Las Cafeteras fuses Latin, urban folk and worldbeat

“Magnetic” band from East L.A. makes only Montana stop Jan. 19 at the O’Shaughnessy Center

On Stage

The Whitefish Theatre Company presents Las Cafeteras, a dynamic ensemble of musicians known for their bold fusion of traditional Latin American folk rhythms with the attitude of urban worldbeat, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish. The family-friendly concert is full of music, dance, and fun.

Hailing from East L.A., Las Cafeteras are taking the music scene by storm with their urban folk sound, which remixes traditional Son Jarocho style music from Veracruz, Mexico, with Afro-Caribbean, folk, hip-hop, and pop sounds. The band brings this vibrant musical fusion to life with eclectic world instruments like the West African marimbol and cajón, Spanish stringed jaranas and requintos, and Latin American quijada, or donkey jawbone.

As part of their edgy, cross-genre sound, Las Cafeteras integrates inspiring lyrics as well as zapateado dancing, a form of Latin American tap marked by rhythmic stomping of the feet. The BBC has praised the ensemble for creating “urgent, relevant music” and their infectious live performances have been called “magnetic” by the Los Angeles Times.

Las Cafeteras formed as a band in 2008 with the purpose of documenting the histories of their neighborhoods through music. They started as students of the Eastside Café, a Zapatista-inspired community space in East Los Angeles where they were influenced by the culture, storytelling, and poetic music of Son Jarocho, the centuries-old tradition from Veracruz.

Their Afro-Mexican beats, rhythms, and rhymes – sung in English and Spanish – deliver inspiring lyrics and stories about a community seeking love, joy, and justice in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. With their uplifting spirit, Las Cafeteras uses music as a vehicle to build bridges among different cultures and communities, demonstrating that while the struggle for peace and equality is a serious matter, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good time along the way.

The band’s seven musicians each plays several instruments. Daniel French sings and plays the jarana segundo and keys; Jose Cano plays the drums, cajón, Native American flute, and harmonica; Denise Carlos sings and plays the jarana primera and glockenspiel; Hector Flores sings and plays the jarana tercera; Chrisol Lomeli sings and plays the quijada; Gloria Estrada plays the bass; and Xocoyotzin Moraza plays the requinto jarocho. Both Denise and Hector also perform zapateado tap in several of their songs, adding an intricate layer of percussion with their fast footwork.

Over the past decade, Las Cafeteras have demonstrated that in art, as in life, borders are meant to be crossed. They have collaborated with folk/indie darlings Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Mexican icons Cafe Tacuba, Caifanes, and Lila Downs, Los Angeles legends Ozomatli, Colombian pop star Juanes, singer and songwriter John Legend, hip-hop activist Talib Kweli, and even the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Las Cafeteras have brought their infectious energy, positive spirit and inspirational messages to rapturous audiences at Lincoln Center in New York, Montreal Jazz Fest, Art Basel in Miami, WOMAD in the United Kingdom, and SXSW in Austin, among many other high-profile venues.

Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students with reserved seating, and may be purchased at the Box Office, 1 Central Ave., Whitefish, by calling 406-862-5371, or online at