Go see Israel Matos and his band Manicato at Cafe Du Nord this Saturday, June 13th. It’s a mystery how their music is yet undiscovered to so many San Francisquegnos, especially considering they’ve been around since ’04.

[Where is the blasted tilde on this putamadre of a cpu, Steve?] I caught up with Israel a couple weeks ago in the Mission and this is what he had to say by an obligatory 10-question shakedown. It must be stated however that this interview provides really only a much abbreviated paraphrase, which will be expanded upon soon but in the meantime have this nugget and then like I said like thrice go check out the show.

CD: You grew up inside your music. Talk a little about that?

IM: My father is a renowned salsero, or sonero, and from the age of eight I was playing percussion as he sang, call and response [coro y pregon]. There were always instruments around the house. Music was part of my everyday life.

CD: Before Manicato and the timba, you yourself sang traditional salsa for six years. I know the jury’s still out on this one, but I have to put you on the spot here: where did salsa originate, what region?

IM: Ooh, that’s a dangerous question. See the Caribbean. You can [smiles, sheeshes through his teeth] quote me on that.

CD: Your band plays timba, a sub-category of salsa?

IM: Yes, but its evolution has definitely been independent of salsa, more wide-ranging melody lines, it’s funkier, groovier. See Puerto Rico.

CD: You maintain a great sense of confidence about this band, an undeniable positivity about you, but your stage presence is placid. How’s that?

IM: I’ve sung in rock and roll bands, too, and done the whole go-crazy-on-stage thing. It’s never been me. Manicato is my baby, and so I want to do what feels natural for me. The flashiest thing I do is spin my cowbell.

CD: No, I wouldn’t call you flashy, but your stage presence is definitely felt, and for me when I saw you on May 5 at the Elbo Room it was something to marvel at that you seem so completely comfortable, floating above the music even as you immerse yourself in it.

IM: Most of the time all I have to do is relax and let it happen. We can be a peaceful presence on stage and people can still get excited.

CD: Which is not you being arrogant. It’s a thorough, inside-and-out grasp of the form that allows you to be free up there to make it with the crowd in that subtle way of yours. Is that it?

IM: Yes, exactly.

CD: Tell me about the album you guys are working on. This is your first. Is there any particular concept?

IM: I ‘m so happy that Familia is finally getting made. This is our fifth attempt, money has always gotten in the way. I hate that money is such a reality, I really do. The album is about family, unity, about people coming together in a universal way, reaching across political and cultural divides to find common ground. The title track, “Familia,” features these lyrics. [translating from Spanish]:

“without flags, without borders, in one voice, listen now, without hesitation, and come with us to the revolution of love. . . .”

I know, it sounds so cheesy in English. You should probably include the Spanish with it.

CD: Ok. So it will make your mother proud, then?

IM: Yes, very much so. She loves my music and supports me; too bad there’s not a song for her on it. I’ll be sure to put one on the next record. Or just do a whole record of songs about my mom.

CD: As a fourth-generation Italian American, I must know: Do you like manicotti? Do you guys ever get that one as a comic alteration of your name?

IM: Never gotten that one. But we get “Arrigato,” “Manicoochie,” even “Mantequero,” which is Puerto Rican slang for junky [laughs].

CD: As a fourth-generation Italian American, I must know: Do you think Olive Garden commercials are racist?

IM: No.

CD: Ha! Tell me how things are going over at the Pink Palace, Manicato’s infamous residence.

IM: Evicted. The neighbors loved us. The only person that wanted us out was our landlord because he wanted to make more money.


You won’t be sorry you supported these guys. They can play. Dani, trumpet, writes real slick stuff for the horn section according to Israel, who is grateful for this, and every, contribution by his mates. I first met Israel he was living out of his van, and without a trust fund . . . this Saturday, June 13th, Cafe Du Nord with Spaceheater and Big Brooklyn Red, doors 8.30, show 9.30 . . . they’re also playing the bicycle thing in Dolores Park on the 20th . . . oh, and the lyrics I promised to include I couldn’t find because I had trouble digging up una “La Familia” mp3 on the internet but no se preocupen, compadres, porque yo voy assistir y reportarlas despues de oir Manicato el Sabado!