Concert Review: Sergent García @ New Parish, Oakland

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Now this is a concert line up that makes sense. I hate it when they throw in artists that have nothing in common musically speaking, just because they have a similar background. We see this happen all the time with Latin music shows put together by clueless promoters. I once saw a salsa bar band opening for Babasónicos, yikes.


Rupa and Sergent García, however, they were meant to share the same stage. Not only they’re both French by birth and sing in Spanish (English and French too), they also fall into this category of world-trotting mestizo artists that blend elements from different musical traditions in a seamless collage, imprinted with a politically conscious message.

Oakland’s own DJ Santero kicked off the night at the New Parish mixing some Spanish reggae and new cumbia tunes, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Then Rupa and her fishes stormed the stage and with no preambles kick-started the concert in a super up-tempo note with their local hit “Un americaine a Paris.” Seems like after opening for the mestizo messiah, Manu Chao, last year at The Warfield, The April Fishes are more and more like Radio Bemba in the sense that live they infuse their otherwise mellow melodies with this contagious combat ska energy and take virtually no pauses between songs.

African rapper Black Nature of The Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars did a guest appearance freestyling over Rupa’s remarkable cover of The Clash’s classic “Guns of Brixton” confirming once again that Joe Strummer’s band is the actual link that connects all the mestizo rock scene.

Another one that owes much of his inspiration to The Clash when mixing Latin elements with punk ethos is Bruno García, who came back to the Bay Area two years after that memorable concert in Sterngrove Festival. This was El Sargento’s first time on Oakland though.

After spending a season in Colombia recording his latest opus Una y Otra Vez (out on Cumbacha

Records) García added a guest of honor to his touring band, trying to bring with him the characteristic Colombian sound that is a watermark throughout the album. Jacobo Vélez of Bogota’s La Mojarra Eléctrica, was already a guest clarinet player in said album, but live he brought in maracas, güiro and even vocals, doing Supa Bassie’s ragga part on the genre defining “Yo Soy Salsamuffin.” Most importantly,

he added a lot more energy to the performance and interaction with the crowd.

Still, I would’ve liked to see Bomba Estereo‘s Li Saumet as the guest Colombian, doing their “Mi Son Mi Friend” one of the best collaborations of 2011. Maybe next time.