Orchesta El Macabeo will be in Chicago July 21, 2012 at the Square Roots Festival in Lincoln Square and later that evening at Mayne Stage.

I had a nice chat with the Jose Ivañez, Director of the band and here’s what he had to say:

Tell me Jose, how did the orchesta get started?

An Idea I had along with friends gathering to play Salsa classics that we all enjoyed. Everywhere you go in Puerto Rico people know the Salsa classics; they’re played constantly in every juke box.  What-more, we were brought up with these sounds.  During these gatherings we discovered that the group had a knack for composing and from there, our own original sound and our collaboration began.  Two records later, while working on our third, we continue to work well together.   

The meaning of Macabeo according to the dictionary is an array of white grapes used for wine; why that name?

Yes, but in my town of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, Macabeo is a fritura (fritter) it’s like an Alcapurria (fritter made of plantain dough and pork meat) except the dough is made of bananas instead of plantains.  In my town, during Christmas time there’s a festival called El Festival del Macabeo…  It occurred to me when we first got started as a group, how nice it would be to perform at the festival one day. The name stuck; and yes, we in fact have performed at the festival a few times. But you should also know that in Chile Macabeo is referred to a man whom is dominated by his woman.  If we ever travel to Chile, I am afraid they are going to make fun of our name.   

The song (Things get difficult) talks about being on public aid, taking it easy, etc.  In your opinion, and according to your lyrics, how much of it is taking it easy on the part of Puerto Ricans and how much of it is economic hardship and lack of opportunity?

The song was composed for a documentary Una Identidad en Obsurdo (An Absurd Identity)which is a documentary about Puerto Rican’s by Professor Guillermo Gomez. The song became famous thereafter as it contrasted the current social and economic state of the island.  In my opinion, it is not a social criticism by any means; simply an illness that occurs.

But how do you view the current social and economic status in the island?

Oh, it’s bad – and it’s bad everywhere.  Economically, criminally, socially and sad to say but corruption is alive and well.  Let’s just say, it’s safer to just stay home and pray.  It’s hard to have a nice time now ‘a days.

Your music is qualified as Salsa with a touch of Punk Rock.  How are Classical Salsa lovers reacting to it?

Well there are all kinds of music lovers, obviously…  There are people who are interested in the concept but there are those who are called “coco-loco-clavo-pasao” referred to as purists that don’t like what we do because they are set in their ways of what Classic Salsa is and what, in their minds, should continue to be.  And what we do – is not Salsa mixed with Punk, but Salsa with a Punk Rock attitude.  The majority of the band members have a Punk Rock background and that’s where our methodology comes from. Although Salsa has been with us our whole lives, it has started to venture off into another musical ambiance. I believe it a benefit to us because it makes the music our own creation. No matter the walls of those purist Classic Salsa lovers, we do it for us, we do what we do because we love it.


What’s the age range of your audience?

There’s an array of all ages and social classes present when we play.  Of course, it starts with the younger crowd.  Those youngsters however play our music to their parents, aunts, uncles, etc. and the next thing you know, they all attend.  It spreads…

Tell me about the group’s musical preferences; any idols you admire or study?

One ipod does not compare to the other as far as my band members are concerned.  They each have their own individual style and preferences.  There’s lovers of Heavy Metal; Reggae; Rap; Hip-Hop; and Punk, so I can’t individualize their taste in music because they each have their own musical idols they admire.  However, what I can and will say is that the ideal sound we are trying to create designates with the revival Salsa-Golda.   This type of Salsa and its lyrics spoke clearly and profoundly of the events of its time during the 60s and 70s.  Such as: Cortijo, Ismael Rivera, La Selecta, Orquesta Tovia; the Classical Salsa players.  These artists came from the barrio and they did “their thing.”  That’s what we want to re-invent because it is the type of music that has something to say.  Good sound is important but equally as important is the lyrical message you’re sending.

Any future plans for music in English?

No, no-not for the moment. But we never-say-never

What do you expect from your band members?

More than anything I expect that they are satisfied with what they do.  I am the director yes! However, I am not expecting for the members to do as I say – and that’s that!  No!  We create our music equally.  The initial idea comes to the table and we start building from that.  To me it’s most important that we work as a team.  All my musicians have to have a level of comfort and passion for what they are putting out.  It’s a collaborated effort that’s not completed by one and not the other.  All twelve of us have an equal vote.  

Who writes?

Our first record has the written work of Luis DeLaRosa, our main vocalist.  But I have to say that these songs, such as Macabionico is composed of a few phrases that was born in a rehearsal; a collaborated effort.   The song Supermercado was born jokingly and it was also completed by group effort.  Our second record also has the work of Luis DeLaRosa, Anibal Vidal, vocalist and keyboard player. The song Fulana whom Anival composed and brought it in-in pretty much complete state.  Yuseff our trumpet player has also collaborated in our third album… team effort all around…

Any plans to feature any other artists?

We have thought about it.  We have been approached.  We have not reached a motivational point to collaborate outside the band. Right now we are in a big state of creativity.  We completed our second album six months ago and we are already working on our third, which will hopefully be completed by Christmas of 2012.  We are currently taking full advantage of our creativity and we want to grow as musicians.  This third album holds a possibility of collaboration by another artist whom I cannot mention because is not yet confirmed. We are feeling pretty good about it though…

I’ve enjoyed your music and I can’t wait to be in attendance in July.

Great to hear, we’ll see you soon.


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