Galeano sits at the crossroads between Afro-Latin music and roots rock. Grammy award-winning bandleader José Galeano describes the band as a mixture, infusing a lifetime of experience in Latin music with a passion for all of the different genres he grew up with.
José Galeano is best-known as the percussionist and frontman of the Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma. Returning festival attendees will remember Grupo Fantasma from 2011 – an unforgettable last-minute addition to that years’ line-up that got everyone dancing.
It’s easy to see the new group as a continuation of what made Grupo Fantasma so special, but there is more to the story than that. Galeano’s debut EP is unique both for its deep connection to José’s personal story and for its distinctly social message.
José moved to the United States at the age of 13 and immediately began assimilating his new surroundings with the cultural tradition he grew up with in León, Nicaragua. Inspired by his uncle Chepito, who played timbales in Carlos Santana’s backing band in the 1970s, José absorbed the best of two cultures and created an artistic vision all his own.
“I am mixed and it is a blessing” declares José Galeano in El Guegue, the opening track of his debut EP, named Mezclado. This declaration is a call to dance that sets the tone for the rest of the album – infusing reggae and R&B with Afro-Latin percussion and truly inspiring musicianship of the highest order.
Songs like Good Friends and Speak Up carry an important social message. The former explains how even people from totally different backgrounds can build powerful friendships with one another and the latter encourages people to contribute to the world around by speaking up about the things that matter most to them.
However, what Galeano’s audiences respond to first and foremost is the rhythm. There is no way to talk about these songs without talking about the rhythms, which segue from Dominican meringue to African-inspired habanera and music from José’s childhood in Nicaragua. Although this cultural heritage is vast, Galeano is very much an accessible ambassador for Latin music – you don’t have to be steeped in the cultural tradition to enjoy it.
José himself is the first to tell new listeners that the first thing they should do is feel the music and dance. He puts it best himself:
“I hope that people connect with the grooves – it doesn’t matter what language you speak. If you feel the rhythm and it makes you dance, then it’s doing the right thing. The crowd always knows best.”
For José Galeano, the chance to showcase a different musical culture to the audience is a beautiful opportunity to demonstrate something new for festival attendees.
To listen to his ensemble perform is to take a deeply personal journey through the rhythms and reflections of a life lived in a unique and worldly artistic mindset. Once he hits the stage, José Galeano takes us all along for the ride.
Tickets are now available. See Galeano on Sunday, April 22nd and catch his unforgettable set.