Monsieur Periné — they’re zestful, dynamic, whimsical, and wonderful, and thanks to ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara!, UCSB Arts & Lectures, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, area families can hear them here for free. The vibrantly original Colombian group, which last year took home the Latin Grammy for Best New Artist, will play a series of free outreach performances intended especially for families.
For three days, venues across Santa Barbara County will be alive with Monsieur Periné’s bright suin a la colombiana, a buoyant blend of 1930s French swing and traditional Latin rhythms. The band will play first at Isla Vista School on Friday, at Guadalupe’s City Hall Auditorium on Saturday, and on Sunday at Santa Barbara Junior High’s Marjorie Luke Theatre. But that’s not all — the group will also decorate the steps of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art with its music that Sunday afternoon, where families can make art and listen to the sweet swing of Monsieur Periné along with free admission to the museum.
Singer Catalina García said she and her band are ecstatic at the opportunity to play for kids and teens, with this being their first-ever series of outreach performances in the U.S. “We are super excited. You don’t always have the opportunity to play for students, so it’s great. We’re gonna have this big opportunity to show them why art is so important,” she said in a phone interview. Besides their public performances, the band will also play exclusively for young listeners at a number of area schools and community centers during the day.
García hopes the events inspire their young listeners and instill in them a sense of the transformative, self-empowering powers of creativity. “We are from Colombia, where art is a huge tool that we have to change our reality, you know? It’s a hard country, and many kids don’t have the opportunity for the arts … The arts are tools to be free and to build how we want to live in a very poetic way,” she said.
She also expressed the band’s hopes to educate through music, and indeed, Monsieur Periné’s music is a history lesson in genres and cultural currents. García described their sound as one that honors music-makers of eras past. “To know our history, to know our cultural roots, to learn where we are from is really important,” she said. Introducing the world to their distinctive sound, which was recently featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, has enriched their own history and their connection to their homeland. “Music has been really important for growing this relationship with our country and with our continent, and also the world. When you start traveling and interacting with different cultures, then you learn how the human being is so beautiful. You can express yourself in so many ways.”
The band’s talent for weaving multiple Latin American traditions and themes into its music shows up in recent songs such as “Cempasúchil,” a collaboration with Café Tacvba singer Rubén Albarrán from 2015’s Caja de Música. The song was inspired by the band’s trip to Mexico for Día de los Muertos, where García caught sight of the cempasúchil flower, the symbolism of which she found beautiful. “It’s a really old story related to the native people of Central America and the power to communicate the energy of the sun with the dead people,” she said of the marigold. “Latin-American folk music is always sensitive about what’s going on with the people who live and who are related to the earth. Young people are not all the time engaged with talking about these traditions, so we need to keep them alive and talk about them in a different way.”
No matter your heritage or age, there will be plenty to inspire you in Monsieur Periné’s performances. “Art is a form of empowerment,” García said. “When you are empowered of yourself, then you can change your world.”
¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! presents Monsieur Periné at Isla Vista School (6875 El Colegio Rd., Goleta) on Friday, April 29, at 7 p.m.; Guadalupe City Hall Auditorium (918 Obispo St., Guadalupe) on Saturday, April 30, at 7:30 p.m.; and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1130 State St.) on Sunday, May 1, at 2:15 p.m. and Marjorie Luke Theatre (721 E. Cota St.) at 7 p.m. For more information, visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu or sbma.net.