“Aqquarela means life, light, or simply good energy.”—Mauricio G. Jasso
In the summer of 2007, Mauricio G. Jasso and Robert van Deree decided to take a bold step and completely change the direction of their band, then Jani, from progressive rock to the more mainstream Spanish rock format that had been receiving more popularity over the radio waves recently. After enlisting the vocal talents of Michelle Ojeda and the guitar work of Christian Lopez while writing the lyrics to the new sound of the band, the new group adopted their name, Aqquarela. Since then, they have been making a name for themselves in Los Angeles infusing a blend of progressive rock with other eclectic musical genres reaching listeners from all over performing on television shows like “Lanzate”, “A Todo Calor”, and “Variedades Con Sandra.” They’ve also appeared as guests on “Radio Centroamerica” y “La Bataka” on Maxradio. FM. In 2015, the band was awarded by the Gustavo II—International Awards for its “musical trajectory and social/community accomplishments.” They’ve recently received sponsorship from Viktorious Productions, an LA production company designed to help local talent through the artistic production process of their music, Las 7 Regiones Oaxaca Restaurant, Infinite Dreams Fundraising, and Junior Foundation Charities, a non-profit organization designed to assist families through the difficult process of caring for children diagnosed with cancer. Just recently, they received new band members Barbara Brook and Gonzalo Gutierrez to enhance their sound and energy for new fans. According to their website, http://www.aqquarelamusic.com, they wanted to take their music and create a “bright and colorful sensation” for all of their listeners while spreading love and sincerity. Indeed, spreading love is the cornerstone of their mission which was best exemplified with their recent show at the OSSO DTLA bar in the heart of Los Angeles in late May 2016.
Coming fresh off a gig at The Globes Theatre for Cinco de Mayo, Aqquarela coordinated with Junior Foundation Charities to setup a fundraiser to help them continue providing family services for families who are struggling to cope with the care and treatment of their children suffering from cancer. The band wanted to time the release of their new EP, Camaleonicistiko with the charity. Thus, the event was scheduled on May 21, 2016 and held at the Gypsy-style venue in Downtown Los Angeles. Junior Foundation Charities was founded on the premise that no child or his/her family should have to endure the emotional and routine stress endemic during the treatment process while fighting the disease. Therefore, support services from transportation, gas, and funeral assistance to support groups and meal programs are provided. Special birthday celebrations and wish granting efforts are also among its services. The fundraiser featured local talents such as Fernando Rivas, playing acoustic guitar, Lupita Ye, playing musica folklorico, Marujah with their brand of Spanish rock, El Mago Kosmar delighting guests with some magic tricks and illusions, and (of course) Aqquarela. The evening was packed with guests enjoying the food and drinks offered by the 1800s-born establishment. Originally setup as a brothel in the 19th century under the name, Little Pedro’s, offering beatnik jazz music for the community’s less savory of patrons, the locale was later revitalized in the 20th century offering patrons burlesque and vaudeville shows under the new name, Bordello, which had a good run until it was bought out and named One-Eyed Gypsy in 2011 offering conventional bar food and specialized drinks. Once the new owners took over last year, the name changed one more time to OSSO retaining the Gypsy atmosphere and decor complete with a Baroque-designed stage backdrop. Junior Foundation had a table at the entrance taking donations and offering copies of Aqquarela’s new album while also distributing promotional postcards and t-shits. Outside, a red carpet section was setup where performers took pictures and interviews from the press while videographers were documenting the whole evening. Since this was Aqquarela’s record release party, they were the main attraction graciously answering journalists’ questions while rocking the house with a mesmerizing performance. It was a busy night no doubt for the band but worthwhile since half of the evening’s proceeds were going to the charity.
The album itself, Camaleonicistiko, was produced by Daniele Di Cairo who also played bass and worked with artists behind the scenes like Rana Monsour who did vocals, Rey Cuba (quena flute), and Aaron Copenhaguen (sound, drums, and cajon). The EP is composed of 6 songs: Conquista Mi Amor, Traicion, Picale Picale, Zuma, Camaleon, and Bella Es. Each song is a compilation of different musical styles from Brazilian beats to Spanish guitar to the more familiar modern Spanish rock melodies. The theme throughout the album centers on love from the search for it to its maintenance through continued intimacy. For example, Traicion is more about overcoming heartbreak and renewing the search for true love; whereas, Zuma is about enjoying the moment with the one that captured your heart. Camaleon (cameleon) is more metaphorical like Picale Picale is in terms of describing love as elusive and precious that can be stolen like a treasure taken in the middle of the night. Camaleonicistko is an enjoyable album that really plays on the joyful and light-hearted melodies keeping the energy fun and uplifting. The music is such that each song adds that extra skip to your step if you were walking down the street listening to it on your Ipod.
The band is comprised mainly of Mauricio G. Jasso, Christian Lopez, Barbara Brook, and Gonzalo Gutierrez. Each brings their talents and personalities into the music and successfully fuses an eclectic blend of melodies that represents a kaleidoscope of sounds to which is worth listening. Luckily, the band was able to escape the frenzy of journalists badgering them for photos and videos to answer a few questions about their big night.
