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Los De Abajo interview – Latin American ska bursts out from below

This article is over 13 years, 7 months old
Canek Cabrera, the lead singer of Mexican band Los De Abajo, spoke to Viv Smith about their new album Actitud Calle
Issue 2219
Los de Abajo—no borders Mexican fusion with a political kick
Los de Abajo—no borders Mexican fusion with a political kick

Actitud Calle means “street attitude”—why are the streets important?

A lot of life happens on the streets in Latin America. Actitud Calle is a reminder that the streets become a platform in such turbulent times.

It celebrates the urban rhythms and sounds we have heard in every street we have walked down all over our beloved globe. It’s a non-borders fusion.

Our society’s “rulers” have appropriated almost everything, but the streets belong to us. They are a place for us to consciously express ourselves.

Where does the band’s name come from?

It was adopted from Mariano Azuela’s novel “Los de Abajo” [Those from below], which was written after his experience in the 1910 Mexican revolutionary movement.

The world has developed unequally and this causes conflict. As musicians we can’t ignore that. But we also enjoy making music for the pleasure of it.

How does traditional Mexican music influence your work?

We love to mix music styles. We grew up listening to these on the streets, on the radio, at home and on the bus to school and work.

Some of us are inclined to salsa or Cuban music, some to the Son Jarocho—folk music from the eastern province Veracruz. Others like Tambora Sinaloense, which originated in the north west province Sinaloa, and Cumbia—originally from Colombia.

What role can music play in the struggles of the oppressed?

Music can work as a universal medicine for the soul. But it’s up to artists if they want to use their music as a means of protest or social participation, we respect their decision.

In our case it is almost mandatory. The world’s problems are too many and the solutions given by those who hold power too few.

In Mexico the salaries given to politicians are insulting when compared to the wages of ordinary workers. Most politicians are not willing to change this situation. The resources are there—better distribution would help so many.

It would be insulting to those who are suffering not to bring their message to the rest of the world.

You’ve done benefits for the Zapatistas in the past. Are you still active in political campaigns?

Yes. We worked with other performers to demand the release of the leaders of the Atenco movement that sprung up against plans for a new airport.

The federal government decided to expropriate land from several municipalities including Atenco.

The people established El Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra—the front of towns in defence of their land.

In May 2006 a violent encounter took place. The police repressed the protest, and committed a series of documented human rights violations.

The protest leaders were jailed, but in July they were freed by the Supreme Court.

What do you think of the world financial crisis?

It’s shocking. It’s simply unfair that we have to pay for the wrong decisions of a tiny group driven by greed.

The defenders of the free market are still reluctant to accept stronger regulations.

To take decisions based on numbers, to speculate with our lives, is a huge abuse of power.

What is the situation of Mexican immigrants in the US?

The US government has decided to put 1,200 soldiers along the border with Mexico under the pretext of preventing criminal groups entering the US.

This has raised fears about immigrants being abused further.

It is only a minority of the population that does not recognise the importance of immigrants.

Most immigrants are there as a result of social and economic conditions.

People don’t see another option than to leave their country and families in order to make a living. They put their lives at risk and many lose them in the attempt.

What do you think about Hillary Clinton’s proposal that the US prepare a Mexican version of the Colombian anti-drug programme?

It is not a surprise. US interference in the political life and affairs of other countries has been a signature of their foreign policy.

The US would like to take advantage of the critical situation in Mexico in order to extend their control in the region, which is what happened in Colombia.

Los de Abajo’s new album Actitud Calle is out on 4 October on Wrasse Records

For more on the band go to their website

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