There is a video on the Facebook page of the multi-ethnic LA-based band Cuñao that moves along Judith Baca’s “Great Wall of Los Angeles” mural with its story narrated by poet Mike Sonksen, backed by the music of Cuñao. The video asks the question, “Whose Story do we tell?”, the question that is always embedded in the music of this Latin Alternative folk/rock/jazz/indigenous/experimental world band from Los Angeles. I say that because Cuñao combines music from many cultures in their recordings and their performances, but is always attentive to the people of the cultures it memorialize, not just the winners who write history books.
Their just released all-Spanish album, Rayuela – “hopscotch” in English – gives us 16 songs evocative of Latin America, but are not about the people of Latin America, but rather are from their hearts and lives. Each song is a descriptive narrative poem, some about love, some about a life incident, some about a place or a state of mind of the people. Cuñao puts us inside the hearts and minds of everyday people.
And all 16 songs are earworms. Whether it is the joyful accordion-infused “Lluvia” or the tranquil guitar riffs of “La Luna y La Ballena”, or Ali Jey’s haunting vocals on “El Compas”, each song is carefully crafted masterpiece of cultural and musical blending. The songs are written by one or more of the band members – Julio Montero, Craig Shields, Gabriel Ramirez-Ortiz, Isaac Rodriguez-Ortiz, Josel Cruz, Jose Montero, Severin Behnen, and Thomas Moose. They are joined by a number of other musicians on some songs.
All of the music is structured with lyrics that are powerful, evocative poetry. In “Lluvia” (Rain) they put you inside the memories of family, a singer, an adult from another world whose feelings could be yours:
In a little corner, in the courtyard little one/Where I saw you play
Are the memories that want to be moments/ And The cosmic rain brings us eternal silence
Or in “Fortuato” they generate an emotion we all have felt,, especially now that many of us are reconnecting electronically with those from our past. The words resonate no matter our country or our language.
It’s been more than 10 years/Since the last night I said goodbye
Thousands of blind words/that travel through the air, from a computer
If you don’t speak Spanish, the band has provided English lyrics to most of the album’s songs on the Bandcamp download page, giving you the full pleasure of the album because no matter what the language of the songs, the story they tell is yours.
Rayuela , released April 10, 2020, was produced by Julio Montero and Cuñao. Rayuela is available on Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp. Follow Cuñao at https://cunaomusic.com/