Band aims to preserve ‘one of the oldest musical styles in Cuba’

Gabriel Garcia uses music to help educate audiences.

The leader of the Los Angeles-based Changüí Majadero is looking forward to touring outside the region.

The band will perform two shows this weekend in New Mexico – one in Santa Fe and one in Albuquerque.

The band formed after Garcia took a trip to Cuba, where he learned more about Cuban music while playing the Cuban tres – three-stringed guitar.

Having played jazz and salsa music for years, he learned how to play Cuban music.

Back in the United States, Garcia formed the band and began posting videos online, which gained traction because it was something new to many audiences.

“Our primary goal is to help preserve the musical traditions of changüí,” he says. “It’s a style of music that originated in the early 19th century, yet over the years has become less and less known. Musicians think of it as ‘old’ music. It is one of the oldest music styles in Cuba. It’s also considered to be the roots of salsa and other Cuban genres.”

Garcia, who is Mexican-American, says playing Cuban music isn’t a big deal for him.

“Music has no borders, no race, no ethnicity,” he says. “It goes beyond all of that. Changüí, to me, is this super-deep-rooted humbled Afro-Cuban music. That’s what really caught my attention. Nobody wants to play the style of music. My goal is to make the genre relevant again. I’ve brought my maestro from Cuba over to perform with us. It’s always an educational experience.”

In addition to its two performances in New Mexico, Garcia and the band will also host “Inside Songwriting With Changüí Majadero” at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 29, in the History and Literary Arts Building at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The event is free, and registration is available at ampconcerts.org.

The AMP Concerts series focuses on the lyrical side of songwriting with musicians.

“Being able to share our writing process with others takes it to the next level,” Garcia says. “It’s important for us to keep the education of changüí at the forefront. We’re not only teaching it by performing, but we’re putting it on a platform where people can interact with us.”

The performances will be the band’s first in New Mexico.

“All of this is very new to us,” he says. “We’re looking forward to taking it all in and having a good time. Another goal is to get people up and dancing.”

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