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Listening to Gilberto Rodriguez y Los Intocables, one can't help but wonder what kinds of old souls are hiding within these young musicians fusing Chicano soul and Afro-Caribbean sounds steeped in 1960s San Francisco.
Some might be familiar with Gilberto Rodriguez, one-third of San Francisco psychedelic cumbia band Almas Fronterizas. With help from Ahkeel Mestayer on percussion, Ruben Sandoval on keys, and brothers Carlos and Jorge Rodriguez on trumpets, Rodriguez' Sabor Maracuyá Desnuda (Taste of Naked Passionfruit) cultivates an unsuspected fusion of sounds that represents his and his bandmates' diverse musical upbringings. For Rodriguez, that includes blues from West Oakland; Central American sounds heard in East Oakland; the drum circles he participated in with Native Americans; and Afro-Indigenous sounds and poetry heard in San Francisco.
Take the track "Bahiá Caliente" (The Hot Bay), which pays homage to the Bay Area, featuring guest vocals from Ilia Correa Sepulveda, who plays in Las Bomberas De La Bahia, an all-women bomba ensemble. Taking cues from Puerto Rican bomba, an interactive collaboration between dancers, percussionists and singers, "Bahía Caliente" melodiously blends the conga drums and the güiro, a hand-held percussion instrument, with Rodriguez' soft, raspy vocals and sprightly trumpet riffs.
Rodriguez' lyrics, sung mostly in Spanish, are minimalist yet evocative. For the first five minutes of "Entre Las Estrellas," for instance, all you hear is the interplay of the percussion instruments and a simple yet beautiful chanting. If the remaining five minutes had no lyrics, it wouldn’t matter. But then Rodriguez’ vocals come in: "Los intocables se encuentran en las estrellas / Los intocables se encuentran con ella" ("The untouchables live among the stars / The untouchables live with her").
Gilberto Rodriguez y Los Intocables' debut LP Sabor Maracuyá Desnuda submerges the senses with an experimental, poetic synthesis of sounds that might be foreign to your ears but is worth listening to from beginning to end.