Mexico’s Favourite Alternative Band Cafe Tacvba Promise UK Fans a Fiesta to Remember

Over a career spanning nearly 30 years Mexico City’s Cafe Tacvba have experimented with a sombrero full of musical genres including rock, pop, jazz, tropical, electronica, and traditional Mexican tunes that they have melded into a sound that is uniquely their own. Leading lights of the rock en español movement of the 1990s they are known for their high-energy concerts, and dedication to bringing a full on fiesta to their faithful followers across the globe. As London braces itself for the Tacubos’ UK concert on 19 July at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush, Russell Maddicks spoke to Cafe Tacvba’s bassist Enrique “Quique” Rangel in an exclusive interview for Latino Life about the band’s legacy, the new album Jei Beibe, and why they decided to drop the popular song La Ingrata from their shows.

LatinoLife: How does it feel to be coming back to London after some nine years?

Quique Rangel: We are very excited about travelling to Europe on tour. I’m very happy to have the chance to play in London again. I remember the first show we did at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire was a party, a fiesta, with a lot of Mexicans there and people from different parts of Latin America along with their English friends. It was amazing. I like to be in London it’s a city I enjoy and there is a lot of music coming from the UK that we enjoy and has influenced us. So, it’s great to be on stage and to be able to share our music and who we are with the audience.

LL: One reviewer said you were as Mexican as mariachis, mezcal and mole sauce. As an alternative band with a punk attitude who broke the mould and did things your own way, how do you feel about becoming an iconic part of Mexican musical history?

QR: No, that’s not right because it leaves out the contemporary element. We formed as an avant garde rock band but it was when we decided to bring in the Mexican elements, traditional folk music, the acoustic instruments – so we could play wherever we went - that’s when we found our voice as a band. That was something that a lot of bands in the late 80s, early 90s in Mexico City were trying to do, to find a way to make contemporary music that spoke to who we were living in that era in the city. And then - almost in a playful way - Cafe Tacvba started to mix a techno drum machine with traditional music like norteno or boleros, or swing or jazz and that’s how we created something that people related to. People have embraced our music and they feel it belongs to them.

LL: There is a growing Latino population in London who grew up listening to your music, and you also have a large number of British music fans. You were a very influential part of the rock en español movement of the 1990s and have made some incredible songs, but when you play to a Latino crowd in Europe is there a different vibe?

QR: I think when we play outside Mexico City and to people who are away from home, there is a real nostalgia, an emotional element of re-engaging with the time they first heard our music, the first Cafe Tacvba concert they went to, a history, that we try to engage with on stage when we play. It creates a powerful connection.

LL: There’s been a passionate debate about the band’s decision about a year ago to stop playing La Ingrata – one of your most popular early songs – after criticism of how it represents women, given the issue of domestic violence and femicidios (female homicides) in Mexico and Latin America. Cafe Tacvba’s lead singer Rubén Albarrán said at the time in explanation of the decision: “women deserve respect, love, and care”.

QR: The song is a parody in the style of a corrido, an ironic reflection on love, but in these days when there is a debate in Mexico around femicide, and a parody could be misunderstood, or give the suggestion that we believe in something we don’t. So to open the debate, Rubén our singer said why don’t we stop playing this song, because he didn’t feel comfortable singing these lyrics if they could be misunderstood in any way. So we decided to take it out from the shows, which we have done with other songs, but it became a bigger debate than we thought.

LL: So we won’t hear it in London?

QR: I think not

LL: The new album Jei Beibi is just as eclectic and genre-hopping as ever and the video for the single Futuro is this amazing psychedelic sci-fi fantasy that complements the thumping electro-cumbia beat of the song. You even have Donald Trump dancing in a mini-skirt. You have always produced innovative videos to complement your music – the video for Chilanga Banda is like a noir cinema experience, and you supplied songs for the movies Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También, two groundbreaking Mexican movies. Is the cinematic aesthetic of your videos an important complement to your music?

QR: Rubén our singer has always co-directed our videos and has been involved in the pre-production of our videos and working alongside the directors. The song is not about a science fiction future. It’s much more of a philosophical question about who we are and the idea that the future is not tomorrow but today. The video was filmed in Argentina with the Argentine director Diego Tucci and he and Rubén took one of the buses from Buenos Aires and filled it with lots of colourful characters, like the Pope. We put Donald Trump in there before he was elected, I believe. And it questions the role of these people in deciding the future fate of people and the planet.

LL: You’ve just had an election in Mexico and the historic election of the left-wing politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador, AMLO, how do you see the future?

QR: I am not as encouraged by AMLO’s election as I am by the way it happened. The important thing is that it marked a change, not the same people, doing the same things. I trust some of the people behind AMLO but not others. We have a new direction now. I don’t know if it’s the best but it deserves a chance. I hope those who lost in the election don’t try to make a mess before AMLO takes power.

LL: As a Chilanga Banda who live in Mexico City do you have any recommendations for British people visiting the city? We know about the hundreds of museums of art and archaeology, the Aztec temples, the Frida and Diego story, the tasty tacos al pastor sold on street stalls, the pulquerias where you can try the Aztec ale pulque, and the masked wrestlers of the Lucha Libre. But where would take visitors to get to know a different side of the city?

QR: Mexico City is an amazing city. We actually come from Ciudad Satélite, a town outside of the city. I would recommend visitors to Mexico City go to La Lagunilla market. It’s a flea market, a cross between Camden Market and Portobello Road.

LL: You were called the Beatles of Mexico by National Public Radio in the US, but approaching 30 years together as a band you are more like the Mexican Rolling Stones. What’s in the future for Cafe Tacvba?

QR: (laughing) OK. Well you said that. Not me. We will celebrate our 30th anniversary next year and  I truly think it’s important for us to create new music not just the old classics from the 90s, although we still love to play them. So, I’m really proud that we produced Jei Beibi, which is introspective but full of joy and hope. It gave us that amazement we get when we come together, share our songs, and transform them together into Cafe Tacvba songs. That creativity keeps things fresh.

LL: It’s been nearly 10 years since your last show in London do you have a message for the fans?

QR: Thank you for waiting. I am sure that we are all going to have a great time, a fiesta to remember. Every time we go outside Mexico we know that we are going to play to fans who haven’t seen us for a long time so it’s special, and London is special to us too. We hope to see you there.

Cafe Tacvba will play at the Shepherds Bush Empire on Thusrday 19th July. Ticets here: https://www.comono.co.uk/live/cafe-tacvba/