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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

ACL

Costa Rican Band Sonámbulo brings Psychedelic Tropical Sounds to Austin and ACL Fest



By Nancy Flores

American-Statesman Staff

To understand Sonámbulo’s music, you have to keep in mind where this 11-piece psychedelic tropical band hails from — Costa Rica. Yes, the same Central American country consistently ranked among the happiest places on Earth. A place where people sometimes greet each other with sayings such as “Pura Vida,” which literally means pure life, but goes beyond translation to mean more like enjoying life and feeling happy.

So to say this band will make you dance is an understatement. Sonámbulo has created a musical niche they are calling psychedelic tropical by fusing traditional Latin and African sounds with rock and funk as well as hypnotic trance beats. It’s kind of hard not to have rich sounds when percussion instruments such as the congas and timbales drive the energetic dance rhythms.

Bandleader Daniel Cuenca says that since their 2009 debut album, psychedelic tropical bands have begun popping up in Brazil and Mexico.

While Sonámbulo has toured throughout Europe, they have yet to perform on American soil. Cuenca is hopeful that their music will transcend language barriers, like it did in Europe, and get Austin audiences moving.

“Music is universal,” Cuenca says. “What matters is not the language, what matters is the energy.”

Before their first ACL Music Festival performance, Cuenca shared more about Sonámbulo’s roots.

Austin 360: Your band grew out of a street circus movement in Costa Rica. What was that like and how did that idea evolve into a band?

Cuenca: Our street circus group was the first of its kind in Costa Rica called “Magos del Tiempo.” It was all about artists from around the world taking back streets and public spaces for performance art focusing on social and environmental issues. We had music, clowns and stilts.

We did all the circus music, so from there we started experimenting with music at parties and events. And eventually we grew curious about other things like lighting; there was a lot of collaboration.

The backgrounds of your band members span Latin America from Cuba to Colombia. How does this affect the sound of the band?

It definitely makes our sound richer. And our band, which grew from five members at the beginning to 11, is also made up of people from different professional backgrounds. We have some members who are painters, others who are cooks or documentary makers.

We have a lot of musical influences, and at one point we were even coming up with and making our own percussion instruments with wood and metal to create unique sounds.

You’re working on your next album. What can listeners expect?

A lot of fusion with traditional rhythms. We want this album to sound like an overarching story from beginning to end. As more people listen to individual tracks online, that style doesn’t really happen anymore. But we’d like to showcase a cohesive work of music.


Sonámbulo plays at 2:20 p.m. Saturday on the Zilker Stage.

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