“I have one friend who straight up told me that if he can’t understand the lyrics he can’t get into our music,” says singer/songwriter/guitarist Pablo Garduno about the fact that some of the lyrics of his band Alas de Mosca (“Wings of a Fly”) are in Spanish.
“To me that doesn’t seem right. One of my favorite CDs is [by] Cirque du Soleil. I don’t understand French, but I love the music.... It’s hard for people to be open-minded if they don’t understand the lyrics.”
Garduno says Alas de Mosca might be the only band that plays locally (they play at Winstons, the Office, and Kava Lounge) that sings in three languages. “We’re trilingual. We sing in African, too.” The lyrics of the East African Yoruba dialect fold in with their songs driven by Afrocuban beats.
The six-member band just released its first CD, Lucha y Libertad. Recorded at Arbar Studios in Santee, it showcases Latin jazz, world music, reggae, and rock, punched up by sax and congas.
Garduno feels that local modern-rock audiences aren’t very receptive to lyrics en español.
“San Diego is really into indie rock...it’s a challenge to get an audience to accept Latin rock.” And while Alas de Mosca infuses reggae, “It seems like a lot of the local reggae-rock bands are all trying to be Sublime. Everyone is doing it, but it’s already been done.”
San Diego’s B-Side Players were pioneers of Latin/Afrobeat fusion in the ’80s and ’90s. “They played here for years and years,” says Garduno. “But it seems to me they got more recognition outside San Diego. They would sell out shows up and down the coast and outside California. He thinks Alas de Mosca would get better reception if they relocated to L.A. “Which is kind of weird because San Diego is so much closer to the border.”
As Garduno struggles to get locals to be more open to his Spanish lyrics, he says people like Newt Gingrich aren’t helping to break down the wall between gringo music fans and Latin lyrics. “Gingrich said that Spanish was the language of the ghetto. That’s ignorant. I don’t think he has ever set foot in anything close to a ghetto. The last time I was in a ghetto they spoke both English and Spanish. He is trying to make second-class citizens of us because that’s the type of person he is.”
Alas de Mosca appears March 10 at the Latin Film Festival (UltraStar Cinema at Hazard Center), March 31 at Balboa Park’s Centro Cultura de la Raza, April 21 at Chicano Park, and April 29 at Artwalk.