-bending sound tells the stories of immigrant life, Los Angeles-style. Las Cafeteras have been using their music to tell new and different stories about the Latin/Mexican American/Chicano community since they were formed in Los Angeles in 2008. They have become renowned for live shows that are imbued with an energy that is fiercely compelling, as well as a long-standing history of social justice-impulsed artivism. Multi instrumentalist and vocalist Daniel Jesus French, one of the band’s co-founders, noted that as a person of Chicano as well as Mohawk ancestry (with relatives in the Montreal area) he was keenly aware of the connections between First Nations peoples and immigrant-descendants and a long-standing common struggle to decolonize fossilized thought patterns, which seemed to us another auspicious omen that the condor and the eagle will soon be flying together again.