Where to begin.
To my eternal shame I have to admit that Los de Abajo were new to me when Mariachi Beat landed on my desk
I might, just might, have heard them in the background in one of Wexford’s most enduring, and best, restaurants, The Vine.
But I’m not so sure, because it would have been late, and veritas doesn’t always follow the vino, but David K, the proprietor, has been promoting and advocating world music there for more years than I can remember.
So what little I know about Los de Abajo can be crystallised by a brief summation of Mariachi Beat: one of the most infectious CD’s I have played in a long time.
This is occasionally 90 miles an hour music. The musicianship and the singing is stupendously good. Hell, better than that. But even the scope and the mercurial radiance of the ten track Mariachi Beat doesn’t do Los de Abajo justice.
A ten piece group, Los de Abajo were born to play live. There are any number of excellent performances available on You Tube, but – if your time is limited, and a coffee break is due – look up Me Dejo.
Los de Abajo are from Mexico and, starting out, they were the Latin American purveyors of ska, a mishmash of the virtuosity of the Jerry Dammers-led The Specials and the anarchy of Madness.
Talking Heads’ David Byrne matured their blend of rock and salsa and reggae and ska and cumbia and brought it to the attention of a global audience: they have evolved considerably since the fledgling days of salsa punk, but their joie de vivre has never slackened.
You wouldn’t associate Los De Abajo with soul searching, but Mariachi Beat is the consequence of a period of reflection, of introspection, in which the band sought an answer to the question: what does it mean to be Mexican?
I wouldn’t get bogged down, however, in semantics, because if anything, as songs like Toro Y Regina, Ya Me Voy and Mujer Cuerrera show, Los De Abajo as an ensemble is collectively superb at wooing and marrying a fusion of genres and cultures from near and from far.