Music of Guatemala
The San Lucas Band Music of Guatemala LP (ABC Command, 1975)
Welcome to one of my favorite records. I first heard The San Lucas Band about 20 years ago at the bookstore I co-run. It was sitting in a small stack of records, next to the stereo. These were Peter's records (Peter being "the nice guy at the bookstore"), mostly folk, but a few noisy gems like Bitches Brew and Coltraine's Om. One evening, I put on the San Lucas Band album and was transfixed. What came out of the speakers was some of the most fucked up, otherworldly, Shaggs like music that I had ever heard. While the (seemingly) disjointed sound initially intrigued me, there was something else that kept me coming back. That something is that The San Lucas Band is genuine. It is real and there is power in that realness. The more I listened to it the more I heard things that held the band together, the weave of sounds and how the instruments fell (almost literally) in with the others to create a groove. When you first hear this stuff, you will think, "Soriano, what the fuck are you talking about? These guys sound like they are so high they can hardly play." Yeah, yeah, and that is what the idiots who call this "One of the worst records ever made" say. Listen to this a few times and if it doesn't sink in come back to it in a month or two. Meanwhile listen to Albert Ayler's Truth is Marching In and compare it to Marcha Numero Seis. Hear something?
So....I was hooked. I asked Peter what he was gonna do with the record and he told me he was giving it to his friend Tom. Damn! I took the record home and taped it and placed The San Lucas Band's Music of Guatemala on my want list. It sat there as number one for years. I looked in every record store I went into. I searched online and nothing came up. None ever showed up on ebay and no listings on gemm. One day, a couple years ago, I rode my bike downtown to a record store. I was going to look for some odd Top 40 song from years past, the name of which I don't recall. I couldn't find the record I was looking for and was about to leave when I asked the girl behind the counter where the world music section was. She pointed to a rack and I walked over, found the Latin America card, flipped through a couple records and there it was! The price was $4.99 and I was stoked. I went to the register and got rung up, all the while thinking, "You are selling me a thousand dollar record for only five bucks and you have no idea!" Now the San Lucas Band LP is not worth a grand, but it certain isn't a $5 record. Fifteen years the record had eluded me and now I held it in my hands and soon it would be playing on my turntable at home. A small triumph, you say, ahhh but you do not know, do you?
Besides having the music at hand, one of the things that made finding the record so special was that I now had access to the liner notes. For years, all I knew was that the San Lucas Band were from Guatemala. I did not know that they were Cakchiquel-Maya Indians and lived in a mountan village called Lan Lucas Toliman. I didn't know that the band had been in existence since 1922, had a rotating membership, and was considered a significant part of San Lucas village life. The band played at parties, funerals, dances, pretty much any social or religious occasion that called for music. Also from the liner notes, I was able to track down one of the women who recorded the San Lucas Band, an ethnomusicologist named Linda O'Brien. I learned that there was hours of tape of the San Lucas Band (who knows how well preserved) and that she had written more on the band and their music. We also discussed me reissuing the record, but got stuck on who in fact owned the rights, her or ABC. No reissue followed.
Here are two cuts that are pretty representative of the San Lucas Band. Marcha Numero Seis is a funeral dirge or marcha, one that they play on Good Friday, in the tradition of village bands in Old Spain. Noches Eternas is one of the San Lucas Band's rancheras. These were recorded in 1975. I hope you are as fascinated with the San Lucas Band as I am.
PS: It has been a while since I updated Gibble Gabble. Check it out. There is new stuff up.
been tryna scare this one up for years...
i think the band is still playing; i found some snaps by a recent holidaymaker to the region a couple years back...
Great series! As is the Ethnic Folkways albums.
best wishes from Australia
BTW, just wondering if you are the same Scott Soriano, that used to visit Bruce and the gang at Ye Olde Record Shoppe, in Diamond Springs. If you are, a very splendid hello, from all the gang. I sure do miss the big guy.