Punky Pagan Party: Juana Fé and La Mano Ajena Lock Horns

Coming home sweating profusely and with an ever-present need to continue dancing is apparently a common side-effect from witnessing both La Mano Ajena and Juana Fé in one night. The cumbieros and gypsy punkers had no problem proving this claim as they rocked out their double-billed pagan party on April 10, 2010.

Photo by Aune Ainson
Photo by Aune Ainson

In the smoky Galpón Victor Jara, Juana Fé, starting first, quickly impelled the entire venue to flail arms in all directions. The cumbia outfit cracked out crowd-pleaser after crowd-pleaser, including a fabulously arranged rock rendition of “Callejero.” Keyboardist Rodrigo Rojas took his time to shine, as he –

Photo by Aune Ainson
Photo by Aune Ainson

dressed in a cross between wise man’s robe and old woman’s dress – wriggled, jiggled and rattled his way through wildly entertaining key solos.

Although it can be argued that every Cumbia band sounds the same save for the accompaniment of the fun, yet repetitive güiro (Cuban gourd-like percussion instrument), there are undoubtedly a few that really stand out.

Step forward Juana Fé. Playing phenomenally, Rojas and lead vocalist Juanito Ayala also tried their hand at impressing the ladies with a spot of break-dancing. There’s something about one guy in a dress and the other decked out like Dennis Rodman dancing like boyband dropouts that quite simply oozes cool.

Photo by Aune Ainson
Photo by Aune Ainson

Following a sizable intermission, the gypsy punk stars of tonight’s show finally greeted the glistening hot crowd, jumping promptly into a few bouncy numbers and making every pair of worn feet in the room jig, jive and jolly their way through the next hour.

La Mano Ajena, standing tall at eight members with bass, guitar, violin, saxophone and percussion, positioned themselves up and down the stage, surrounding a hilarious shrine that would seem more at home in an Indiana Jones movie. Looking radiant with an elegant choice of wardrobe and fresh baby bump in tow, stood lead singer María Fernando Carrasco--still perfectly able to keep up with the feistiest of dancers.

Photo by Aune Ainson
Photo by Aune Ainson

On the coat tails of such a jumpy start, the percussionist slipped off unnoticed. Mid-way through the medley, he leaped back on stage, sporting a very convincing pig mask. Running madly around the stage, flapping his arms like a cartoon character, he eventually squared up to a slightly quivering Carrasco. The performance was so dramatically convincing that it drew gasps from their audience.

After such a spectacle --and a few enchanting strikes on both the violin and dazzling clarinet-- saxophonist Rodrigo Latorre decided to throw everyone off a little with his surreal theremin. The evening climaxed as the lights dimmed, the violinist shook violently, Carrasco moved to one side and let Latorre become leader of what had essentially morphed from a gypsy punk swing setup into a lustrous, glam-rock, space opera. Thoroughly baffled by such a display, the crowd took a while to catch on as La Mano Ajena eventually wound things down.

If this is what every pagan party’s like, it’s surprising there aren’t more converts in Santiago.

La Mano Ajena
Juana Fe

April 10, 2010
Galpon Victor Jara
Huefanos 2146
Santiago, Chile

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