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Combing traditional sounds with contemporary issues

Daniel French and the rest of his band, Las Cafeteras, rocked Le National last weekend to wrap up Mundial Montreal. (Jessica Deer, The Eastern Door)

Las Cafeteras.

Remember that name.

The Los Angeles-based band brought their unique and energetic performance to a Montreal stage on Friday night as a part of a showcase for an international music summit, and they included a Kahnawake connection.

The six-member band is made of children of immigrants who are remixing roots music and modern day stories with a mash of hip hop, punk, cumbia, and folk rock.

“It’s kind of a mash-up of back in the day and now. We play traditional stringed instruments, eight-string guitars, a lot of stomp dancing,” said Daniel French, who plays the jarana, keys, raps and sings. “We sing in English, Spanish and I always throw in a little Kanien’kéha in there.

The 33-year-old Chicano was born and raised in Los Angeles. Although he knew his mother was from Mexico, and his father had German, Italian and French ancestry, he only discovered his Kanien’kehá:ka roots in Kahnawake in 2011.

The Eastern Door wrote a story about his journey to Kahnawake that summer, having the opportunity to learn more about Kahnawa’kehró:non Homer French his great-grandfather.

“This is a really meaningful moment where we’re representing our Mexican roots and our Indigenous roots and traditions,” said French who told The Eastern Door prior to Friday’s show. “It’s like a bridge between my two worlds – to have these two parts of my life meet at the same place is really powerful.”

The band has been around since 2008, with their debut studio album It’s Time released in 2012.

They spent five months of the year on the road traveling across the United States and Canada, including hitting the stage at last year’s International Jazz Festival of Montreal.

French returned to Kahnawake last week, along with his bandmates as part of Mundial Montreal. The annual music conference/festival operates a springboard for some for the best world music talent emerging from Canada.

“We’re here to meet the community of people that put on concerts throughout Canada, to build relationships with other musicians and creative spirits in the area,” said French.

“The big picture is really building those relationships with presenters, performers and hopefully being inspired to make some new cool, world-changing music. That’s really the essence of what the band is trying to do – lift people’s spirits and to tell the stories where we come from and stories of where we’re headed.”

This year, a large number of Indigenous artists participated including IskWé, the Jerry Cans, Digging Roots, Logan Staats, Nick Sherman, and Moe Clark.

French said every time he has the opportunity to be in Montreal, he looks forward to spending time with friends and family in Kahnawake.

“Just being in Haudenosaunee territory, I feel like I’m making friends and deepening what it means to be Kanien’kehá:ka and who I’m supposed to be because of that,” he said.

jessicad@easterndoor.com
Jessica Deer
Jessica Deer is the deep-thinking, quick-witted (and perhaps heavily caffeinated) columnist. She began her career at The Eastern Door back in 2008 as a summer student. In addition to writing about youth leadership, ranting about Indigenous politics, as well as raising awareness of cultural appropriation issues in The Caffeinated Potadoe, Jessica has been a staff reporter since 2015 and does on-call layout and graphic design. She also updates the website, so if something is broken... it is probably her fault.
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