Meet Mitote, playing Mexican folk music with Chicano sensibility

Photo by Isabel Salazar

Don’t call Mitote a band. Members of the Austin-based ensemble of musicians consider themselves friends who are participating in the great tradition that is “Son” (pronunciation: sohn, meaning: traditional) music.

Armed with instruments not traditionally seen around Austin, the group plays Son Jarocho- and Son Huasteco-style traditional regional Mexican folk music, from the states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas, respectively.

They take a humble approach to their music. “In a sense, yeah, we are playing Son Jarocho, but it’s coming from Chicanos,” said vocalist and guitarist Alex Chavez. “We are nothing compared to the guys, the women [who play it] down there. We do the best we can as individuals coming from this side of the border.”

Estevan Azcona was introduced to Mexican traditional music by another musician while attending university in California. Upon meeting Chavez years later in Austin, they realized pretty early on that they were into the same music. They were a bit surprised since there are not many people who were truly aware of Son Huasteco.

Chavez and Azcona started Mitote back in 2005. While Chavez mainly sings and plays the guitarra de son (a guitar that plucks the melody), Azcona plays the jarana, a folk-styled rhythm guitar, and the quijada, a percussion instrument played by striking the jawbone of a donkey with a stick or hand. Also in the original lineup were Mincho Jacob, on bass and percussion, and Alexandro Hernandez, who is no longer a member.

The current lineup also consists of Santiago Guerra on cajon, a box drum, and pandero, an octagonal shaped tambourine; David Perales on violin; and Carlos Salazar on guitarra de son and jarana.

Several members also play in other musical groups around Austin. Chavez is also in Latino indie band Maneja Beto and soul and R&B project The Downtown Rulers Club, along with Grupo Fantasma’s Beto Martinez. Perales is kind of a hired gun who plays in mariachi bands around Austin. However, Chavez, for one, does not consider Mitote a side project. “It takes up a particular space, a particular part of me,” he said.

The group has a lot of fun doing what they’re doing and they have a lot of respect for the music.

They released their first CD, self-titled, in 2008. “It was probably more for us than for anyone else,” said Chavez.

This April, Mitote recorded their second CD, II, at Ohm Recording Facility. Artists such as Martin Perna, from Ocote Soul Sounds and Anitbalas, DJ Chorizo Funk, and DJ S.T.A.T.I.C. guest star on the album, along with dancer/singer/actress Dava Hernandez. The album also includes spoken word by flautist, poet, and Co-Director of Austin nonprofit organization PODER Erika Gonzalez and Executive Director of Resistencia Bookstore Rene Valdez.

Mitotes are traditional Native American ritual celebrations. Speaking of celebrations, Mitote will be holding their CD release party Saturday, May 29 at Rabbit’s Lounge at 6th and Chicon in East Austin. The party starts at 8pm with Afro-cuban band Charanga Si.

For more information on Mitote and their music, go to www.mitote.org or visit their Facebook page.

By Vicky Garza
July 2010 update: Mitote will be having their last show (at least for a good while) Saturday, July 10 at Rabbit’s Lounge (1816 East 6th Street). They will be joined by DJ Chorizo Funk and special guests Erika González, Rene Valdez, Dava Hernández and local [email protected] Show starts at 9pm. No Cover. Check out the Facebook event page here.
Posted by admin on May 27th, 2010 and filed under Arts & Entertainment, Event Listings, In This Issue. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

2 Responses for “Meet Mitote, playing Mexican folk music with Chicano sensibility”

  1. Note regarding violinist Perales- David is a musician for hire and among other things, performs as a Mariachi. However, Mitote is not a paying gig for him. He loves playing with the group and says it helps him feel connected to his grandmother and other ancestors from the Veracruz region.

  2. admin says:

    Thank you for the clarification.

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