Austin, Texas-based Grupo Fantasma will perform at Tulsa’s Guthrie Green Sunday afternoon, September 8 as part of Tulsa Roots Rocks the Green, a free concert series. Known for its energetic, genre-crossing sound that blends elements of funk, mambo, merengue, cumbia and reggae, this Grammy-award winning band headlines a line up that also includes Joe West & the Santa Fe Revue and The Plateros, a young blues-rock trio from New Mexico’s Navajo Nation. Music begins at 2:30 p.m., with Fantasma taking the stage at 5:30 p.m.
Fantasma’s 2008 album, Sonidos Gold, earned a Grammy nomination, and the band’s 2010 release, El Existential, won a Grammy award for “Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album”. The band has played many major festivals, and its music has been used in a number of films and TV shows, including Showtime’s “Weeds”, ABC’s “Ugly Betty”, NBC’s “Law & Order” and AMC’s “Breaking Bad”.
While band member Jose Galeano (vocals, timbales) is originally from Nicaragua, most of Fantasma’s musicians are from Texas. Although the majority of the band’s songs are in Spanish, not all of its members are bilingual. In a recent email interview, bassist Greg Gonzalez explained that using Spanish lyrics “just has to do with the nature of a lot of the rhythms and styles of music we choose to play. Plus, in Texas, there’s a lot of Latin culture, tacos, mariachis, Tex-Mex food, and food trucks. Texas music has always been heavily influenced by the nearness of Mexico, land gateway to Latin America.”
Fantasma’s music has broad appeal. Gonzalez credits the band’s “friendly, outgoing demeanor” and infectious sound for the diversity of its audience. It’s likely the group’s “melting pot” approach adds to the attraction. “We all grew up in a lot of places, and enjoying a wide variety of music has always been one of the hallmarks of the Grupo Fantasma sound, “Gonzalez commented. “Breaking down artificial borders and allowing styles to mix like nice people at an international party full of dancing people has always been our goal. We embrace our multiculturalism and encourage other people to open their minds to all different kinds of music.”
What does a band with such a sonically liberal philosophy listen to on the road? “Right now, it varies,” Gonzalez told me. “Everything from Freddie King to Mars Volta to Tame Impala to Outkast, Funkadelic, Antibalas, Chicha music, Quantic, Brownout…Our tastes are diverse.”
Fortunately for Grupo Fantasma fans, old and new alike, Gonzalez confirmed that there’s a new album on the way. “No release date yet, hopefully before the end of the year or early next spring,” he said. “The album is finished, and it sounds amazing. It was recorded at Jim Eno’s studio (Spoon) and produced by Steve Berlin (saxophonist, Grammy winner, fantasy sports league aficionado). Stay tuned for that and also our forthcoming DVD.”
Tulsa Roots Rocks the Green runs Sundays, Sept. 8 – Oct. 6, from 2:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. The series is free and features an eclectic mix of internationally touring artists, including South African rockers Kongos on Sept. 15, British blues-rock trio Leogun on Sept. 22, The Skatalites, Jamaica’s original ska, band on Sept. 29, and Scottish alt-rock band Frightened Rabbit on Oct. 6. For a complete schedule and more information, visit Tulsa Roots Music.
-With thanks to La Semana del Sur.
Grupo Fantasma Photo Credit: Youri Lenquette