Jim ParisiMusic Review

Overnight Success in Just a Decade

Lucho CalaveraBy Jim Parisi

Lucho Calavera and his band La Canalla recorded their entire debut album “Ni Pa’ Que Te Cuento” in the Papaya Music Studio in Alajuela in just two and a half months, an incredible, very efficient accomplishment. Then they spent nearly a year crafting and polishing their model. A band that has a reputation for enjoying themselves onstage, including live dancers as part of their entourage, became very serious in the studio, expanding the band from five players to nine, to include more percussion and a horn section, further indication of the scope of their vision. That vision is initiated by singer/songwriter Lucho Calavera, the altered ego of Luis Arena, who has been in the Costa Rica music scene for some time. He recorded two albums in the late Nineties with El Parque, the second CD on the Sony Music Label. They were the first Costa Rican band to air a video on MTV Latino. He then went solo, working on projects with other local bands, most notably Evolucion. He also sat in with Soda Stereo, a popular band from Argentina. Arena then relocated to Madrid, evolving musical influences and his pseudonym, with gypsy bravado wrapped around it.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music

The album is impossible to categorize into a single, specific style: a polished blend of funk, fusion, cumbia, flamenco, Creole, ska, reggae, pop, rock, even cha-cha. Any band making music combining all these styles and a little Arabic slang is making a clear statement: “I do what I want”. In every breakout musical movement, there comes a beacon, a style to emulate. And Calavera y la Canalla, with “Ni Pa’ Que Te Cuento” could be just that – a new album that can put modern Costa Rican music on the global musical map.

The CD opens with “Chico Calavera”, an autobiographical song that also explains the “don’t try to tell me how to do it” philosophy of the entire band. “Solo Conmigo” continues that scoundrel voice, this time alternately in Spanish and English (they do what they want). “Contracorriente” is included in the new Papaya CD “Costa Rica Reggae Nights 2” and for a good reason. The song “Amor Bendito” is an homage of Lucho’s love for Costa Rica. Other standout songs include “Babylon” and “Luna Triste” and I like the short instrumental “El Camino”. All the songs are fleshed out very well by the band, giving them another dimension.

Rock and Roll overnight sensations simply do not exist. The Beatles, for example, played strip clubs in Hamburg before they were finally discovered with their “new” sound. While it appears that Lucho and the band have just arrived on the scene, they have obviously paid their dues. “I’ve waited ten years or perhaps all my life to make this album,” he explained. It has been worth the wait for his audience.

La Calavera y la Canalla and all Papaya CDs are available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos and Tilaran, where they will gladly sample the music for their customers.