Raising her drumstick high above her straw hat-topped head haloed in electric blue light, drummer/vocalist Liliana Conde proclaimed “We can be together, we can come together right here with music”, and loosed the joyful demon players of the moving, grooving magical music machine, M.A.K.U. Sound System, who exploded onstage with the most infectious people-in-motion dance music this side of Colombia at LA’s Skirball Cultural Center.
Known as an “immigrant band” because most of its members are from Colombia, M.A.K.U. Sound System is currently on a national tour which brought it to the Skirball Center straddling the hills separating west LA from the San Fernando Valley, packing it with a diverse audience from all over this vast city and baking them into a single pulsing, dancing organism. Out of their seats and onto the brick plaza under flashing LED lights on a cool summer night there were break dancers, cumbia dancers, salsa dancers, rock dancers and just plain old jumping up and down dancers bumping into each other, applauding each other, hugging each other. It was truly the United State of Dance that M.A.K.U. Sound System jubilantly evangelizes.
Playing tunes from their new album, Mezcla, (Glitter beat records), like “Agua” and “La Haitiana”, M.A.K.U. demonstrated why they are one of the best Latin fusion bands in America today and certainly the most joyful. The eight members of the band – Andres Jimenez on drums, Filipe Quiroz on keys, the non-stop Juan Ospina on bass and vocals, Camilo Rodriguez on electric guitar, Moris Cañate on percussion, Stephen Szabadiand Ido on trombones and the irrepressible Liliana Conde on percussion and lead vocals – are precisely practiced and wonderfully wild.
Each song from the stage, and on the album, is an exultant blend of Afro funk, punk, rock, cumbia, jazz and a message of peace, unity and community. The band explicitly reaches out to the Everyday People of all races and backgrounds, especially those who face the hardships of a nation that does not always welcome them despite the words on the base of the Statue of Liberty, and demonstrates through its music why the arts are the salve that heals us and the glue that holds us together. Not only do you dance until you drop at a M.A.K.U. Sound System concert, you meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet, dance with them, talk with them, even hug them — and most important, for a brief hour or two, you understand your commonality with them.
Guitarist Camilo Rodriguez founded M.A.K.U SoundSystem and created the group’s name from the Nukak Maku tribe indigenous to the Southern part of Colombia that has been exiled from its territory and persecuted, forcing it to abandon its traditions and adopt a western way of life. The word “Maku” means ‘low class person’ in the indigenous languages of Southern Colombia. ‘Sound System’, refers to the huge public parties thrown in the streets of Colombia and Jamaica in the 60’s and 70’s, so the band’s name M.A.K.U. SoundSystem means “a party for the people”- which is exactly what they do.
Anytime you can see the M.A.K.U. Sound System live, join the party in the meantime, Mezcla or any one of their other three albums at high volume is a great substitute.