magazine / revista


Indigenous MX, Jazz, World Music
Indigenous Mexican, Jazz, World Music
Mixing It Up in SMA

in concert Thursday, February 9

by Daina Jasmine Ventura

Daina Jasmine Ventura
Chris, what is your musical background and has Mexican music influenced you?

Chris Garcia
I grew up in East Los Angeles, the same planet, but a very different world from the rest of Los Angeles. I started playing a drumset at 12 years old or so, at first in rock bands, then progressive rock bands, then fusion bands and then avant jazz bands. Sometimes all in the same week. But when I was 15 or so I heard the drumming of India on a record, (black petroleum product with a hole in the middle) and I fell in love with the sound of tabla and I wanted to study it. But my parents did not have the money to send me to a university. They encouraged me to study and get good grades which I did, which allowed me to audition and get a full scholarship to California Institute of the Arts and study tabla with Pandit Taranath Rao, Leonice Shinneman, Swapan Chaudhuri and John Bergamo between 1979 and 1993.
I was also required to study and play a melodic instrument in order to study tabla so I went to East La College at John Bergamos suggestion, and took piano, harmony and theory lessons with Dr. Hollis and Dr. Overmayer, and they allowed me to practice on a badly splintered xylophone which was in the back of the music room closet until late in the evening.

So I was first by ear then I learned about the mechanics of music by playing with other musicians from many different cultures, asking lots and lots of questions and formal studies at schools, followed by every opportunity offered me to play alongside great musicos y musicas and being immersed in the improvisational vernacular of jazz, rock, fusion, bebop and the music of India, Japan, China, folkloric Mexico and indigenous Mexico.

They each have their own language, culture, resonance and sound. My mother, sister and daughter are also singers and my grandfather was Sicilian. Mom used to sing tangoes by Carlos Gardel, Libertad LaMarque, Lola Beltran as well as traditional Mexican music and jazz standards at concerts throughout southern and central California with her great uncles who played guitar. While my parents did not play music much in the house, my mother would sing all the time.

But being a kid in East Los, my ear was first drawn to rock, progressive and finally jazz and then world , e.g., music of India, John Coltrane's later work, the band Oregon, Egberto Gismonti, and later Shakti. I was not interested at that time in traditional folkloric music of Mexico and indigenous instruments. Indigenous music makers were still pretty underground even in Los Angeles, but the Chicano movement was in full swing, especially in East Los, home of Los Lobos and lots of bands most have never heard of and lots of Chicanos started going back searching for their roots in Mexico, through writings, music, art and experiences of their familia.

In 2005 I was invited to perform with Ancient Grooves and later Mexika, a duo which used indigenous instruments of Mexico and Mesoamerica in traditional and non traditional settings. I was part of Mexika up until 2013 and since then have worked with Luis Perez Ixonextli from Mexico City, and befriended Ramiro Ramirez Duarte of Grupo Tribu who was so very kind to allow me use his trapan huehuetl, hueuetl and teponaztlis for Garcia Godinez Duo performance at el Castillo de Chapultepec.

Antonio Zepeda, Grupo Tribu, Luis Perez Ixoneztli continue to make music with indigenous instruments in a variety of settings e.g., sometimes only in traditional settings, sometimes with electronics, etc.. They have inspired me to compose music for indigenous instruments of Mexico alongside woodwind quintet, string quintet, classical guitar, piano,pedal harp and violin and have and numerous performances throughout California, and now Mexico. These indigenous instruments go back at least 1500 years and remain basically unchanged and there are still hundreds of modern day practitioners in the Americas, that would be, South America, Central America, Mexico, North America/Canada.

In 2015 I was performing in Australia and the Aztec exhibit at Melbourne had Mexican nationals who lived there performing Mexica/Azteca danza. The great culture of Mexico/Mesoamerica continues to be heard and experienced far outside of its own continent. Mexico's cultures, both pre and post invasion, continues to influence me the more I learn from its rich, vast and varied cultures

Michael, what is your musical background and what is your personal definition of "world music"?

Michael Manring
I spent the first half of my childhood on the West Coast of the US, and the second half on the East Coast. I became obsessed with music, especially the bass, when I was about 10 years old. I was lucky that we had some very good local musicians where my family lived and musical excellence was highly valued. We also had a very good music program in our local public high school, which was wonderful for me as I got some good experience both as a player and a composer. I played in some professional bands in high school and then went to the Berklee School of Music in Boston for one year. I wanted to go for longer, but by then I was working quite a lot as a musician and I didn't want to miss out on that. A few years later I studied from Jaco Pastorius when I lived in New York City. That was wonderful. He was my idol at that time. Around the same time I also started working closely with the amazing guitar genius Michael Hedges and got involved with Windham Hill Records, where I became the house bassist. I was very lucky to fall into something so popular and it gave me a chance to tour the world and make many recordings. I'm not sure how many recordings i've been on at this point, because I lost track somewhere around 500. I've released 6 solo recordings and continue to travel and take part in the miracle of music.

