“The Whole World Dances”: Chico Trujillo’s 10th Anniversary

It was clear from the off that Chico Trujillo’s 10th Anniversary party was going to be big. Enough people squeezed into La Cupula dome that there wasn’t a single empty space left on the sticky dance floor. Playing classic after classic from their bursting back-catalog of cumbia, samba and rock, Chico kept everyone boogying until the wee hours of the night.

Photo by Thomas Rimbot
Photo by Thomas Rimbot

The band chose the weekend of the 18th December as their official birthday, marking a decade since they began playing together. The cumbieros (cumbia musicians) celebrated with fantastic support acts Los Vikings 5 and Banda Conmocion, while also receiving plenty of help from Sinergia’s El Rorro, Joe Vasconcellos, Sonora de Llegar’s Miño and a whole host of dancers, including some impromptu members of the audience.

Cumbia crosses all borders and languages. After all, the whole world dances.

After their brilliantly fun show in December, we caught up with drummer, percussionist and all-round jolly nice bloke Juanito Gronemeyer. After a grand chat, he kindly agreed to let us in on what he thought of the last ten years.

“An anniversary always means something,” cites Gronemeyer. “They mark lifecycles and confirm a band’s continuing ability. Plus, ten years, apart from being a round number, acts as a great excuse for a celebration.”

The band have been playing together ever since forming in Villa Alemana in 1999, when La Floripondio members Aldo Asenjo (AKA Macha) and Antonio Orellana got together just try out some ideas. They’ve been performing and recording ever since and now, with a line-up of nine musicians and ten years under their belts, they have a lot to look back and reflect upon.

Photo by Thomas Rimbot
Photo by Thomas Rimbot

Plenty of things have changed over time, says Gronemeyer. “During these ten years, we’ve learned to be more professional. Some band members, including myself, are now parents and so making music is far more than just a hobby. We support our families with our music and so are 100% devoted to it.” Some things though will never change. “The initial influence for us and primitive desire to both make music and people dance has never changed since we started.”

The boys from Villa Alemana have played in a whole host of places, from dives to huge domes and wound up headlining this year's New Year's Eve bash in Valparaiso’s club Huevo. It’s safe to say though, that each band member has their own favourite places to play.

“Personally,” explains Gronemeyer, “I prefer the free gigs we play when families can go too. I love seeing kids and adults dancing and singing in unison to our songs. However, performing in all-night “baruchos” (cheap after-party bars) is pure adrenaline and really interesting too. We have some gigs that we’ll never forget, like the last Independence Day party in Industria Cultural alongside (Banda) Conmocion. It was mind-blowing!”

For Chico Trujillo, audience participation is right up there with roadies, sound checks and the band actually turning up. “The public is part of the spectacle. There’s something mutual that fuels us, a feedback of energy.

Photo by Thomas Rimbot
Photo by Thomas Rimbot

If the audience is “fome” (boring) then we end up only going in half-heartedly, but if they’re really on that night we have a great party!”

Chico Trujillo tour relentlessly throughout the year and so unsurprisingly are one of the most popular bands in Chile of recent times. They have even joined the likes of David Hasselhoff by getting themselves a substantial following in Germany. They have played in one of their favourite German hangouts, Café Zapata, more times than they can count but why, in a country so far away from Chile, would these chaps be so big?

“I think it’s simply for our insistence on going there and the magical power of cumbia; the music that can make practically anyone dance. The people of Germany, without doubt, are not latin, ha ha! Their blood is far colder than ours, and so they’re eager to feel the heat that we have on this side of the world.

The folks who periodically come to our shows end up leaving singing our songs without knowing a single word, just copying the sounds. Cumbia crosses all borders and languages. After all, the whole world dances.” Judging by the crowd on the Saturday night in La Cupula, Gronemeyer is not far off. There wasn’t a single pair of feet in the dome that wasn’t sliding to the lads’ rich blend of delightful horns, smooth bass lines and Caribbean-like percussion.

When talking about motives for a band, some may say that they are here to make money, while others may deny that but secretly want it anyway. Chico Trujillo have very simple aims and for good reason.

Photo by Thomas Rimbot
Photo by Thomas Rimbot

“The objective of Chico Trujillo is to party. It’s to generate dancing. For many years, it was badly looked upon (and even prohibited) in Chile to have a good time. We want to lift the stress of the working week from people, so that they can relax, dance and have a great time!”

It’s not all dance, dance, dance though in the Chico Trujillo camp. “When circumstances call for it,” states Gronemeyer, “we involve ourselves in social issues too. One of the matters we’ve most been involved in has been the respect for the Mapuche population; overall, the freeing of their political prisoners.”

With the help of the Internet and social networking sites, bands like Chico Trujillo are able to spread their charitable word more freely. However, the Internet can also be seen as a hindrance since, even though we seem to have more live music on our doorstep than ever before, there is a profuse amount of artists still struggling to keep their heads above water. “With the Internet, it’s very difficult to sell records. We basically earn our money from our live shows. I totally agree with sharing music on the Internet, however not with those who make money off it.” In that case, is there a paradigm shift in Chile’s music scene? “There’s a revival of “pachangueras” (bands that constantly gig) and/or cumbieras. People talk about ‘The new Chilean cumbia’ of which, in some way, we are at the forefront.”

Moving swiftly from the Internet and onto something more sentimental, we asked Mr Gronemeyer if he could sum up each of his band mates in just three words. Although sometimes miscounting the number words (these aren’t hard and fast rules), Gronemeyer does a pretty decent job in describing the guys he’s spent the last ten years of his life with.

Macha: Raring to go. The motor of the band.
Tuto: Moves slowly with wisdom.
Michael: Elegance and distinction. Sensible.
Zorrita: This guy really knows his stuff.
Tabilo: From La Calera (a tiny Chile village) to the world
Ricardinho: When it comes to music, a straight-up professional.
Tio Rody: D minor
Camilo: Spontaneous combustion. Vanished.
Juanito: Impacting. A tidy mess”

After such heart-warming things, we move back to the music industry, of which Chico Trujillo have this to say to any struggling artists out there: “Continue giving it your all. It takes perseverance. Stay professional without forgetting the reason why you went into music in the first place.”

And what about Chico Trujillo? Where do the boys from Villa Alemana see themselves in another ten years’ time? Juanito Gronemeyer, ever the modest man, puts it in very simple terms: “All over the world!!”


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