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Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Band focuses on Latin sound

In the dim, moody lighting of the Black Swamp Pub, two guitarists and a trombonist shuffle lackadaisically around a makeshift stage playing “I Shot the Sheriff” with a laidback, but Latin-inspired, flavor. The crowd they play for watches intently, knees rising and falling with each beat.

The onlookers – most of them members of the University’s Spanish club, La Comunidad – came to hear a speaker give a charla, or talk, about Latin American culture.

But they stay to hear Los Motecas, a Latin rock band made up entirely of Spanish-speaking faculty at the University.

“We’re like a garage band for Shatzel Hall,” said Robert Burns, who both sings and plays trombone in Los Motecas.

Shatzel Hall is the romance language department’s “home base” on campus, where the band members can often be found.

Their name comes from a short story by Julio Cortazar, in which the Motecas are a mysterious nation of ancient people that are likened to the Aztecs.

“[The name] tells us that we might be someone else’s fiction,” joked Francisco Caballas, the percussionist.

Caballas started Los Motecas with former band member Dallas Black in January.

“We found out that we were musically inclined,” Caballas said.

They formed their group explicitly for the Spanish club.

“We like to involve the students – really, if it wasn’t for the students, we wouldn’t be here,” said Burns, who both sings and plays trombone in Los Motecas.

They do not play for the sake of La Comunidad alone, though – the experience itself is gratifying.

“It’s really addictive,” Burns said. “Personally, it’s the highlight of my week to be able to play with some talented played and some challenging music.”

Gerardo Cummings, director of programs and events for La Comunidad and the band’s bassist, said playing at La Comunidad’s charlas is magic.

“Sometimes, it may be 85 minutes of, ‘What the hell is happening?’ but for five minutes, it’s great,” Cummings said.

“It allows me to kind of open my circle of friends a little bit,” Cummings said. “In January 2005, I saw them play and,” he paused to snap his fingers, “that’s it, I was an automatic member since I could play bass guitar.”

Since then, Los Motecas has worked on cover songs while developing their own sound, but their focus all along has been on the Spanish language and culture.

“The charlas are in English and what we do with Los Motecas is we sing in Spanish,” Cummings said. “I hope that perhaps someone will be interested in Spanish and not just the language but in the music.”

In his classes, Cummings tells his students that if they want to learn Spanish they must immerse themselves in Spanish.

“When you’re walking somewhere, instead of listening to Eminem or Whitney Houston on your iPod, put on some Hispanic music,” he said.

Perhaps crowds in the Black Swamp Pub will load a few Juanes songs after hearing Los Motecas.

Evan Glasier, a graduate student who went to one of La Comunidad’s meetings last spring semester, said, “These guys all have families so it’s really cool [they do this].”

Josh Evans, Los Motecas’ electric guitarist, said he hopes the band gives people more incentive to come to La Comunidad’s meetings.

“I hope we get to be a good enough band that people come out to see [us] on our own,” he said.

“This group definitely has something that’s unique, you’re not gonna find something like this anywhere else,” Burns said.

“I think that’s what makes this unique,” Cummings added. “It’s in Bowling Green, it’s a small town, and here’s a Latin rock group.”

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