World Music to me, is a kind of necessity, an inevitability. I don't think of it as a separate genre, but rather as a phenomenon that's beginning to permeate all music. As is often stated, the world is more connected than ever, so classical musicians in Prague can hear folk musicians in Mongolia or jazz musicians in St. Louis with a few mouse clicks. We all have access to music and musical ideas from throughout the world and throughout history. This may be the most powerful thing that has ever happened to music. What an amazing time to be a musician.

So, it's not your first time to perform in Mexico for either of you?

I had the privilege of performing in Mexico at Teatro de la Cuidad previously with Alex Degrassi, Michael Manring and El Monstro a few years ago and then in 2016 at the Castillo de Chapultepec with harpist Tasha Smith Godinez with indigenous instruments of Mexico and Mesoamerica, e.g., ayacaxtli, atecocolli,baa wehai, chililitli, huehuetl, huilacapiztli, tawitol, tehuehuetl, teponaztli, and tlapan huehuetl, with the Garcia Godinez Duo. The music that was composed specifically for indigenous instruments and pedal harp.

It is always a pleasure to return to Mexico and experience the ancestral roots of mi family, along with the cultural, geographical, and political juxtapositions of the indigenous alongside the European cultures which originally invaded Mexico. But I have never thought of Mexico as being the New World, as archaeologically it goes back 13,000 years or so. If anything it has become the Newest World, as nothing quite like it has ever existed before.

My father was born in El Paso in 1907 but grew up on both sides of the border as his family had property in Cuidad Juarez and El Paso and he always shared his life experiences with la family and was a great storyteller.

I've had the good fortune to play in Mexico several times, both solo and with groups. For me, it's a magical place, full of mystery and beauty. To think of the extraordinary history there is inspiring, as it makes me wonder about where we can go from here as a species. The Mexican people have always been so supportive and enthusiastic. I feel privileged to be able to have the opportunity to make music there.

You have been already doing concerts in Mexico individually, but not as a duo. What kind of music are you going to perform here in San Miguel on February 9th at the Angela Peralta?

We will be performing our original compositions which contain improvisation individually and/or collectively and Michael and I also have a friendship and a musical relationship which goes back to the first time we met and performed in Los Angeles in 2005. Our music making, and listening has grown organically over the years and is definitely not slapped together. Making music with Michael is always a joy and nothing less as Michael listens and responds within the environment, musical and otherwise.

He doesn't react, he responds; the biggest difference being intention behind the notes, behind the music, and behind the resonance we will share with each other and the audience. We had been playing with 3 very different instrumentalists in the trio format with guitarist Alex de Grassi, with guitarist Miroslav Tadic and with pipa/ruan player Jie Ma. Each situation has been unique and the stars don't always line up for everyone schedule-wise and Michael and I decided to play our music in the duo format.

Playing music with Chris is a joy. We share a wonder at this extraordinary place we find ourselves in history, both musically and culturally. We're amazed at the opportunities available to us, being among the first generations of musicians to have access to an ever-increasing repository of musical culture and history from around the world. We're doing our best to understand it, process it and use it to try to say something about the unique circumstance in which we live. For us, music is a kind of mission and a quest to find beauty and meaning in a paradoxical world: changing and dangerous but full of wonderful new opportunities.

You are also going to join Salomon's ensemble on Saturday 11th... how exciting what should we expect?

We will meet, speak and play music at the rehearsals and then make music for the concert as music only happens in the moment, at the moment, every moment that it is shared with the musicos and with the audience as we are all participating in the resonance at the same time all the time until we stop. Expect the unexpected, as I always look forward to what I can learn about other people and their music making because while not all people are musicians, all musicians are people.

We're grateful to be invited to play. Music is a powerful mode of interaction and I always learn so much when I play music with someone. I'm looking forward to sharing a musical space and learning more. We will do our best to help Salomon realize his musical vision while adding a bit of our own personalities to the mix. 

Also you will have some more interaction with the local musicians and maybe come back here in the future?

I hope so, as there is always so much to learn from each other as people, and as musicos, musically, culturally, spiritually. There are lots of questions to be asked and answered and experienced which will make the experience all the more satisfying. I am looking forward to being surrounded by the sound.

It would be lovely to get to interact with more local musicians. Chris and I are always hoping to expand our musical horizons and musical lessons can come from many places, some expected, some not.


Christopher Garcia site

Michael Manring site


Daina Jasmine Ventura Is a child of the 60s. A creative traveller from Italy, writer, blogger, travel and booking agent and concert organizer, she moved to SMA in 2013, where she happily lives with her 88 year-old mother. She brings international musicians and and talent to Mexico, like the beloved Beppe Gambetta, whose 3 sold out shows she organized with her "partner in crime" Ron Roth.

"Whenever she recommends a show you can bet it's worth going." - Lokkal Magazine

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