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FANKO comes to town with high energy joy

Live or streamed, FANKO is high energy joy. They brought it Ajijic and blew us all away

In last week’s Hot Half Dozen I recommended the album Diamantes y Dragones Parte 1 by the Mexican band FANKO.  I had listened to it on Spotify both in my headphones and on my speakers and loved it. Friday night I got the chance to see them in person in Ajijic on their Mexico tour. Wow!  Blew me away.

They had returned to Chapala after a 5-year absence since they screened their film Soy Migrante in 2017. As far as I am concerned, they are the rising band of the year in Mexico. This time they brought music, dancing and enough fun to fill the largest venue in own, the Auditorio.

Jaffo getting close to the audience

The core FANKO band – vocalist/guitarist Alfonso “Jaffo” Lura, trumpet player/percussionist Benjamin “Chemi” Santillanes, and saxophonist Arturo “Tibu” Santillanes, added Carlos S. Vilches on a small tuba and the bass guitar. They bought in a dance team of Leilani Rios, Déborah Priscilla Lemble Galán  and ElTilon (plus another male dancer whose name I did not get) to put on a show that filled the Auditorio stage and frankly could have filled an arena stage.

They played selections from their current album Diamantes y Dragones plus other songs from their earlier albums and their time in the band Plastiko. The audience knew the songs, the words, and the moves. They were on their feet, dancing in the aisles, singing along and having great fun.  It was a testimony to the experience of the band members, especially Tibu Santillanes, in connecting with an audience, picking up their vibe and amplifying it while staying in the song.  These guys are pros, and brilliant, fun, and able to bring people together with music.

Both the live performance and the album combine traditional Mexican instrumentation and forms with jazz, funk, and rock in a blend that is sheer high energy joy.  Each one of the musicians is a first class player technically and together they are so good they transcend the technical aspects of their music and move into the realm of bliss and emotion. Tibu’s sax notes power you forward while Chemi’s trumpet solos grab your gut.  Jaffo Lura holds down the center with his vocals while he cavorts with the dancers, at times sounding like he is channeling Dr. John, and in one song playing the digeridoo.

And the dancers – well, a brilliant addition. If you look at FANKO’s videos on line, the dancers  I saw Friday night work with them regularly and they are a perfect fit. Their athleticism -especially of Leilani Rios and ElTilo – is a real crowd pleaser. In these days of giant song and dance tours, a dance troupe is almost a necessity for live bands, and the two men and two women dancing  on stage Friday night brought that excitement.

Chemi blows his horn in a solo.

Whether you are able to see them live or stream the album, add Fanko to your favorites list of the best of Mexico’s popular music. Like I said, they create high energy joy, and they bring people together with music while they do it.

Patrick O’Heffernan



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (471 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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