Up In Smoke: How The Ganjas are rocking Chile and further afield

There are a lot of bands on the Chilean underground scene that are more than capable of blowing open the doors to the house of rock. But not many that can smash down all the walls and send the ceiling into orbit.

Photo by Rodrigo Carrizo
Photo by Rodrigo Carrizo

Through a ferocious concoction of swirling psychedelia, meaty dub and sandpaper guitars, The Ganjas are doing just that. After five albums and ten long years of gigging, the veteran santiaguino fuzz 'n' bass merchants could finally be on the verge of getting the acclaim that their music deserves.

Photo by Rodrigo Carrizo
Photo by Rodrigo Carrizo

That's not to say that The Ganjas are an unknown entity. Their years of hard work have seen them establish a loyal fan base and perform on the same bills as The Jesus And Mary Chain and REM. In March this year they headed to Austin, Texas to play at the South By SouthWest music festival, the first time the band had performed outside of South America. Back home in Chile, videos to songs such as Let's Go To The Beach and Sonic Redemption have received airtime on MTV, allowing the band to achieve a certain degree of success without compromising their sound.

Formed in 1999, the four members of the band are Sam Maquieira on vocals and guitar, Rafael 'Pape' Astaburuaga on vocals and bass, Aldo Benincasa on drums and Pablo Giadach on guitar. As kids growing up in the eighties, they found themselves living in the cultural vacuum that was Chile in the years of the military dictatorship. As well as Chilean groups such as Los Jaivas, the boys started listening to British and North American outfits like Iron Maiden and Metallica before switching to the big US grunge bands that defined the nineties.

One of the key features of the band is the fact that their songs are in English, something which could undoubtedly give them a wider international appeal but may have hindered their success in their home country.

Photo by Rodrigo Carrizo
Photo by Rodrigo Carrizo

From Maquieira's deep growling voice, you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a band from Los Angeles or London

rather than four born-and-bred Chilenos, despite the band claiming that they don't actually speak English that well.

Their music is infused with a vibrancy that many groups aspire to but that few manage to achieve. Whether playing heavy rock or heavy dub, they have reached a higher musical plateau than the majority of their peers. The song-writing is exceptional and brings to mind a fusion of Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains and The Stone Roses, yet it is when they segue effortlessly into the dub groove that things get really interesting. The repetitive rhythm of dub is well-suited to rock guitar and vocals. It is a sound that The Ganjas have harnessed perfectly.

The band is planning to spend the rest of this year recording a new album and gigging, hopefully internationally. The Ganjas also regularly play in their home city and the shows always attract a good crowd. Hopefully this year will see some long-overdue recognition come their way. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better underground rock band around.

Find out about future releases, gigs and other information at www.myspace.com/theganjas

The Ganjas
http://www.myspace.com/theganjas

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