The dead will dance this Friday, October 30, when Kinky, Bomba Estéreo, La Santa Cecilia, and Chicano Batman head the third annual Día de los Muertos Celebration at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Joined by Conjunto Zacamandu and DJ Carlos Niño, the lineup will feature some of the most innovative, daring, and groundbreaking Latin acts of the moment. Here’s a look at three of them.
The members of Kinky are known for being electronic music pioneers, and in 2015 they pushed the envelope yet again by unplugging their electronic instruments. Using bicycle spokes, trash cans, and toy machine guns, the Monterrey, Mexico‒based band pushed boundaries into almost avant-garde territory in its quest to try new things — hence the band name. “Kinkys are very exploring, very experimenting, and that’s what we love to do,” said keyboardist Ulises Lozano.
The band has gained worldwide acclaim for straddling and intermixing musical and cultural borders. They are currently working on new material inspired by the more melodic approach offered through their MTV Unplugged performances. “Of course we love our electronica, but we will enhance it with what we have learned from Unplugged,” Lozano said, adding that “always expanding, always being open to new stuff” has given the band such longevity.
“We are celebrating life and death, and we are happy to be able to be a part of a cycle,” Lozano said of the upcoming performance at the Bowl. With a song like “Despues del After,” about the big party that awaits in the afterlife, Kinky will get all kinds of bones shaking with its techno-funk grooves.
La Santa Cecilia
The video for La Santa Cecilia’s newest single, “Calaverita,” is 100 percent Día de los Muertos, with the skeletally painted band members playing their instruments from inside coffins. They’re a group that’s always had a close relationship to the spirits of the dead, said percussionist Miguel “Oso” Ramirez. “This is a beautiful tradition for us to practice every year,” he said, mentioning the multiple times they have played at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and the altars the four members have built for bygone loved ones.
Traditional but vibrantly, unabashedly new with the loud, bright colors to prove it, the Grammy-winning La Santa Cecilia is one of the most buzzed-about acts to emerge from L.A. in recent years. Blending the Latin and Afro-Cuban folk music with the styles and bravado of rock ’n’ roll, they’re a band proudly proclaiming their place in the new century as hybridizing innovators with firm respect for the past.
La Santa Cecilia is most powerful in its ability to use classical sounds to approach contemporary issues, such as immigration on its megahit “El Hielo (ICE).” “All of us are either immigrants or children of immigrants, and we were living that firsthand,” Rodriguez said. Their upcoming album, Buenaventura, will feature songs on the 2014 mass kidnapping in Iguala, Mexico, and on police brutality. “It’s important for us to tell those stories,” Rodriguez explained. “We never started out as a group that had political intentions; I think we feel more so that if we don’t say something, we don’t know if someone else is going to.”
Rodriguez said that the spirit of their Día de los Muertos show will be a celebration of life and death alike. “We want to honor the dead by being joyful and grateful for the life we have by dancing and feeling and singing as much as we possibly can.”
Chicano Batman looks and sounds as if it’s made up of time travelers from the Summer of Love or ’70s Brazil, visiting our era to teach the world about love and revolution through the power of music. “We’re all of us caught up in the rat race, and as musicians we’re trying to get out of that. Playing music and being creative as an artist is part of that process and trying to liberate your mind,” said lead vocalist Bardo Martinez, mentioning greats like Bob Marley and John Lennon.
This year has been the most mind-opening yet for the band; they’ve reached a wider audience than ever before, first touring with Jack White and then appearing at Coachella. The group worked independently, securing all shows with the help of a small management team and without any major representation. “We’re proud of a lot of the things we’ve accomplished this year with the resources we’ve had,” guitarist Carlos Arévalo said.
The members of Chicano Batman, in their revolutionary spirit, hope to overthrow the old molds that have so long oppressed the underrepresented. “The name Chicano Batman itself comes from the legacy of the struggle of people trying to get a piece of the pie. But the pie is bad, folks; we gotta find a new way of living,” Martinez said. “I think we all have to don a new mask.”
The Santa Barbara Bowl’s Día de los Muertos takes place Friday, October 30. Doors open at 4 p.m. See sbbowl.com for more information.