El David Aguilar(photo: Ivan Contreras)

Words by Annie Bacon

With the astounding number of American and British musical icons, it is easy, as Americans, to forget about the rich world of music being made at all corners of the earth. Some of that music exists within the context of its culture and some transcends it. The music of Mexican singer-songwriter El David Aguilar does both on Friday September 30 at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Aguilar refers to himself as a musical collage artist, clipping sounds from an immense variety of international styles — from cumbia and jazz to The Beatles, Brazilian folk from the '60s, and contemporary American pop. The result could go awry with songs too distant in sound. Instead, his 2014 eponymous release displays impressively smooth leaps — between, for example, the dark high energy of “Cineminuto” and “Desparendizaje,” in which his voice waxes sweetly philosophical on a bed of trumpets and a lonely electric guitar.

It’s not just the music that travels, however. Aguilar has brought his songs to audiences in Spain, France, Uruguay, and the US. The album’s release took him on a 30-city tour of Mexico and included filming a documentary of interdisciplinary links in art. He also made an appearance at SXSW 2016 in Austin, an experience he says helped him make some connections with local musicians. “But most important,” he says, “I saw a lot of great artist performing and that was inspiring for me.”

The travel in turn influences the music. “I always get influenced by other cultures and countries,” Aguilar said. “I feel like it opens my mind and my imagination.” Asked whether audiences from different countries respond differently from each other to his music, Aguilar said, absolutely! “I have something very Mexican in my songs. I come a lot from Mexican traditional music.” And as such, he believes, people outside Mexico respond even more favorably.

The Mission Cultural Center has been promoting Chicano, Latino, and South American art and music since 1977. Originally a museum, the center grew out of frustration for the lack of support for Latino cultural and creative expression. It operates on the belief (formed, they say, before Cortes and the conquistadors brought about the fall of the Aztec Empire in modern-day Mexico) that “culture is not something that is static but rather is linked to an ever-changing future that is reflected by contemporary actions and activities.” To this end, MCCLA offers a variety of dance, art and music classes, as well as presenting film and music events such as this.

Describing Aguilar as one of the most exciting contemporary songwriters coming out of Mexico, this will be the 3rd time MCCLA has hosted the artist. He will be performing songs from 6 albums spanning more than a decade, and says there is a new release due in early 2017. Aguilar also says there will be whistling and an earnest desire to embrace new experiences.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door, and can be found here.

El David Aguilar, Diego Ardila
Mission Cultural Center
September 30, 2016
7:30pm, $12

Annie Bacon is a musician (her life) and writer (her obsession) in San Francisco. She loves shouting out amazing local bands and finding new music (of any genre) that is emotionally moving or has depth. She also writes for The SF Critic, has her own band and is raising a little drummer kid.

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