Calle Poniente is what I would normally call a frontage road – a small road that runs alongside a highway. It is a leafy cobblestone street lined with high walls punctuated by bronze or wooden double driveway doors that open with a remote. The walls and a double row of stately trees and jacarandas shield the neighborhood from the sound of the adjacent carretera – the highway.
I had driven the carretera dozens of times without noticing Calle Poniente or thinking about what lay behind those walls. Last week I found out when I attended an album preview party at the home of Yanin Saavedra, who is preparing to release her debut album, Busqueda – “Search” in English. I say “preview” and not “release” because Yanin plans to release selected singles first and then the album, but she was previewing all the songs that night for friends, family and music insiders. I had seen and reported on Yanin’s concert at the La Mezcalaria in Ajijic so I knew her music and was delighted to receive an invitation to the party.
I parked under a jacaranda tree a half block away and headed toward the open gate, beckoned by the murmur of conversation, the tinkling of wine glasses and an occasional snatch of music. My wife and I walked through the now open gates and down the driveway past the pool toward the loft-style glass-walled house. Tiny lights twinkled in the late afternoon shadows, a busy bar on the grass near the house served drinks to a small line of gringos and Mexicans, and groups of people chatted on the grass and the wide porch.
Inside, the spacious living/dining room shimmered in lights and a projection of the album cover on one wall. The room had been cleared and rows of plastic chairs set up facing a large band/stage area with a Cajon and percussion instruments, a standup bass, guitar stands, microphones, and an accordion. Separating the back of the audience area from the kitchen was a long buffet table filled with breads, chips, dips. meats, cheeses, and fruits – protected by plastic wrap and a sign that said “Cerrada” – closed. I snuck a few chips anyway to offset the mescal I was sipping.
The band moved to the stage area and began tuning up; Yanin’s partner, bassist Gilberto Rios, adjusted the mixer and computers in a corner while Yanin circulated on the lawn, hugging friends and charming guests with her 1000-watt smile. Soon Gilberto called for everyone to come inside; the music was about to start.
As she came to the stage area, Yanin practically shimmered in a blue dress with contemporary Mexican embroidery. She and the band were backlit by the floor to ceiling windows filled with flowers and sunlight. The 1000-watt smile I mentioned had somehow gotten more luminous as she greeted friends in the audience and then launched into the first of two sets of truly glorious, rollicking music.
Yanin is well-known locally where she teaches music in schools and plays in local venues. She has toured Mexico and Europe, playing festivals and clubs and even streets across the Continent. She has been influenced by traditional music from around the world and contemporary Latin music. This gives her original songs an up-to-the-minute Latin flavor with a global mixture of traditional rhythms and sensibilities. She blends influences from her travels with her glorious voice and impressive guitar skills to create a unique style often tagged in the “world music” genre, but which is actually much broader as she proved that night. Busqueda is her first album, long overdue considering her touring experience and popularity. She has played locally and put a few songs on Bandcamp, but this will be her first foray into a global audience outside of live performance
The concert continued for two sets with an intermission to give the band – Gilberto Rios on bass, Vinent Houdré on accordion, Angel Madrigal on drums and Luis Almaguer on guitar –a break, and to let the audience refresh their drinks and graze at the buffet table. The second half of the concert ramped up the tempo with songs from the coming album and some from her catalog on Bandcamp. The audience responded with clapping and dancing, pushing chairs out of the way to make room. The party wound down slowly with cheers, kisses, hugs, and selfies, returning Calle Poiente to its tranquil state, after launching what is sure to be a very big success.
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