SATURDAY March 20th “The March, a night with GILBERTO GIL and a morning with LIZANDRO MEZA” by Bardo Martinez Quintero

I woke up about ten that day, then I landed in the kitchen to nutrient myself for a day I knew would be long: Buyepongo in Hollywood, Gilberto Gil at Royce hall. Papaya and banana smoothie without milk or sugar because I didn’t want to feed the phlegm in my chest…

So I took off around 12pm, I picked up Edgar (“Mextli” Modesto of Buyepongo) and drove with the grain in traffic grudgingly moving up through the 5 from La Mirada up to the 101, landed at Rich’s (Ricardo Revelli of Listen Recovery) across the street from Club Bahia, scooped him up, and took sunset down to Hollywood toward answer’s anti war march…

Hollywood was blocked off shortly after western so we took unknown streets in an unknown land, paid a Mexican queen $5 for parking and walked about a mile to Orange st.: Rich with the drum, Edgar with his utility bag, and me with the accordion box…

The stage was a truck bed with anti war slogans: “U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan” and answer coalition banners. My brother Eduardo Arenas, who plays bass for Chicano Batman and guitar for Olmeca, joined us for this gig on the bass…It was an exciting endeavor moving this way and that way making sure Buyepongo was ready for the demonstrating masses…

Bambu was the first performer, and after him a series of speakers we took the stage in front of a crowd that was smaller than expected. I’d say 300-400 demonstrators along with a similar amount walking along the star-studded sidewalks amazed by the living statues of wolverine and Marilyn Monroe as usual on a normal day in Hollywood…

However on this particular Saturday, there was a motley mass of passionate people clad in black, red, and pink with flyers in hand concerning a wide range of political issues from the environment to labor to gender etc…From an El Salvadoran woman rocking a FMLN cap to shrek; Hollywood Blvd. Was a live display of macro social contradictions….Especially with Buyepongo, with its own motley crew, pushing Latin American and African rhythms through the sound system providing the sound track for this live social experiment….

After we finished, a group of veterans eagerly took the stage as we got down, ready to for our next set…Veterans workers, Margaret Prescott (KPFK) all took the stage to denounce the American govt,. its war mongering, the need to support the Haitian people, etc…

When the time came for our next set, Will (Carillo) and Roberto (Navarro) of Buyepongo graced us with their presence and as I took the mic, I tried to explain the radical nature of bringing cumbia, music of oppressed peoples to Hollywood blvd…Lo Que Quiero actually made the reticent crowd move…As a Venezuelan flag flew, and brown women, mustached men shook their bodies as a bouncing bass uplifted us all…We played 3 more songs for the dwindling crowd, got down from the stage, and prepared to part ways toward our next destination….

While some of us went to BBQs, others decided to go to the “Festival de la Cumbia” where Lizandro Meza (a heavy weight musician who recorded hundreds of songs since the sixties with Los Coraleros de Majagual) was scheduled to perform next to LAX, I had plans, made months in advance to see Gilberto Gil (the Brazilian master from Bahia who inspired Tropicalia) at UCLA’s Royce Hall…

Since it was barely 4:30pm I was in limbo as to what I was going to do next…as I was definitely not going back home to La Mirada or stay in Hollywood…So I decided to stroll down sunset westward towards UCLA’s grassy campus on which I envisioned myself sleeping for hours after a delicious meal in Westwood….Once I got there, the schools enormous area soon sunk back into this alumni’s perspective as myriad memories collaged my brain as I headed towards the SAC (Student activities Center). Once I reached its infamous lawn I laid down, took a short nap, got up, and decided to take a shower….

It was an interesting prospect since I was no longer a student. However, an acquaintance of mine happened to be advisor of the MEChistas who happened to be a friend of the pool girl, who happened to be the MEChA chair…So I strolled in and showered up…batmanned up….and walked towards Westwood with my baby blue ruffled shirt, and my Shaft jacket (moro na filosofia) with nutrients on my mind: I hadn’t eaten since that morning and I was starving …

I took an expensive bus ride down a block and walked into the first restaurant I saw…some sandwich/cosher food joint…so I scarfed down a $10 meal and hurried back without the timetunnel flyers that I thought I had in my bag…I hurriedly walked then ran into Royce hall with my murse around my shoulder and my back pack (with my dirty clothes)…

There was a line because the doors had closed because Gil had taken the stage. So I went upstairs and walked in and sat down with my fellow tropicalista Bryan (Dulce De Leche, Kill Sonic) and Mali who I was looking for who were the first people I saw when I opened the door…Along with a figure who was lit up by bright yellow lights like some angelic magistrate from Brasil…Gilberto Gil was there! As real as the security lady who made me erase the video of him a few minutes later, as real as the people a the rally, as real as my palpitating heart…there he was…preparing his Brazilian and petit bourgeois audience for his concert….

