Café Tacvba: Tiny Desk Concert The pioneering Mexican band recreates the adventurous musical energy of their massive stadium shows behind Bob Boilen's desk.

Tiny Desk

Café Tacvba

It's appropriate that the pioneering Mexican band Café Tacvba (Tacuba) start its set with "Olita del Altamar" ("Waves from the High Seas") from the group's 2012 album El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco. It's essentially an incantation of the magic that transpired during their performance behind Bob Boilen's desk. The lyrics sing of the comings and goings of waves, symbolic of the passage of time and fueled by the Mexican folk rhythm son jarocho, a favorite of the band's since their start almost 30 years ago.

They then fast forward to "Diente de León" ("Dandelion"), from their 2017 album Jei Beibi. It's a majestic, stripped-down version that puts the emphasis back on the lyric, a plea for existential and environmental harmony using the metaphor of the weedy flower.

As usual, lead vocalist Rubén Albarrán is a captivating central presence, evoking a sense of down-home camaraderie with his ever friendly smile that has become the band's most outward image. Having seen the band play in front of dedicated fans in massive stadiums in Mexico City, it's striking to see his movements limited to a few careful spins and dance steps while still managing to embody the intense energy of their music.

Their song "Las Flores," from their 1994 album Re, slips into the ska groove that attracted fans to rock en Español in general and to Los Tacvbas in particular, a beat that captures the adventurous musical energy that swept all of Latin America in the early 1990s.

Not all bands would end their set with a power ballad, though very few bands hold their audience's attention and dedication like Café Tacvba. But that's just how they close their set, the four principal members together for almost 30 years, casting a musical spell that still captivates after all this time.

Set List

  • "Olita del Altamar"
  • "Diente de León"
  • "Las Flores"
  • "Que No"

Credits

Producers: Felix Contreras, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kara Frame, Kaylee Domzalski, CJ Riculan; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Cameron Pollack/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Pedrito Martinez performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 16, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

The Pedrito Martinez Group

The Afro-Cuban percussionist mesmerizes with his almost otherworldly talent on congas.

Scott Mulvahill performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 30, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Scott Mulvahill

Scott Mulvahill has been trying to win the Tiny Desk Contest for each of its four years. And while he's never won, we all loved him so much we had to invite him to play.

Mountain Man performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 23, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Mountain Man

The voices of Amelia Meath, Molly Erin Sarlé and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig come together behind the Tiny Desk, with songs that conjure a simpler life: dogs, friends, moonlight or skinny dipping.

Lau Noah performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 10, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Lau Noah

There's a magical aura that surrounds Lau Noah as she sits behind the Tiny Desk and unspools thought-provoking story-songs.

Cat Power performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 17, 2018 (Jenna Sterner/NPR). Jenna Sterner/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jenna Sterner/NPR

Cat Power

Chan Marshall and her band perform a brisk and beautifully orchestrated medley of Cat Power songs: "Wanderer," "Woman" and 2006's "The Moon."

Blood Orange performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 10, 2018 (Heeather Kim/NPR). Heather Kim/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Heather Kim/NPR

Blood Orange

This Blood Orange Tiny Desk is a beautifully conceived concert showing off the craft and care that has made Devonté Hynes a groundbreaking producer and songwriter.

Stella Donnelly performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 22, 2018. Cameron Pollack/NPR/Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR/Cameron Pollack/NPR

Stella Donnelly

Watch the Australian singer-songwriter perform three new songs from her upcoming full-length debut, Beware of the Dogs.

Nate Wood "fOUR" performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 12, 2018. Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

Nate Wood - fOUR

The multi-instrumentalist says he only wishes he had more limbs; but Wood still manages to simultaneously play a bass guitar, keys and drums, all while singing into a wearable microphone.

Aaron Lee Tasjan performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 12, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR). Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

Aaron Lee Tasjan

Aaron Lee Tasjan arrived in an ascot and mustard-colored shirt, sporting red, round sunglasses and mutton chops. It was a fashionable nod to the psych-pop and rock sound he brought to the Tiny Desk.

Carolina Eyck and Clarice Jensen perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 3, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR)/ Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

Carolina Eyck and Clarice Jensen

Carolina Eyck, the first artist to bring a theremin to the Tiny Desk, plays the air with the kind of lyrical phrasing and "fingered" articulation that takes a special kind of virtuosity.

Back To Top