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Latin theater, dance, and bands collide in Guadalajara for FIMPRO 2019

As I do every year, I spent three days in Guadalajara, Mexico, at the Latin Music conference known as FIMPRO, at the University of Guadalajara. The event actually sprawls over 4 days, ending up with a music showcase and farewell party at the Herradura Tequila Brewery outside of Guadalajara. GDL, as it is called,  is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco where tequila brewing is concentrated so it is appropriate, as well as fun. The university is huge with multiple campuses throughout a city the size of Los Angeles, high schools throughout Jalisco state and programs in Los Angeles. Its music school is one of the world’s best, and with multiple theaters and multiple promenades that can be set up for music, it is uniquely suited to hosting FIMPRO.

Which is to say, FIMPRO can be overwhelming.

This year is FIMPRO combined with the Annual Congress of the International Society of the Performing Arts (ISPA), which brought 500 global leaders and performers in dance, theater, puppetry, film and spoken word to join an equal number from the world of music. And a new feature, FIMPRO Outside – unprogrammed music showcases in clubs around the city, made this one of the richest gatherings I have ever been too…so rich that I will dedicate three LA LA LAND columns to it along with videos.

Mornings were packed with multiple panels and presentations by the likes of Spotify, Facebook, Instagram reps, La Marisoul (of La Santa Cecelia) and lectures and workshops with label heads, A&R executives, radio and TV personalities, and of course – musicians. Plus, actors, directors, choreographers and theatrical and dance producers from ISPA and even pitches for grants and collaborators by film and dance directors to ISPA board members that we all got to watch.

FIMPRO started on Monday, May 28, with a keynote address by Professor Carlos Chirinos of the University of New York and an expert on music and social change, setting the tone for the conference – how music and performance can and do change society. Workshops and lectures around that theme filled the morning, and then the party shifted to lunch on the Promenade while bands from Mexico and Brazil warmed up.  Around 4 PM the beer and tequila came out, and the Mexican experimental jazz/rock/classical band Pequeno Asteroide kicked off the showcase.  They were followed by Brazilian opera singer turned psyrocker Luiza Lian, whose haunting voice and complex rhythms mesmerized the now crowded Promenade.  As the sun began to wane Colores Santos from Mexico took the stage and exploded with their urgent and at sometimes gut-wrenching combinations of rock, jazz, blues and psychedelia, reeling out mystical stories in Spanish.

That night, shuttle buses and Ubers took us to the various venues around the city where, depending on which club you chose, you could see Mexico’s Netuna, Venezuela’s La Chica, or Ecuador’s EVHA. Some people used Uber to rush from one to the other club to see them all- I headed for EVHA at the Chango Vudú club, a cavernous venue with a magnificent stage, world class sound system, and a smoking balcony, all bathed in rotating spotlights and strobes.

EVHA has emerged from the roiling music scene of  Ecuadorian capital of Quito. Five people – Renata Nieto, Martín Calderón, Alejandro Mendoza, Sebastián Schmiedl, and Mateo Kingman – have assembled a musical vehicle to broadcast the message that their environment and their culture is in danger.  That music superbly combines the heartbeat of synthesizers and the sounds of traditional music and instruments from the Andes to the Amazon into a sound that is  dance-inducing and yet haunting.  I was hypnotized and just couldn’t leave to rush to another club.

As mind-blowing as the talent on Monday was, Tuesday topped it. We opened with a presentation on “Plastic Free Music” – a project of FIMPRO and Lollapalooza Chile, to make the music industry aware of the impact of its materials use on places as remote as the Galapagos Islands. Other presentations and workshops included online music promotion for artists, the links between the Canadian and Latin music businesses (Canada always has delegations at FIMPRO), and musical and performance narratives of emerging artists.

The music in the Promenade later that afternoon after lunch, tequila samples and cerveza, was some of the best I have heard. Jennifer Hicks and Miguel Navaez, a young duo from Paraguay known as Purahei Soul, knocked us out with blues, R&B and rock sung in Spanish, English and the aboriginal language of Guarani. Their joy and enthusiasm was infectious…one of the best rising talents of FIMPRO this year.

I was still vibrating when the Mexican rockers Neoplen took the stage and vibrated us some more, accompanied by a swirling traditional dancer who twirled and leapt to the traditional and fusion music of the band, accompanying it on a clave and guiro. As the shadows lengthened, the final band of the day (but not the night) emerged, Alex Alvear and Wannukta Tonic, from Ecuador, who wrapped up the day with spooky, high energy hard rock.

At 5:30 the shuttle busses lined up to take us back to our hotels for dinner, rest, and planning for the night.  My choices that night were FIMPRO showcase bands from Peru, Cuba, and Columbia and FIMPRO Outside showcases with a tropical marimba rock band from Ecuador and one of the best female guitarists in Latin America, Eljuri,  now based in New York.  I decided to check them out and was well rewarded. (next week, FIMPRO Outside).

by Patrick O’Heffernan

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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