Laughing at funerals and playing music at the apocalypse: Rana Santacruz releases Por Ahí
CD Review by Dawoud Kringle
Por Ahi is the latest from eclectic – and eccentric – artist Rana Santacruz.
A native of Mexico City, Rana formed the rock band La Catrina in the late ‘90s. He moved to Brooklyn in 2002. In 2010 he recorded and released his solo debut, Chicavasco, Rana combined influences from Mariachi, classic Mexican cinema, American bluegrass, and post-punk. Por Ahí– (“Somewhere”) attempts to draw deeper inspiration from these influences, and take it to new places. Santacruz uses his multi-instrumental and lyrical talents to great storytelling effect. He seems to use his music to enact the celebration of life, death, love, and lust.
“El Chapulín” opens the collection. The lyrics are sung in Spanish (with an English translation mercifully provided for people like me whose Spanish is not very good). Here is the narrative of a corrupt and incompetent politician, set to lively and very engaging music.
“Cumbia de la Serpintine” takes the listener to a very dark place. The music is passionate, almost gypsy like. But they form an interesting framework for lyrics that bemoan of having one’s heart broken by a cruel woman.
“Lo Unico Que Quiero” Is a very Mexican styled song (as my American ears understand Mexican music – and I have been exposed to it). Santacruz uses a banjo in the song; something I’ve never heard in any Mexican music, and he makes it work well in this foreign context.
Each track has a different flavor; yet they all work well as a collection. Santacruz has the ability to create a varied and colorful musical landscape. He brings unusual elements together, and often creates very unexpected moments in the music. The music is always lively and interesting, even on the slower songs. His band are all first class musicians, and they work well together.
The lyrics are fascinating. Santacruz is a master storyteller. He leaves one with the impression of a man whose life is anything but boring. Adventure, passion, and insanity seem to follow him everywhere; and he makes sure he dives headfirst into it, takes you with him, and everyone has a lot of fun in the process. The eclectic mix of musical styles and genres paints of picture of South American cafes where acoustic bands play, sultry women in 1920’s dresses dance and seduce men, and men in suits and fedoras plan on killing each other in honor duels. It’s like Django Reinhardt’s Quintet of the Hot Club of France, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and a cocaine and wine fueled tango orchestra joined forces and went out for a wild night on the town.
On his website, he’s quoted as saying “I have always been fascinated by acoustic instruments. I really like the idea of being able to be at somebody’s kitchen playing loud music with my band. I‘ve recently been reading several post-apocalyptic novels… the kind where a war or a disease or a natural disaster wipes out a good chunk of the world’s population, and there’s no electricity, but there are loud acoustic instruments and homemade liquor, and for some reason that makes me quite happy.”
Santacruz clearly has a unique view of life which he exudes in his music.
RANA SANTACRUZ 2015 CONCERTS
Aug 8 Brooklyn, NY Barbes
Aug 20 Bronx, NY NY Botanical Garden – Frida Kahlo / Frida al Fresco Nights
Sept 12 Brooklyn, NY Barbes
Oct 17 Brooklyn, NY Barbes
Oct 23 Bronx, NY NY Botanical Garden – Frida Kahlo / Frida al Fresco Nights
Nov 20 Mexico City, MX Lunario Auditorio Nacional