Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Roof Is On Fire

Maybe music isn’t inherently revolutionary, but you can’t tell it from listening to Kumbia Kings Live! I’ve long been a fan of the Kings seemingly effortless blend of the best qualities of today’s hit rap, r&b, reggaeton, norteno and tejano. It’s hard to imagine a band more alive, awake and responsive to the music of everyday Americans—brown being the color that just might hold this country together or transform it into something approaching its promise.

When people talk revolutionary music, they always go to lyrics, and, frankly, that’s very rarely where I hear the demand for fundamental change most clearly expressed. I hear it more than anywhere else in the force of the rhythms and the power of Chris Perez’s electric guitar (though, admittedly, that guitar rings out most clearly on the solidarity anthems “Mi Gente” and the cover of Maldita Vecindad’s “Pachuco"). And I hear it in the voices of a hundred thousand Monterrey, Mexico fans singing along with this group’s gorgeous balladry, making a sound so exultant it seems more threatening to the dog-eat-dog world outside of the arena than any actual protest might be.

And that’s just the thing made even more vivid by the accompanying DVD—the power of the joy shared by this band and these fans. This fifteen-piece crew has a backline that lays down relentless fiery rhythms and a team of frontmen who can move together like the Temptations one moment, break and pop & lock the next and fast rhyme hard enough to make Twista sweat. The showmanship clearly draws people of all ages and both genders, but no one steals the show quite like the countless teenage girls who sing along to every word and move like they’ve never felt how good it is to be alive in quite this way before.... And the revolutionary heart of music, that promise that each individual life is worth a world that acknowledges its worth, couldn’t be any more apparent than when this crowd sings “No Tengo Dinero” or “Fuego, fuego/The roof is on fire/We don’t need no water/let the motherfucker burn!”

If nothing else, the fact that the Kumbia Kings are still not a household name in white America is one reason the system is begging to be overturned.
Of course, another reason is the lack of universal health care. And what’s wrong with this system is pretty clearly expressed by the fact that musicians have to constantly throw benefits (at the tune of about a 1000 a week in the U.S.) to pay people’s medical bills. Still, that’s also one of the things so beautiful about music.

Just last week, Kansas City's premier salsa band Son Venezuela and their fans came together to raise money for a family member of a dear friend. Their statement:
Andres Fustini, a fixture of cultural exchange within the Latin American community in Kansas City, suffered a tragic stroke that left him a quadriplegic, and devastated his family.
The Fustinis have sold everything they have to try to keep up with mounting medical expenses, but it's not enough.
As members of this community, and of the greater community of Kansas City, friends of the family organized a benefit party to raise funds for this family in such great need.
Pictures from the event are below, along with a link to Son Venezuela’s web page--