Bituaya’s first show in Los Angles wasn’t met with much fanfare. Roughly sixty people came to their show Saturday at Tropical De Nopal gallery, hosted by Eclectica deejays Reyes and Glenn Red. After their seventy five minute set briefly stalled by power outages and a complaining neighbor who called the police, I can gladly say that I was there to witness one of the best shows I’ve seen this year, if not in the last few.
Bituaya hails from Venezuela, a country known by most Americans more for their oil, baseball players and of course, their leader Hugo Chavez, who is overly hated by the right and overly loved by the left. Venezuela has a rich music history, from the Joropo music that reminds me of Mexico’s Son Jarocho, to Latin Pop stars Richardo Montaner and Jose “El Puma” Rodriguez. In recent years people all over the world have been getting down to the alterna-house sounds of the legendary Los Amigos Invisibles. Venezuela also has a rich history of great Salsa artists such as personal favorites, Oscar D’Leon, Federico y Su Combo, Los Dementes and La Dimension Latina. One cannot deny the influence of Caribbean music on Venezuelans or for that matter, on Bituaya as a band. Bituaya continues the trend of recent Latin America artists perfecting the mixture of Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia, Reggae, Hip-Hop and Electronica effortlessly and without sounding contrived.
The six -piece group consists of two rappers, a singer/multi-instrumentalist, a percussionist, keyboardist and one of the smallest deejays I have ever seen, no joke. This guy had to stand on a box just to use the deejay table! From their first song they got everyone up and started dancing, as they played tracks from their ElectroCaribe release. Right away you can tell that these guys are well trained in music. These aren’t guys stumbling through genres; these guys have studied the various styles they play. It’s not shocking to find out that Bituaya are linked to many community-based art programs in Venezuela. Each song seemed to get better than the next. I especially like the mixture of Joropo and Hip-Hop, with Aquiles Rengifo playing the cuarto underneath the Dub Reggae samples the solid flow of Miqueas “Piki” Figueroa. It’s something that I hoped that Son Jarocho groups would do more of, but it seems to be met with a lot of resistance. Bituaya made it seem so easy. In fact, every song came out so easily. Their Salsa was pure, the Merengue pulsed and the Cumbia/Reggae hybrids felt natural, all with that electro-sheen and Hip-Hop mentality that makes the music relevant. The night ended with a long jam, which included Raul Pacheco from the O.G. genre-bending band, Ozomatli, on guitar along with various Venezuelan nationals joining in on percussion and flute.
I had the daunting task of following the group with a deejay set. I tried my best but with the sound turned down due to noise complaints and an audience exhausted by Bituaya, I couldn’t do much besides play background music to the people trying to talk to the band. I would have to if I weren’t behind the turntables. I really enjoyed the band. Sometimes when I witness a band that is that good, I want to leave the show halfway through so nothing tarnishes the feeling that I am having at the moment. Because of the deejay set I was forced to stay and I’m glad I did because Bituaya did nothing tarnished that feeling. I guarantee just by word of mouth of the people that were at that show that Bituaya will play to a larger audience the next time around.
Wanna get their CD, ElectroCaribe? It is now available at Amoeba Hollywood for the low, low price of 7.98!