Mexican Rock Giants Café Tacvba On Touring Trump's America The band's upcoming international tour supports a new album that doesn't shy away from politics. "With a neighbor like the one we have," member Emmanuel del Real says, "you can't not say something."

Mexican Rock Giants Café Tacvba On Touring Trump's America

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The Mexican rock band Cafe Tacvba is huge in Latin America. They've won Latin Grammys, and they've played the big U.S. festival South by Southwest, Coachella. Their music has always had a political edge, but the musicians have never seen a moment like this one. They've just released a new album, and James Fredrick caught up with him in Mexico City as they were getting ready to launch an international tour.

JAMES FREDRICK, BYLINE: In a nearly empty massive film studio, Cafe Tacvba is putting the final touches on the show. They'll be touring behind the new album "Jei Beibi"

CAFE TACVBA: (Singing) Jei beibi, te quiero asi. Por favor no pierdas la cabeza.

FREDRICK: But this poppy tune isn't so simple. It alludes to a chant that dominates protests here calling for answers about 43 students who disappeared at the hands of police in 2014. Cafe Tacvba doesn't look away from the political situation in Mexico or the U.S., says the band's keyboardist Emmanuel del Real.

EMMANUEL DEL REAL: If you live in a country like this or with a neighbor like the one we have (laughter), you can't be not taking care of what is happening. You can't not say something about it.

FREDRICK: Even as they gain popularity abroad, Cafe Tacvba still insists on singing only in Spanish. They mix rock, electronic music and traditional Mexican styles like ranchera. The first single of the new album is built on cumbia beats.


FREDRICK: Bassist and singer Quique Rangel wrote it, and his high-pitched whine is an inner monologue of his obsessive worry about what's going to happen in the future and his inability to control it.


CAFE TACVBA: (Singing) Yo dije que no. Ella dijo si. Yo dije que si. Ella dijo no.

QUIQUE RANGEL: It's about here and now is what you have to think and what you to be aware. Everything else doesn't matter. The future is today.

FREDRICK: All four members of the band wrote songs for this album - their first in five years. They take their time to think about what they want to say and how they want to say it. And Rangel knows that expectations are high.

RANGEL: I think we are aware of the pressure people wants to put in our work, but we try not to think too much in that. The way we approach our music is that we have to be the first and last listeners that have to be satisfied and feeling that our goal's accomplished.

FREDRICK: The four members of Cafe Tacvba began playing together in 1989 when they were all in their 20s, and they gravitated towards angsty love songs. They're older now, starting families and having kids. You can hear that in this lullaby keyboardist Emmanuel del Real wrote for his two young children.


CAFE TACVBA: (Singing) De pronto desperte y mi encontre con algo que quiero dicer, con algo que quiero decir.

DEL REAL: Everybody keeps telling you, you haven't experienced nothing until you're a father. And you say, yeah, whatever. And when you has your child, you say, oh, jesus (laughter). And they say that you're going to discover a new way of love somebody or a new form of loving.


CAFE TACVBA: (Singing) Y aqui voy queriendo comprender que este es el mundo en que...

FREDRICK: Cafe Tacvba will be playing these songs on tour, which includes more than 30 dates in the U.S. Bassist and singer Quique Rangel is well aware of the significance of a Mexican rock band playing in President Donald Trump's America.

RANGEL: The four of us are not bad hombres (laughter). And I think we want to give to the people from Mexico and from other countries in Latin America to bring them comfort and hope.

FREDRICK: The musicians are all worried about the state of our world, but the new album opens and closes on high notes.


CAFE TACVBA: (Singing) Estamos reunidos todos juntos. Todos con ganas de celebrar.

FREDRICK: The final track, "Celebracion," tells listeners, quote, "let's get ready." Is it a call to political action or a call to party? They're happy to leave listeners wondering. For NPR News, I'm James Fredrick in Mexico City.


CAFE TACVBA: (Singing) Vamonos Preparando. Esto ya va a comenzar. Todo se percibe renovado. Juraria que es un nuevo color.

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