He began with a beautiful song sang by Maria Bethania and Gal Costa during the Os Doces Barbaros project…. Accompanied by an amazing cello player and his son, Gil’s style was pristine, clear, rhythmically dense, and melodically fluid as it has always been (This is something I can’t say about Os Mutantes whom Buyepongo opened up for last year).

Gil represented the historic embodiment and actualization of countless disciplines from Tropicailia, bossa nova, samba from Rio to Bahia, to Pernambuco, Jamaican reggae, American Rock and Roll, soul, and much more that this American bred Colombian Mexican can as of yet elucidate…

One song (of the many I did not recognize) spoke to his essence as a poet and place him on the level of a prophet place there by the prophet’s fundamental understanding of life and death…is what Gil contemplated musically through his lowest tone as he beat a rhythm on his acoustic guitar…the song was beautiful and full of amazing phrasing such as, “a morte morta mordida” for example…

Gil is a master: as Don Juan said to Carlos Castaneda, a man of knowledge is he who doesn’t stop learning…Gil was as fresh as 1967’ under a hot bahian sun peering over porto da barra in Salvador.

My attempts at meeting him were thwarted by the gatekeepers…so I changed course and left the ivory towers at Royce Hall and pushed by my corolla towards the airport by which the cumbia legend Lizandro Meza was scheduled to play at a Prensa Colombiana sponsored event at the Raddison…

When I walked in, after being patted down  by armed security…having my fliers and camera put away…I was surrounded by the sounds of the Venezuelan Pastor Lopez and his orchestra who tightly articulated a very classic cumbia that had the crowd composed of Colombians, and every type of Latin American; dancing for over an hour…

When Lizandro took the stage the masses flocked towards the stage as if they were to be graced by the presence of the lord himself…It was indeed an honor to see the man who had created the soundtracks for so many parties, car rides, personal dramas, moments of ecstasy and enlightenment…From tracks like “el misterio humano” to “la matica”…Meza brought costeño music from the Colombian savanna on the Atlantic coast and popularized it in Colombia, and through his career with Los Corraleros de Majagual and his illustrious solo career.

The percussion and brass section of La Banda Hijos de la Nina Luz truly represented the heavily percussive rhythm constant in Meza’s sound…However Meza’s band had and MC who often overpowered Meza…At times Meza seemed oblivious to what was going on…However, at times the band reacted immediately to the first notes his accordion as if Meza command an unquestioned authority…I was disappointed by the slew of covers that they started off with…Towards the middle of his set Lizandro became more present as he played some of his heavy cumbias in minor keys…

The fact that his set started around 1:30am, and that Meza is roughly into his 70’s; explains his lack of presence and vocal strength. When I met him he seemed to be in another world as he was aloofly but completely aware of the reality around him as he squeezed my hand with a strength that I did not expect from the dwindling cumbia king. Despite the lack of vitality within Meza, he still immaculately played the accordion and his vocal chords still moved the masses just as countless recordings of his will continue to do so in the future.

If I had to give a medal to either one of the two masters of two Latin American nations, Gil would definitely take it.  Gil excelled Meza as a working artist whose presence boomed through Royce’s Hall with his melodic and rhythmic perfection. Although Meza’s music was just as good and in many ways more moving than Gil’s, Meza is simply not as alive and not nearly as prolific as the Brazilian master.

And so my day ended (at 4:00am), from the make shift stage on a truck bed in Hollywood, to an emptying dance floor after the exiting of a falling Colombian giant.

“…mora na filosofia…”

Bardo Martinez

Bardo on Facebook

Buyepongo WordPress / Bookings

3/29/10

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One Response to “SATURDAY March 20th “The March, a night with GILBERTO GIL and a morning with LIZANDRO MEZA” by Bardo Martinez Quintero”

  1. what about me? i got you in…

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