Listening to Mezclado, the debut album from Grammy award-winning percussionist and front man of Grupo Fantasma, Jose Galeano it is easy to be drawn into the infectious spell he weaves through a relentless call to dance, fueled by a sense of unbridled joy and sincere optimism. And after a listen if that were your take away you would be right… but only half right.
Listen for a few moments more and you may begin to feel the multiple layers of meaning woven inside the melody, rhythm and rhyme begin to reveal themselves with an intention that extends beyond simple positivity and points to the revolutionary. This intention is not a revolution of rhetoric or dogma, but it is no less passionate. This intention is a revolution of sincere hope, joy and unity. A Hopeful Revolution.
José Galeano grew up in Nicaragua in the 1970’s during the upheaval that would leave approximately 600,000 homeless and another 150,000 fleeing the country for safety. In the midst of the violence and turmoil he would find himself one of the many taking a long journey away from home in search of safety. Galeano became well acquainted with struggle from childhood.
How difficult would it be growing up as a young Spanish-speaker from Nicaragua in a small town in the United States? You would not know the language yet. You would be brown in a small pool of white. You would not be one of “us” but instead one of “them”. The many layers found inherent in the “us/them” of language and race is often exactly why we find ourselves at war with each other. The comfort of tribe can quickly turn cruel and savage when looking from the outside in. We hastily build fear-based walls and relish in the bliss of our ignorance. José Galeano has been chiseling at these walls throughout his entire life.
For most of us being one of “them” would have created a deep sense of anger, resentment or surrender to defeat. These are simply not a part of Galeano’s disposition. Instead, he has taken ownership of the struggle and has become empowered by the diversity found in the multitude of influences that has shaped him. Through the struggle he has found a way to open his arms and fill them with an invitation of hope. This is what is revolutionary. In Mezclado the struggle is real. The revolution is real and it is heard as a joyful noise that marches forward filled with hope.