JAMES DAZA: Tell me a little about the members in the band.
MAURICIO JASSO: Chris Lopez, the guitar player from the band, has been around since the beginning. He has expanded his playing skills tremendously over the years and has become a master of his instrument.
Barbara Brook (voice) and Gonzalo Gutierrez (drums) joined the band in early 2016. They are both graduates from the Music Institute (MI); they are very talented and professional performers. It’s an honor and a pleasure to have them as part of the Aqquarela team. They responded to an ad posted on MI.
I am the founder and keyboardist. Plus, I’m also the manager of the band continuing to push the project to the next level.
JD: How did you get attached to the Junior Foundation Charities?
MJ: Well, it was through Barbara actually.
BARBARA BROOK: I know the organization from a long time ago. Some of my friends introduced me to them, and they told me about their magnificent project. They help children who are sick with cancer. They help their families go through that painful process. So, I told Mauricio, “You know what. Let’s try to help through music and let’s contact the foundation. Let’s be part of this opportunity to help other people, to help kids who are in need.” There’s no one kid in the world that deserves to be sick. There’s no one kid in the world that deserves to be sick with cancer. They should be playing. They should be like laughing and have fun with their friends like any other kid. So, that’s why we talk to them and we decided to help them through our music. 50% of the sales of our new EP…They will be dedicated to them. To help them.
MJ: Yes! 50% of the proceeds are directed to Junior Foundation Charities in order to bring hope to children fighting cancer. We are very committed to support this vital mission through our music and through our actions – We are Junior Foundation Charities.
JD: How was Aqquarela formed?
BB: They formed in 2007. I joined the band 6 months ago along with the drummer. We are the new people in the band. The music catches you. We love it. That’s why we got into Aqquarela. Also, we are really a good team. We love to play. We love to practice and with the passage of time, we became friends.
JD: How would you describe Aqquarela?
Christian Lopez: I would look into that. I would say that it’s between Mauri and myself. I wrote most of the music. He did some of the music as well. He wrote all the lyrics. So, it’s a combination of us doing what we like. And what I like is…I like Brazilian music. I like flamenco. I like classical music. I like all the above—progressive rock in particular. I pretty much mixed that into what we are and that’s Latin influence. Out of that, you’re going to get something new hopefully. It’s something kind of cool.
JD: You got started off with progressive rock. Then, you moved on.
BB & CL: Yeah!
CL: Yeah! We started with some kind of progressive rock idea, and it just…they weren’t as popular I guess. They thought they would change it. “They” meaning the guitarists before who is no longer with us.
JD: When you started off as a progressive rock band, what was it like? I know that you made the switch to Latin Rock in order to widen your fan base.
MJ: It was an interesting time. We were exploring new sounds and lyrics that described political characters and fantasy worlds. We called ourselves – Crop Circles, then Jani, and finally, Aqquarela!
JD: What approach/strategy did you have to help with the transition?
MJ: Find an attractive female singer and use lyrics that people can relate!
JD: You’re also releasing a new album, Camaleonicistko. What does the name mean? How did you come up with it?
MJ: Aqquarela enjoys exploring new sounds. With Camaleonicistiko, Aqquarela wanted to provide different Latin and Funk flavors, yet maintain the edge of Rock. In the new EP, the concept of Camaleonicistiko shows different styles of music. As chameleons change colors, Aqquarela changes rhythms. As for the name itself, we were brain storming after a photo shoot session. We wanted to capture the six songs of the EP into one name. Ca-ma-leo-ni-cis-ti-ko is not easy to pronounce but that is the idea. We wanted to make it fun like a tongue twister.
JD: What inspired the album?
MJ: Our travels in southern California and around the world; comedy shows and life experiences.
JD: How would you describe the album itself? How is it different from your previous work?
MJ: It’s a gem, really. It is fun and diverse, very fresh. I think Camaleonicistiko is an intelligent sounding production. As for how different it is from what we’ve done before. This EP reflects more world music, yet maintains the fundamentals of rock.
JD: What will be next for the band?
MJ: Start working on our music video and make it to the Latin America market!
Aqquarela has spent nearly a decade developing their sound evolving over the years mixing a variety of styles spreading their message of love and harmony to audiences. Their dedication to community and social awareness is a defining characteristic for the band that drives their song writing and musical creativity. The future is bright and colorful for them like a watercolor painting on display during a spring morning. Don’t miss out on their eclectic sound. It is undoubtedly worth your time. To purchase a copy of their new album, please go to http://www.aqquarelamusic.com/#!media/cee5 . They also have a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/aqquarelamusic where you can follow their activities and respond to their posts. To contact them for prospective shows or interviews, you can reach them at (562) 212-2542. Also, if you want to make a donation to the Junior Foundation Charities, you can make it at http://juniorfoundation.org.