Goddess of Soul Doña Oxford came to visit last week, her first time in Mexico, to have a relaxing vacation and perform at a single gig. But Ajijic is not a Pueblo Magico for nothing – things happen that you can’t predict but you can enjoy. Instead of a relaxing vacation – well, there was some relaxing – Doña took the Mexican pueblo by storm And it returned to favor.
Ajijic – where I live – is a mountain village on Lake Chapala, about an hour outside of Mexico’s second largest city and its creative capital, Guadalajara. Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake, about the size of California’s Lake Tahoe, and it is a vacation and tourist spot for Mexicans, and Expats from around the world. It is also an art colony and a big music town with many venues and scores of retired but still playing gringo musicians, and great working Mexican musicos and musicas.
With a population of 9,000, about a quarter of whom are expats, it is one of a string of villages along the north shore of the lake. But because of its murals, festivals, art colony, and music culture, it was declared a Pueblo Magico – magic village – by the Federal government, one of 132 in the country.
Doña came to the magic village and was booked into a local venue, Cuatro Sentido for a jazz and boogie gig arranged by local promoter, sax player and big band creator Christine Philipson. Cuatro Sentido is a second story, outdoor restaurant that could seat 200 if it wanted to, and normally seats 100 for big band concerts. Oxford’s concert sold out in a few days and the box office at the restaurant finally relented on the waitlist and sold 134 tickets, adding tables for the overflow.
Doña s show blew everyone away. The band – Javier Villaseñor on guitar, Klaus Meyer on sax, Evan on drums, Tony Valle on bass, and backup singers Andrea Perez Romero and Tzintzuni Varela – had only one two-hour rehearsal with Doña at my house but kept the boogie movin’. Javier played incendiary guitar licks that echoed off the mountains and had everyone in the room including Doña cheering and clapping. At one point it seems like the entire room was up dancing.
But there’s more. The next night Doña and my wife and I went to dinner at Ajijic’s premier jazz spot, Casa Domenech, and were grooving to the vocals of Bárbara Sagrey and her band. Well, of course Ray asked Doña if she wanted to sing or play or both, and of course she did , and much fun ensued. Doña and Bárbara joined in a duet that brought the house down, then she took over the keys while the keyboard player shifted to a keytar and rocked the house with “Drinkin’ Tanqueray” that got the entire audience singing.
It was a magic night. But another magic night awaited.
The next night, a local rock club, El Barco, hosted Javier Villaseñor and members of Blue Jay Slim’s band (Javier and the band are in the Blues Hall of Fame) for an afternoon rock/blues fest. Doña, my wife ,and I joined our promoter Christine and some other musicians at a front table. Of course, Javier could not resist asking Doña to join him onstage. And she could not say no.
Doña sang, played the keys and sang some more. She was joined by TzinTzuni, one her backup singers from the Sentido concert who was there, and eventually by Blue Jay himself who was in the audience. At one point Doña was doing four-hands keyboard with the band’s (excellent) keyboard player, then jumping over to sing and sway with TzinTzuni while Javier’s guitar lit up half the town with flaming riffs as the audience danced and hooted and cheered and sang along.
It was magic, again.
Doña is back in the magic city of Los Angeles and her many projects. But the Pueblo Magico of Ajijic is still vibrating from her “vacation” here and hope she returns to put us back under her spell – and we put her under ours.
Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music Sin Fronteras radio
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