A&E » Music

Mazacote, a mix of beats for salsa satisfaction

Vancouver Latin dance band performs at the Maury Young Arts Centre



West Coast Latin dance music does a lot of travelling — and a lot of dancing.

Vancouver's Mazacote uses horn-driven New York salsa dura and peppers it with hot beats from Colombia, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

The band features Nicaraguan singer-songwriter David Lopez, bassist Carlos Arias from El Salvador, and Japanese pianist Niho Takase (who plays with an African-jazz style). Other members are Chris Couto on timbales, Robin Lane on congas and trumpet player Malcolm Aiken.

Mazacote performs at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Saturday, April 23. There will be a free salsa class at 6:30 p.m., with the show starting at 8 p.m.

Tickets are 19-plus, $24 for WAC members and $26 for non-members.

The band will perform music off their second album Nueva Era, including singles "Carita Bella" and "La Hora."

The band's season is just beginning. You could say the hot music heats up with the summer sun. Festivals are planned; with Whistler's appearance being the start.

"We have a whole bunch of new songs written over the past couple of years and while touring. We have a couple of tracks out," Aiken says.

"It's going to be a big party."

He says the members grew up performing in big salsa bands in Vancouver.

"We learned that tradition of music, combining elements of Afro-Caribbean music and jazz, the different traditional beats from these areas. We reinterpret them in our own way, being a West Coast group with our own influences," Aiken says.

"We try to stay true to the different rhythms but we want to write our own songs and bring our own style of lyrical content, interpretations of how we interact with the sound."

Interestingly, Lopez and Arias became more interested in the salsa sound after leaving their homelands. Like most young people, they were more interested in Americanized pop.

For them, Canada was the melting pot of Latin American musical traditions.

"Coming to Canada, their experience was playing these different styles and then learning more about other Latin styles. Cuban music is very influential but it's not something they listened to at all, ironically enough," Aiken says.

"Learning about the history of their music and cultural aspects because they are here is interesting."

Aiken laughs and says he's the blonde trumpet player, with a musical tradition that is all about North American blues and jazz and Louis Armstrong.

"I came into it through laying the songs of big salsa orchestras. For me, the appeal is that I grew up listening to swing bands and dance music. There is a lineage there into salsa dance bands through the influence of jazz," Aiken says.

"A lot of people like myself, from non-Latino or Afro-American can get exposed to this music and engaged with it in Vancouver."

He promises that the result will be amazing beats that you'll want to dance to.

"That is our mandate, to showcase nuanced music that has a lot of depth and tradition behind it. These rhythms have a huge connection and we play it in a way that makes you want to move your body and get engaged. It's cool for us to do that, the audience's dancing and energy pulls that all together," Aiken says.

Later contacted about his musical style, Lopez says that as lead singer and songwriter he tries to use many different traditions.

"Writing music is unique to each individual," said Lopez, by email.

"With Mazacote, I enjoy what everyone brings to the table. I look forward to collaboration and the different outcomes an idea might have in a group writing session. As the lyricist of the group, I try to have a positive message whenever possible and also think about someone wanting to sing along to your tune. It's hard for people to feel vulnerable in the writing process, but I think it's important in order for your music to be genuine."

Meanwhile, the Whistler Arts Council is still looking for volunteers for the Mazacote show from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. All volunteers get to watch the show for free. Email volunteering@artswhistler.com for more information.