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Guest DJ: Café Tacvba, Mexico's Musical Philosophers

The iconic Mexican band Café Tacvba's new album is <em>Jei Beibi</em>.
Courtesy of the artist
The iconic Mexican band Café Tacvba's new album is Jei Beibi.

The Mexican band Café Tacvba came of age during a time in Mexico's history when voices of protest were gathering steam against the country's entrenched political establishment.The band's self-titled first album was released in 1992, four years after a presidential election that saw the left-leaning Cuauhtèmoc Cardenas run a campaign that challenged those in power on behalf of the millions who had suffered the fate of Mexico's failed economic and social policies over the years.

It was increasingly acceptable to question authority, and the band's brilliant debut challenged convention with a vision of Mexican music that pretty much grabbed the country by the lapels and shouted "Órale, pay attention to what we have to say!" And by the time Café Tacvba's second album, , was released in 1994, an insurgent army that named itself after a Mexican revolutionary war hero had undertaken an armed takeover of the southern part of the country to call attention to economic and social injustice.

The band went on to become a hard-working factory of top-notch musicianship that crafted hits mixed with messages, filling stadiums not just in Mexico, but everywhere people connected to their messages.

All this to say: It should come as absolutely no surprise that when I invited lead vocalist, composer and guitarist Rubén Albarrán and keyboardist and composer Emmanuel del Real (Meme) to be guest DJs, their selections and our conversation revolved around the state of Mexico and the world.

From where I sit, the members of Café Tacvba are really philosophers who use music to think about the human condition. They're deep thinkers who know how to craft melodies and lyrics that become part of our subconscious. And while this week's show is a chance to hear them talk through their ideas and perspectives, the best way to really absorb those ideas is through the band's substantial discography, including the recent release Jei Beibi.

And, of course, when Café Tacvba holds court in front of its dedicated fans.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.