Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Funky Latin orchestra will groove in Hailey

Award-winning Grupo Fantasma kicks off summer concerts

Express Staff Writer

The 10-piece band Grupo Fantasma will perform at Hop Porter Park on Thursday, June 16, at 7 p.m. Courtesy photo

     “We do everything live—no DJ and no buttons,” said Greg Gonzalez, a band member of the Latin funk-orchestra Grupo Fantasma.

     Grupo Fantasma is 10 years strong and last year won its first Grammy Award for its album “El Existential” for Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album.

     “This album was our most collaborative effort,” Gonzalez said. “We rented a house and turned it into a studio. Band members brought ideas, fully arranged songs and improvised songs. All the different approaches worked well.”

     The open mindedness of Grupo Fantasma has made the band a world-class touring act. The band will make its Wood River Valley debut as part of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ summer concert series on Thursday, June 16, at Hop Porter Park in Hailey at 7 p.m. in conjunction with CSI’s Summer Spanish Institute. Tickets are $15 for Center members and $20 for nonmembers. Tickets for kids under 12 are $5. For details, call 726-9491 or visit

     Brought together by the bustling music scene in Austin, Texas, Grupo Fantasma formed in 2000 and is composed of musicians with Latin American and Texan backgrounds. Praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre, the band draws from influences that include cumbia, salsa, old-school funk and reggae.

     “We were two different groups,” Gonzalez said. “We were playing some venues and house parties and jam sessions in a college town. We put together the two bands and started playing funk and jams.”

     Gonzalez said the band members enjoy music from the 1950s and ’60s, a golden age for Latin music, but they put their own interpretation on it, adding a variety of world music genres.

     “Austin is a great town and very receptive to musicians,” he said. “It’s difficult to engineer such a big band, but over the years we’ve been really well received.”

     Known as the funkiest, finest and hardest-working Latin orchestra to come out of the United States in the past decade, Grupo Fantasma has garnered critical acclaim worldwide for its adventurous albums, prudent songwriting and unprecedented live shows. “Grupo Fantasma is as tight as one would expect from a band that routinely backs up Prince,” exclaimed LA Weekly. The Washington Post affirmed that “the 10 members represent a new generation of Latin music.” 

     “We represent something as rare as a diamond,” Gonzalez said. “These days, [traveling with] a large live band is totally a rarity.”

     Gonzalez said much of the music that dominates the airwaves these days sounds artificial.

     “It detracts from real music and real musicians who have played for a long period and have an authentic musical expression,” he said. “It’s like wine. The music has to age for 10 years.”

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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