QUITAPENAS makes music that’s impossible not to get up and dance to. The band consists of six band members: Daniel Gomez (guitar and vocals), Hector toto Chavez (bass, sax, and vocals), Mark Villela (maraca y guacharaca), Ivan McCormick (percussion and keys), David Quintero (cowbell, keys, and bass), and Eduardo Valencia (bougarabou, percussion). Together, the group produces work that digs deep into and even beyond traditional Cumbia rhythms.
The band’s name came about when the founding members were drinking tequila together one night, the name “Quita Penas” etched across the very tequila bottle they were enjoying. There wasn’t a question of how the name perfectly encapsulated their music, resonating as a tribute to their family history and heritage. Quita meaning to ‘remove’ and penas signifying ‘worries,’ the cumbia inspired band creates rhythms that encourage listeners to get up, move and forget about life's hardships — even if for a brief moment.
QUITAPENAS’ instrumental compositions are complex yet open and familiar, borrowing and paying tribute to various music indigenous to various continents and regions of South America — infused through an appreciation for iconic music.
“I grew up listening to The Doors, families playing bongos, our families playing mariachi and different types of regional Mexican music,” says Eduardo Valencia, the band’s perussiantist and founding member. “QUITAPENAS started first as an interest for Latin music that sounded familiar but was also unfamiliar. A lot of the stuff we were used to listening to from Mexico were cumbias, mariachi, and mariachi with acoustic guitar.”
With Valencia being the international music director at a Californian Riverside radio station, he began garnering inspiration from such influences that would eventually help QUITAPENAS identify their musical style and presence.
“I was listening to a lot of interesting African music and Latin American music that was from the '60s, '70s, and '80s — very raw. And I shared some of that with the crew and just because of the accessibility to it, we were able to dig in. So we all started to dig into this kind of revolutionary, political, funky dance music of the radical '60s, '70s, '80s in South America, Columbia, West Africa, Angola, and the Caribbean.”
The band’s intentionality to create music that sounded current whilst borrowing from traditional influences led them on a journey to be mindful of historical context. The group wasn’t interested in stopping the creative process at simply being inspired by their favorite music, but instead set out to explore the origins and rich context of a song’s political climate.
This mindful method of tribute means finding ways to honor a genre of music without stripping away its original purpose or the cause it served at one point; it’s something we see a lot of in today’s world, a propagation or disregard for another group of people’s work. It’s something that QUITAPENAS is helping to change.
When asked about what genre their music closely resembles, Valencia gives a thoughtful reply — this isn't a new revelation or concept for him or QUITAPENAS. “I like to say Afro Latin inspired combo. We use it as an umbrella term because we understand that this music has a really rough history: how we came here, the history of what is 'the people of America', how that past is violent and propagated and nuanced and how there was beautiful music birthed out of that mix."
While Valencia's roots being from Mexico, each of the six band member's background varies, each artist offering something wonderfully unique to the collaboration process. Yet one major characteristic that sets QUITAPENAS apart is their standard for artistic integrity — something that often goes amiss in media. In studying music with such relentless pursuit, head on, there's an element of respect that's applied and upheld within their art.
"We understand the complexity [of Afro-Latin genre]. I want to own that by saying we’re inspired by Afro-Latin music, we take the rhythms very seriously," says Valencia. "In how we do the music, we want to make sure we understand what we’re referencing, how those rhythms feel — this involves actual studying, investing a lot of time, and money into digging deeper than just the Cumbia rhythm, where it actually came from."