The Revolution Will Be Telenovelavised & It Will Be Fun To Dance To!
Hey guys…the Gringa Novelera here! Until my interview with Daniel French of the band Las Cafeteras, I had no idea how much we had in common! After all, I do not know how to play the Quijada, which is a percussion instrument made of the jaw of a burro without the burro but with his teeth. And I’d never have the nerve to dance Zapateado on the Tarima, which is a style of dancing on a raised wooden platform, mainly because I have no idea how to dance like that, and even if I did, I’d be afraid I’d fall off. But as usual, whenever we’re talking about las telenovelas, we always have much more that unites us than divides us!
Las Cafeteras is leading a revolution with positive energy, a message of acceptance for all of us, and fantastic music! Their motto “Yo no creo in fronteras!” (“I don’t believe in borders!”) sounds more relevant every day. And most important, their song “La Bamba Rebelde” is the theme song for the new telenovela coming muy pronto to Telemundo, Bajo El Mismo Cielo!
If you don’t know Las Cafeteras yet, you will want to once you hear their music! Like everyone used to say on the “Rate-A-Record” segment on American Bandstand: “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it!” But wait! With Las Cafeteras, there’s more! The music has a message, and when you listen to “La Bamba Rebelde,” you’ll see why it’s the perfect fit for Bajo El Mismo Cielo!
Las Cafeteras is a group of seven – four men and three women – whose name loosely translated means “The Coffee Makers.” Almost all of them are from east L.A., are the children of Mexican immigrants, and none of them have anything to do with coffee. Their name is inspired by the place they met – the Eastside Café, a Zapatista-inspired community center that has nothing to do with coffee either. See – already it’s like a novela because nothing is it as it seems. They could have called themselves Los Cafeteros, but they decided to honor the women in their group and use the feminine version of the title. They are the “Dreamers” and they don’t believe in borders, a phrase which one of the band members will yell out occasionally during their performances, always to cheers and applause.
They met while studying Son Jarocho at the Eastside Cafe, and they came together to tell the stories of their neighborhoods through their music. Recently, someone at Telemundo with excellent taste in music (whose identity is a mystery – another very telenovela-like aspect of this story) thought that their song “La Bamba Rebelde” should be the theme song for their new novela Bajo El Mismo Cielo. One of the questions I had for Daniel is why I immediately heard and felt east L.A. in the opening notes of the song, even though I’ve never been there. And although he is not a mind reader, Daniel knew the answer to my question: He told me that music takes on the spirit of the land it comes from, and that their music speaks to what it means to be Chicano, what it means to be Mexican, in America. You can definitely hear that in their music – it’s transporting, and yet it’s the sound of America.
Their music is the perfect fit for Bajo El Mismo Cielo on so many levels. First of all, the show is set in east L.A., the home of the band. But deeper than that, the series captures the stories Las Cafeteras wants to tell, and vice-versa. The novela is inspired by the movie “A Better Life,” and tells the story of Carlos Martinez, an undocumented immigrant who has come to America to give his family a better future and more opportunities. He lives under the constant worry of deportation and being separated from his children. Carlos’ story is the story of every immigrant who dreams of America, and the series will explore the adversity, and joy, he meets as he builds his life here. Carlos will face difficulties and danger with great strength because he has a huge heart (and a fantastic smile), but there will be times that his spirit and optimism are really going to be tested. Plus, because it’s a novela, there is going to be a great romance, the love that can never be (until the final episode), and some very bad guys. And gals.
The series stars the muy guapo Gabriel Porras, last seen as “El Diablo” in Los Miserables, where he was extremely evil and dressed very much like a fancy Johnny Cash; Maria Elisa Camargo, who was last seen in En Otra Piel, where her spirit switched bodies with Laura Flores’ spirit, which was a bad deal for Maria’s character because for most of the series she could not date her boyfriend David Chocarro; and Erika de la Rosa who was so great in El Senor de Los Cielos as “Elsa Marin,” a legal secretary whose parents somehow bribed the President of Mexico to appoint her to the office of Attorney General even though she barely graduated high school, and she dated the cartel boss El Don Chema while she was prosecuting him, which is generally frowned on.
Daniel French and everyone in the band is thrilled that Telemundo is using their song for the theme of the novela. We are going to hear this song five nights a week, for approximately six months! It will be engraved into the national novela-watching psyche! I would like to see the band do a cameo in the novela because it would be awesome and could fit right into the show: Las Cafeteras very generously gives a lot of free concerts anyway. So what I would like to see is the band just shows up in one of the street-scenes as themselves, and starts playing, Maybe Gabriel and Maria Elisa are in the audience and come up on stage to dance on the Tarima, while Erika plays the Quijada, and then tries to kill someone (probably Maria Elisa) with it. I asked Daniel about this possibility and he says he’d be thrilled to appear in the novela, as anyone with a pulse would!
Of course, because Daniel and the other members of the band are much deeper thinkers than I am, the real reason that they are so happy their music is included in the novela is because the band’s point-of-view truly mirrors that of the show. According to Daniel, Bajo El Mismo Cielo and Las Cafeteras tell the same story: The story of Chicanos who built the city they live in, who laid down the railroad tracks, who are the engine that drives the city, but who are invisible: their stories are rarely told to a larger public, until now. The novela, and the music, should shine a light on them. That’s just one of the messages of Las Cafeteras, but it’s a message they send out with an infectious beat, joy, and love for everyone.
Since I had Daniel to myself I asked him who he listens to, and his answer was just what you’d expect from someone who doesn’t believe in borders: “Everyone from down the block to around the world!” When I asked for just a couple of examples, he named so many artists that I couldn’t keep up with him! One band is “La Vida Boheme,” a dance band with a great sound from Caracas, who I would definitely recommend. Another is Kamasi Washington, an American jazz saxophonist, who Daniel compares to jazz great John Coltrane, and who now has a new fan. Soy yo!
I was thrilled to be able to interview any member of Las Cafeteras, but I am so glad that Daniel was stuck with me, because like me, his ethnic background is a genuine melting pot. And even more like me, Daniel revealed that although he learned Spanish in school, he perfected his Spanish by watching telenovelas. Que Bueno! Since I am learning Spanish by watching telenovelas, I think we were a perfect fit, and the next time the band comes to Chicago I hope he will come over and we can watch novelas together.
Plus he knows where I can find a Quijada in Chicago! Las Cafeteras is on tour right now and may be coming to a city near you! Take a look at their website to learn more about them, because they are definitely a band worth learning more about. Their website can be found at lascafeteras.com. Here is the link to their song “La Bamba Rebelde:” https://youtu.be/9xv-FjbXaqk According to Daniel, their new album will be out early next year!
And be sure to watch Bajo El Mismo Cielo, which is coming to Telemundo muy pronto, as soon as they settle things over in Tierra de Reyes!