Cuicani: The Debut Double Album Out Now (& Then)

Creating community and social change In Los Angeles through infectious world and soul music

By LatinoLA Contributor
Published on LatinoLA: May 17, 2016

Cuicani: The Debut Double Album Out Now (& Then)

Cuicani (kwi-kani) is a collective of singer-songwriters paying homage to world and soul music. The five-piece group draws influences from the sights and sounds of Los Angeles, the multi-cultural metropolis that the band calls home. Cuicani is Marlene Beltran-Cuauhtin and Marisa Martinez (The Mavens) on vocals, Tony Sauza (Tone-Irie) on vocals and guitar, Caitlin Moss on drums, and John Northup on bass.

Formed in 2012, Cuicani's members joined forces not only to create music, but to serve as dedicated agents of social change. Collectively, they have developed songwriting workshops, drum circles, theatre classes, and other empowerment lectures for their local communities.

As music and arts educators working with youth from K through 12th grades, all Cuicani members have been dedicated to developing the next generation of music makers with the intention of inspiring growth, enjoyment and healing. Since coming together, Cuicani has compiled a body of work that encompasses the educational curricula, and a collection of songs that have become the debut double album Now & Then, currently available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/cuicani3

Now & Then is a 16-track double album that reflects Cuicani's work in three distinct studio sessions, the first at Coney Island Studios with Grammy winning percussionist/engineer Alberto Lopez (member of Quetzal and Jungle Fire), the second with Grammy® winning producer/musician Quetzal Flores (founder of Quetzal), and the last at 54 East Sound Studios with producer/songwriter London Parker McWhorter.

Now & Then also represents two phases of the band's career--early work makes up the first half of the album titled "Then," and the second disc includes the recently written "Now" tracks. The album takes you through a range of world, soul, Latin, and Afro-Caribbean sounds that include reggae, dancehall, cumbia, timba, son, rock, and blues. The songs circle around themes of cultural identity, struggle of the working class, empowering community, heartbreak, love, and unity, while maintaining an uplifting sound and flow.

Cuicani is a hard working band that is constantly delivering new material, and that includes music videos. The first music video off the album released in March, "For Them Now" is a call for stronger black and brown unity. The video aims to raise awareness concerning the state sanctioned violence endured by black and brown communities in the U.S. Please follow this YouTube link to view: https://youtu.be/HOHOODGSnkY. In April, the band followed-up with "Mama," a reminder that our water is essential to life. The video was directed by Amanda Vigil & Marlene Beltran Cuauhtin and is available at http://www.facebook.com/CuicaniMusic/videos.

We recently asked Cuicani members to describe the songs on the album for us on the following track by track list below. It was a lot of fun to read the story behind each song, especially because Cuicani's music covers a range of interesting topics. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Track By Track Descriptions by Cuicani

Disc 1 – Then

"They Say": Anytime tragedy strikes unexpectedly, one is left to wonder why things work out the way they do. "They Say" is an honest admission of how unforeseen life events can completely alter someone's perception of the present and future. Through all the heartache, a plea for love and hope is expressed over a playful Ska rhythm.

"New Day": Written during the final hours of New Year's Eve leading into 2013, "New Day" shares a feeling of renewed joy and energy! The song captures the energy felt and shared between the members of Cuicani during their first months of working together as a collective. Feelings of being swept away by a wave of movement, energy, and vibrations encompass the positive and danceable groove present through the entire song.

"Dáme": A smoldering cumbia that seduces a lover's desire.

"Cultural Revolution": Giving honor to musical and artistic elders, "Cultural Revolution" brings light to the major influence reggae music has had on singer-songwriter, Tony Sauza. With a strong roots-reggae rhythm, Cuicani delivers a catchy and soulful interpretation of Jamaica's signature sound, complemented by vocal harmonies provided by the Mavens.

"Frontline": "Rise Up Today" is the call to action. The front line is portrayed as the setting of struggle, confrontation and a place that can vary depending on which battles you choose to take on. Whether you choose to focus on education, immigration, labor, law, medicine, etc. there are many battles to be fought.

"Solo En Ti": When the person you know you love and long for is gone, only dreams and visions can put your mind at ease. "Solo En Ti" tells the story of longing to be in the presence of someone you love and being engulfed by their image daily.

"Slow Down": Far too often, a narrow perspective and lack of patience prevents us from truly appreciating what has been in front of us for many years. "Slow Down" is about cherishing

"No Me Digas": A fun, danceable song that focuses on a man trying to lure a woman onto the dance floor. Musically, "No Me Digas" straddles the lines between cumbia and reggae rhythms in a seamless fashion.

Disc 2 – Now

"For Them Now": For Them Now is a show of alliance with the individuals living on the frontlines of the current struggles existing within black and brown communities in the U.S., today, as well as across borders. Also, this song acts as a call for black and brown unity in the face of prejudice. Specifically, "For Them Now," talks about how although the state and police violence experienced in both communities may look different at times, these experiences are inevitably part of the same struggle. "For Them Now" uses narratives from the lives of brown and black individuals to speak out against racist and anti-immigrant policies and beliefs existent within U.S. culture, as well as its justice system. The lyric "For Them Now" is calling for us to create a better future for our children now, so they won't have to suffer the same prejudices our generation has. Ultimately this song is coming from a place of deep love for humanity, and the potential is has to rise above hate and bias through shifts in our collective consciousness. Speaking out against racism, hate, violence, and bias is loving work that heals all as it raises awareness. That is what we are aiming to do with this video; raise awareness, heal, and express our deep love for human life.

"Mama": In drought ridden California and in many places throughout the world, water is a precious commodity. A soulful call to action for the conservation of clean water and a brazen stance against its privatization.

"Home": There are people we come across in life, we are so connected to, we feel we have known before. There are connections we make that evoke the sensation of returning to something or someone familiar, effortless, loving, and safe. This is what "Home" is about. "Home" speaks to the journey many of us take, across rough waters, and at times ominous seas, to be finally washed upon the shore of the person who loves you so deeply, you feel like you're finally home.

"By My Side": An intimate, heartfelt duet about two lovers who struggle to see eye to eye despite their sincere affection.

"Goodbye": A defiant, Jazzy, farewell to an oppressive relationship rooted in "machismo" and greed.

"Ain't No Sunshine": A soulful lament for a love that is not permanent, that you know you should let go, but that you yearn for on a deep visceral level.

"Free as a Dove": A Blues/Rock anthem for rebel hearts that have the courage to break free from the ties that bind.

"Money": We live in a capitalist society. This means that people's lives, their health, their happiness, as well as their overall worth as human beings are all largely dictated by how much monetary wealth they are able to accumulate. "Money" is a harsh critique of this rat race we must attempt to survive within. The lyrics say, "let it burn, let it burn, let it all burn, when the world dies, then the earth will free the mind." Meaning, we need to let this system, this artificial capitalist world we have created die, so we may get back to a more natural way or cooperative coexistence.


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