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First music festival of the season – jazz, rock, pop, and hot Latin from Cuba

The International Music Festival in Ajijic Mexico launched Friday with a night of jazz, tacos and tequila. Much fun under the stars and two nights to go

It appears that the summer festival season has started early in Mexico, at least in my part of Mexico outside of Guadalajara.  I am now attending the 3-day International Music Festival in Ajijic, Mexico, on the shores of Lake Chapala.  The festival, which is Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening at an open air venue built and owned by a local musician, features artists from Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and Japan.

A small festival to be sure, with Covid-spaced tables on a vast lawn, a Mexican buffet, two bars and table service for the VIPs, it brought out jazz fans who relaxed with tequila, wine, beer and tacos while ON FIRE delivered astonishing sets and solos Friday afternoon and night.  ON FIRE is a R&B and jazz funk band with Willy Zavala on keys, Armando Curiel on drums and “Malabres” on bass and featuring Ajijic’s star saxman, Chuco Soto. Sensing the audience was jazz-oriented, the band stuck to a jazz format, with several improvisational and original tunes, and a long  “otra” – an  encore  after their set ended.

The festival  paid attention to Covid guidelines even though most of the audience had at least one vaccination;  second shots are not due in the area until the end of the month or the beginning of May. Festival goers wore “cubrabocas” – masks – when they wandered around the grounds  or waited in line for food or drinks, but were generally unmasked at their tables.  The waitstaff were masked; musicians of course, were not.  Given the nature of the music there was no dancing, but at tonight’s and Sunday nights’ performances there may be and there is plenty of room for it.

Tonight, Saturday, will be pop and rock with the vocals of Mexican singer Barbara Sagrey,  fronting her SAGREY band  with Diego Casas on drums, Kevin Real on bass,  local artist  Azael Medeles on the keyboard, Ray Domenech on guitar  and  Kenji Matsui from Japan on lead guitar.  The finale on Sunday night will see MANO PA’RRIBA, playing red hot Latin Music  with the beloved Freddy Adrian from Venezuela on standup bass, Mexico’s  Giovanni Figueroa   on drums and Ronald Rivero from CUBA on the keyboard and fronted by Jackie Jacks  with her belting vocals.

The festival was small – three bands  and 15 artists, but it is a start for fans starved for live music and the festival scene.  Promoter Ray Velvet Productions will likely bring in  more music as the season opens up.  Next month will see the Soul Queen Doña Oxford coming to Ajijic for her first ever Mexican concert – about time, after gigs in 25 countries and touring with Albert Lee and playing with Keith Richards, Bob Weir, Van Morrison, Roger Daltrey,  and many more.

The Festival is being sponsored by Semanario Laguna, the local bilingual newspaper, and Music Sin Fronteras radio of Ajijic (which broadcasts my show every Friday). After the second Covid shots are administered to over 60’s – a big part of the audience here for jazz and rock – and to younger generations, hopefully there will be more tours and more festivals. When there are, you will hear about it.

Patrick O’Heffernan, host, Music Sin Fronteras



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (470 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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