Alejandra Ortiz and Luis Maurette met at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 10 years, and now live (respectively) in Bogota, Colombia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Together, as Lulacruza, they play the Colombian cuatro, shruti box, tar, kalimba, charango, multiple types of percussion and electronic sequencer, and several varieties of Amazonian flute. Their music is hypnotic, experimental and difficult to classify. We asked them lots of questions about it anyway, which they were kind enough to answer. You can see them play one of the last dates of their tour tonight, here in the Mission.
Mission Loc@l: So your tour is almost over. What will you do when you’re not traveling?
Luis Maurette: I do a bunch of things. I teach classes in audio production and software. I’m doing a project where I film indigenous music in South America.
Alejandra Ortiz: I play music. I teach music. I also teach something called Yoga with the Voice – it combines yoga, tai chi and breathing exercises. I studied at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and graduated from the Sound, Voice & Music Healing Program. So I developed my own system of using the voice for healing and transformation, and that is what I teach.
We also ask for grants. That’s so important, and it’s something most other musicians don’t even think about. And I’m also very interested in indigenous music.
ML: What is it like to research indigenous music?
AO: Things are never the way that you expect them to be. It’s so much more complex than this idealized vision of indigenous people.
On one of the first grants that I got, I went to visit this medicine man in the Putomayo region. But when I got there, the entire village was partying. I hadn’t realized that this was their carnaval. They were drinking, playing music, dancing. On the first day everybody was all in white. On the second day, everyone was all in black, painting their faces black. On the third day, everything was rainbow. We moved from light to dark to the creation of all things. It’s not just party time.
ML: Did you participate?
AO: Yes. There is no way you can not participate. They grab you and paint your face and throw things.
ML: And studying the music of others must have some effect on your own.
LM: When you listen to our music, you will never say, “That rhythm is from Colombia, that one is from Argentina. We try to understand the essences that make up this music. It informs our work and nurtures our music. But we don’t use it deliberately.
ML: What were some memorable moments from the tour?
AO: We played at the Red Poppy Art House in July. We did a residency there in 2008, and so we know that space so well — we know how it sounds. It was so crowded. There was so much energy. That was an incredible show.
LM: In Denver, we were invited to play for the Biennal of the Americas, which had musicians representing all of the countries in the hemisphere. We got to play with Juana Molina, a musician from Argentina who we admire.
ML: Now that the tour is almost over, will you get to see each other very much, since you live in different countries?
AO: We spend a lot of time together. When we get back we’ll spend three months in Argentina, three months in Colombia.
ML: And why did you leave the Bay Area?
AO: We’d been living in the States for 10 years. We felt like it was time to go back home. And I felt like I didn’t have anything to offer, and there was much need in my country.
ML: When you visit San Francisco, where do you go?
LM: Well, most of our friends in San Francisco live in the Mission. We go to Dolores Park. Weird Fish. Osha. We go out for Mexican food.
ML: How does the Mission compare to Buenos Aires?
LM: There are lots of people from nearby countries. Entire neighborhoods filled with Bolivians, Peruvians. But the Mission is different. It’s quite a mix, even though most of the Latinos are from Central America. You won’t find many Argentinians in the Mission. A few Chileans. A few Colombians.
ML: Luis, have you had any memorable experiences doing musical ethnography?
LM: I had a really amazing experience at the Punta Corral festival. It’s this pilgrimage up a mountain. 10,000 people climbing. 73 bands. 500 musicians. They have flutes and pipes and bass drums and flare drums and cymbals.
They play the entire time – just play and play and play and play. They party on the way up, party at the top, party on the way down. I could barely make the climb without playing a big bass drum, without blowing on the pipes. We were 11,000 feet above sea level. I don’t know how to put it into words. But there is a video.
LM: Well, I haven’t posted it yet. But there will be soon.
Zambaleta presents Lulacruza this Friday, July 30.
8 p.m. Ganucheau, 9 p.m. Lulacruza, 10:30 p.m. Guest DJ The Woodshop
Tickets $10-$15, sliding scale