Spir­ited en­ergy

The­atri­cal lo­cal band has one foot in the grave, but its de­but CD is full of life

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Kevin Prokosh

LONG live the Day of the Dead! The mem­bers of Winnipeg’s Mari­achi Ghost have cho­sen Satur­day, El Dia de Muer­tos in Latin Amer­ica, to re­lease their first full-length al­bum and give life to their hopes of be­com­ing a global tour­ing act. It seemed the only fit­ting day of the year for an eight-piece band named af­ter a fic­tional early 1900s Mex­i­can cow­boy who strad­dles the void be­tween life and death. Each of the 11 songs on their self-ti­tled record­ing is a chap­ter in the adventures of the char­ac­ter cre­ated for a graphic novel by lead singer Jorge Requena. “It’s a big tra­di­tion for me and my fam­ily to cel­e­brate the Day of the Dead,” says Requena, a film­maker by day. “A lot of the band’s themes are Day of the Dead-in­spired. Our makeup is Day of the Dead-in­spired. The su­per­hero of my comic book is in­spired by the Day of the Dead. “Mak­ing our dreams come alive is hap­pen­ing that day.” It is a Mex­i­can cus­tom since the time of the Aztec civ­i­liza­tion to gather, of­ten in grave­yards, with the spir­its of loved ones who have died and re­turn to Earth on the Day of the Dead. It is typ­i­cally cel­e­brated with mu­sic, so Mari­achi Ghost saw it as an ideal date on which to in­tro­duce its new work, a pi­cante mix of tra­di­tional Mex­i­can mu­sic, pro­gres­sive rock and spaghetti western sound­tracks. The launch party at the West End Cul­tural Cen­tre will be the high­light of the band’s five-year ex­is­tence. It is the largest venue Mari­achi Ghost, a spir­ited live act, has ever head­lined and the most at­ten­tion it has at­tracted. The band suc­cess­fully raised $10,000 last sum­mer through the in­ter­na­tional crowd­fund­ing site Indiegogo, so the mu­si­cians, whose faces are painted as if half their skulls are miss­ing, will be per­form­ing for many of their fi­nan­cial back­ers Satur­day. “This is re­ally the new way to make mu­sic,” says Requena, who came to Canada from Mex­ico in 2004. “In this in­stance you are beg­ging from the peo­ple who have the most at stake, your au­di­ence, where as be­fore you were beg­ging from a record la­bel.” Requena typ­i­cally cre­ates the skeleton of the band’s Span­ish songs be­fore the rest of the play­ers flesh them out, a process that can take years. The mu­si­cal pieces go through many re­vi­sions be­fore they hit the stage and then, based on the re­cep­tion of the au­di­ence, will be mod­i­fied some more. “We try to dis­cover what is hiding in the song and bare its soul,” says Requena. The song Chamán tells the story of how the ghost finds his power to shapeshift into a jaguar, while Sal deals with forced labour in Mex­ico and the ghost’s cru­sade against it. La bruja nar­rates the story of the ghost’s adop­tive sis­ter as she turns into a dark sorcer­ess and the way the power con­sumes her. On­stage, Mari­achi Ghost will be joined by five con­tem­po­rary dancers, five acro­bats and con­tor­tion­ists, as well as the Flam­ing Trol­leys, a rad­i­cal march­ing band that per­forms an­ar­chist an­thems from Spain. Requena is seek­ing to cre­ate a the­atri­cal lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. “I thought the acro­bats and con­tor­tion­ists would com­ple­ment our show,” he says. “They push what a hu­man be­ing is to the edge of hu­man ca­pac­ity in a sort of su­per­nat­u­ral way. How bet­ter to ex­plain the su­per­nat­u­ral na­ture of our mu­sic than to bring them on­stage with us?” Mari­achi Ghost is team­ing up with the Trol­leys again in an ef­fort to in­crease the ex­pec­ta­tions on their con­cert. They ex­pect the show will spill off the stage into the au­di­ence, with the Trol­leys lead­ing the way. Like most bands, Mari­achi Ghost is op­ti­mistic its al­bum will open doors to new au­di­ences and venues, but the mem­bers are re­al­is­tic about what it can ac­com­plish. “It could be pos­si­ble af­ter Satur­day night, things go down­hill, we break up and we never make another al­bum again,” Requena says. “It’s also to­tally pos­si­ble some peo­ple in Europe will like our al­bum and call us over there to play. “Any­one that comes to the show will see five years of work in the mak­ing. We will make it an en­ter­tain­ing, beau­ti­ful, ex­trav­a­gant and mys­ti­fy­ing show. Maybe they are bold claims, but we have been work­ing hard on it.”


Mari­achi Ghost is re­leas­ing its first full-length al­bum tonight at the West End Cul­tural Cen­tre.

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