Cultural Harmony At Work
Words by Sommer Brugal Photos by Eric Morales
Self-described as music junkies and hippies, Cilantro Boombox has two rules when it comes to performing and listening to their upbeat music: both band members and attendees must smile, and they must dance.
Cilantro Boombox perfectly combines soothing rhythms, soulful jazz, and dance music beats. Listening in allows your ears to eavesdrop on Latin and Pan-African cultures. The band fuses both big brass and electronic elements, and their sound provokes movement and dance.
Though there are up to 9 band members at every performance, bassist Félix Pacheco says the large number wasn’t part of the plan. Even so, Pacheco says the growth was organic.
In its early days, the band invited other musicians to play with them live. More often than not, the instrument enhanced the music, and the musicians simply “stuck around.” Unplanned, each became a valued addition. Alto saxophonist Joshua Thomson says that every member brings something to the table. “If anything,” laughed Thomson, “we have a bounty of ideas…it’s a good problem.”
The band self-released an 11-track debut album in 2012. Pacheco recounts the release party at Hotel Vegas and the band rehearsing at Sahara Lounge. Both Pacheco and Thomson discuss the changing landscapes of east Austin. “It’s definitely affecting the type of music being made,” he stated, “[but] there’s still an opportunity for unity [amongst musicians].” And though some people say there’s no good music anymore, Pacheco suggests otherwise; he encourages listeners to dig deeper than what’s mainstream.
Despite the new and shifting environment, the band is working on their second album—this time, focusing on more mature lyrics. With no fixed structure or procedure, the band is leaving it up to the music to express its meaning.
“I don’t think we try to find the ideal [meaning] of what a song should discuss,” said Pacheco. “We’re socially conscious so there’s always that element [in our lyrics], but we’re also not afraid of talking about regular, day-to-day lyrics that make you want to dance.”