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Covers, music parties, and Kim Kuzma’s Canadian -Mexican connection.

Mexico loves American rock, but they add a habanero twist, just like Kim Kuzman did in this concert

It is Friday night in Ajijic, Mexico and I am sitting on my veranda with my laptop listening to a very good rock band play covers of Carlos Santana songs  at a private party down the hill from my house.  Parties, venues,  and clubs are open now as the first round of Covid shots have been given and we now go for many days with no new Covid cases.  So the party down the hill is rocking, probably without masks, but since I can only hear them and I  can’t see them I don’t know.

Mexicans love music and they love to party.  There is music everywhere – coming out of cars, restaurants, parks, homes, rock clubs, non-rock clubs, and people’s front and back yards. When you walk into the local Walmart, one of the first things you see is a big display of bocinas portábles, – big portable speakers that can play music from your phone or CD player– designed to keep the party going loudly. Every family has at least one (I have one!)

You hear a lot of American covers here, from the 60’s to the 2000’s.  Part of the reason is that there are a lot of Expats here and they like to hear the music of their youth, or middle age as the case may be.  But another reason is that Mexicans just like it; there are Mexican radio stations that play nothing but American rock sandwiched between Spanish ads and news bulletins. Rock rules, even in the land of Mariachi.

Another reason is that a lot of American music, especially from the 2000’s, is Latin-tinged, like the covers wafting up the hill to me. And even if a song was not Latin-tinged or arranged with a tresillo or habanera beat, by the time a Mexican band gets into it, it is.  Straight 4/4 rock emerges with 6/8  rhythms and salsa beats.

Keeping this in mind, I was very curious when I arrived at the Concert on the Lawn this past weekend to see and hear Kim Kuzma, a highly decorated Canadian singer now working in Puerto Vallarta with a top-notch Mexican band, the Los Amigos.

Kim is well-known and well-traveled, touring Europe, Canada and the US and opening for stars like Harry Belafonte.  Her debut album, Contradictions,  held the No.1 spot on the HMV Vancouver Indie Sales Charts for over seven and a half months and she was voted Canada’s Best Independent Artist in 2001 by fans at canadian-music.com.  So I was interested to see how her mix of pop, humor – she is also an acclaimed  comedian  – would blend with a Mexican band.

The answer is really well!

The band with her consisted of a  percussionist with just a small snare drum, a cajón and a standup bass (go figure), a lead-guitarist who played everything from rock riffs to Flamenco guitar picking, and a down and dirty electric bass  player. They played everything from “California Dreamin’” to “Bombalero” to “I Will Survive” with plenty of habanero NS hip swaying – they even played  “Sway” by the Mexican composer Pablo Beltrán Ruiz). Lyrics switching from English to Spanish. Tall, slender, and blonde, Canadian Kuzma and her Mexican band rocked on both sides of the cultural aisle and got people up dancing.

Kuzma interspersed humor bits between songs, which went over well with  both gringos and Mexicans in the audience since they were mostly related to her problems with men (hard to believe), something pretty universal. 

The band playing the party down the hill from me doesn’t seem to be breaking up their sets with jokes, but the principle is the same – take vintage American pop and rock, add a Latin beat, sway your hips and dance , and you have a party.  Kuzma’s concert last weekend was a party;  now I need to post this and wander down the hill and see if I can crash the neighbors party.

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Music Sin Fronteras radio



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (485 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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