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

Nicole Bus plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 8, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Nicole Bus

Nicole Bus' sound is reminiscent of vintage R&B, yet still feels current and capable of transcending age and demographics.

Tobe Nwigwe plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 27, 2019 (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

Tobe Nwigwe

The Houston-based rapper's mindful words are like a life hack for anyone seeking guidance, with pleas to look past inherent hardships and evil and to stay focused on life's ultimate prizes.

Kian Soltani plays a Tiny Desk Concert on March 8, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Kian Soltani

Watch a young cellist on the rise, offering music of virtuosity, sweet lyricism and a little fire from his Persian roots.

half•alive plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 21, 2019 (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

half•alive

How does half•alive, known for funky earworms and synchronized dancing, translate to such a cozy space? Have the dancers sit.

Among Authors plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 20, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Among Authors

Among Authors' music isn't casual; there are songs within these songs, and they're not always catchy. They'll take you on a journey worth following.

Ty Dolla $ign pays tribute to Mac Miller at the Tiny Desk (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

Ty Dolla $ign Pays Tribute To Mac Miller At The Tiny Desk

While Ty Dolla $ign visited NPR to record his own Tiny Desk concert, he also performed a special tribute to his friend, the late Mac Miller.

David Crosby and The Lighthouse Band performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 29, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR). Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band

David Crosby, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis and Michael League are The Lighthouse Band, and together they harmonized the heck out of the Tiny Desk.

Bas plays a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 15, 2019 . Amir Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amir Alfiky/NPR

Bas

Bas came to the Tiny Desk to get it, and — in a breathless four-song set — he did exactly that.

iLe plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 23, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

iLe

The Calle 13 veteran, fresh off her appearance at demonstrations in Puerto Rico, performs three songs that rage with revolutionary intensity.

Calexico and Iron & Wine play a Tiny Desk Concert on June 19, 2019 (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Calexico And Iron & Wine

The two bands just released Years to Burn, their first album together since 2005. Now, they've performed three songs — two new, one old — for Calexico's Tiny Desk debut.

Back To Top