Embrace the Cholomandinga Fiesta

Cholomandinga is not pretty. Its band members are better fits for outdated editions of High Times photo galleries than for music posters or album covers.

Cholomandinga is not clean. The band sweats, steams and pounds out its performances with a funky, indigenous aura you can taste from the back of the room.

Cholomandinga is not cool. The bassist clowns around during the whole set, everyone smiles at a borderline cheesy level and the lead singer is a raggedy hippie-looking dude who messes with the crowd and might have a twin brother performing in a northern Las Vegas lounge act.

But if you can get over these realities, leave your own inhibitions, egocentricities and coolness (if applicable) at the door and embrace the antics of the party, then Cholomandinga is right for you.

Photo by Adam Fuller
Photo by Adam Fuller

The wildly popular Chilean band plays "Rock Mestizo" – a self-prescribed mix of rock, funk, reggae, cumbia and ska – in such a faded, light and uninhibited way that welcomes outsiders and scoffs at the too-cool-for-school crowd.

After over 10 years of playing together in venues all over Chile and Argentina, Cholomandinga knows how to throw a party. Lead singer Claudio Alvarez sings, raps and yells in a trippy, shaky and penetrating tone that is supported by drums, bongos, guitars, trumpet, trombone, saxophone and flute, plus a variety of maneuvers, drug references and guest singers that keep the smile on your face beaming from ear to ear.

“Cholomandinga is a live band,” said Alvarez. “It’s music from Santiago with a lot of energy.”

The band is like a slightly drugged, Latin American pueblo version of Robert Randolph and the Family Band. The shows feature solos of every kind, vocal audiences and a striptease from the bassist that leaves you wondering, "What on earth could they do next?" “Every show you’ll see him dancing,” Alvarez said with a hazy smile.

Cholomandinga released their third disc, "Cholomandinga En Vivo," in mid-September, featuring live song performances from various concerts. If it’s anything like going to one of their shows, then before you pop it in the CD player, invite your BBQ buddies over, pick up some beer and warn the neighbors of the Cholomandinga party that’s about to begin. They’ll either board up the windows or ask you to turn up the volume.


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