Under the dazzling silver beams of a disco ball, the audience danced to the vibrant melodies emanating from the five musician-magicians on stage. Makrú had cast its spell, and nobody regretted falling under it.
Makrú’s music is, to say the least, difficult to define. The band categorizes its influences as a mix of rumba flamenca, ska, reggae, cumbia and more — in other words, combining inspiration from Spain, Cuba, Jamaica, the Caribbean, American jazz and Colombia. The band’s five members themselves hail from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from Spain and Turkey to Colombia, El Salvador and the United States. Even Makrú’s array of instruments pays testament to its wide range of influences, ranging from the Peruvian cajón to the Middle Eastern and North African oud.
Though an extensive amalgam of cultures influences the band’s unique character, Makrú creates music that is neither overly eclectic nor only accessible to the most cultured of listeners. In fact, its music typically possesses the opposite effect. It’s about spurring unity and the coming together of peoples, rather than their stratification.
An air of comfortable and celebratory community was what permeated the hazy, purple-lit interior of San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop on June 30. Spectators swung their hips and tapped their feet along to Makrú’s inviting celebration of the band’s 10-year anniversary and the release of its most recent album, Tu Mission. Andean fusion group Ajayu spectacularly opened the night with a series of instrumental pieces both emotive and poignant enough to serve as a film soundtrack (Pixar, if you’re looking for musicians, hit this group up). By the time Makrú took its place onstage, the crowd was already invigorated, warmed up by the past hour of dancing.
Despite the high standards set by its opener, Makrú did not disappoint — the band’s very appearance onstage moved the audience to cheer and whoop in excitement.
Throughout the night, Makrú brought selections from Tu Mission to life vividly, emphasizing the urgency of the messages communicated in its music. In light of the day’s marches across the United States protesting the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border, lead singer, vihuela player and percussionist Jenny Rodríguez raised a sign midway through the performance, imploring the audience to remember, “Our children are sacred!”
Composer, cajón player and vocalist Raúl Vargas elaborated a few songs later: “So, many people were marching today. And that’s what we have to keep doing.”
This advocacy for the rights of immigrants was not surprising — it fits neatly into the wider narrative of displacement that the band explores throughout Tu Mission. In the titular track of the album, the group decries the gentrification of San Francisco. “Ya no es su Misión, el barrio de los artistas. Ya no es su Misión,” Rodríguez sings out, voice warm and soft. It translates to, “It’s no longer their Mission, the neighborhood of the artists.”
Though Makrú performed material that grappled with emotionally charged and temporally relevant issues, the mood at the Rickshaw Stop remained festive throughout the evening. Attendees seemed excited to take advantage of the auditorium as a dance floor, and Makrú’s quick-paced, soulful tunes only served to entrance viewers further. “I love the venue, I love the vibe, I love the feeling,” gushed audience member Juliana Romano, a San Francisco local who had discovered Makrú through a friend.
Makrú, Ajayu and the Rickshaw Stop put on an energizing night of appreciation for both community and music that was well worth the $12 admittance fee. While Makrú prizes music as a way of sharing joy, the band demonstrated that it also recognizes its potential as a vessel for impacting change. Makrú’s music is a platform through which its members communicate the matters they deem most significant and in need of recognition.
In the face of the deeply disturbing headlines any informed citizen encounters daily, it may sometimes prove difficult to feel any semblance of control or comfort. On that Saturday night, Makrú demonstrated the power of art as a unifying force. It brought individuals together to laugh, dance and find catharsis, providing them with the comfort of knowing that they are not alone.