Quintana Roo is one of the most beautiful states in Mexico. The beaches of the Riviera Maya are a natural attraction for tourists from all over the world. Chak, whose adopted name means “Red” in one of the many Mayan dialects, was very influenced by both nature and the Mayan culture of the area. As a teenager, he left traditional education to go to Cuba and study music. somebody gave him a guitar as a gift. This immediately refocused his path on his love for music. He wrote more than 30 songs with his new instrument, and with the help of some peers from his native Cancun, he started singing at the beach and on the streets of Tulum, Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen. It was here that someone gave him a guitar as a present. He was discovered at a bar in the trendy Condesa area of Mexico City by a well-known Italian keyboardist and songwriter, Ettore Grenci. Grenci arranged for them to record at Sony Music Studios well-seasoned italian musicians like Francesco Chiari (bass), and Fernando Pantini (guitar) musicians. Chak proudly represents his Mexican and Caribbean roots with songs like “Lo Que Vino”. They have also been invited by Sir Bob Geldof to play at the YouBloom Music Festival in Dublin Ireland. He hopes to release new music soon but for now it’s my privilege to introduce you to a new force in world music, Chak!
60M: Tell me about your first memories of music.
Chak: My Mother always listened to music since I can remember. She was most in love with all of the Latin-American Folklore and Caribbean music, from Cuba to Argentina. Singers like Silvio Rodriguez, Violeta Parra, Bob Marley, Mercedes Sosa, Black Uhuru, etc. It was very interesting for me all those melodies and words, like a magical thing.
60M: What did your parents think about you becoming a musician?
Chak: I always had their support. My father is writer of novels and tales, even journalism. I think they felt very interested since the beginning in what I imagine about music. In some moments they felt worried about a stable economic future. But when my work became more serious, they just trusted.
60M: What is it like in school as a creative person when teachers are trying to teach you math and science?
Chak: In my case was difficult because my concentration is not very easy in things that I don’t feel interest. On the other side, the educational system in Mexico is almost obsolete and cold. But I did have some teachers with vocation, and when you have in front of you people that love what they’re doing, magic can happen.
60M: What’s your getaway? Where do you like to go whenever you are not touring or working?
Chak: I love the jungle and the sea and love time with my loved ones. My family has a beautiful project in the jungle of Quintana Roo, Mexico, where we grow different kinds of fruit trees and palm trees. That place is a blessing, because it gives me a kind of contact with life, plants and animals that is very unique and nutritious.
60M: Talk to us about your first instrument.
Chak: Was the piano, more for recommendation than for my own choice. But it was the piano that took me to Cuba for first time. Then studying piano in Cuba I discovered that I wanted to sing. The Yoruba drums helped me to find this road in a very strong way. I was living as a piano student in Matanzas with a friend of my father, the great Albio Paz, a Cuban legend, writer and theater director. Matanzas is the city with more Santeria tradition, then listening and being in the ceremonies I felt a deep connection with the singing, and I began to repeat that so old songs with my voice and to feel enchanted about it.
60M: What would be if you couldn’t be a musician?
Chak: Maybe a clown, a farmer, or a sailor.
60M: What has the internet meant to your career?
Chak: Has been great. People of all over the world can have and hear my music and I’m surprised by the connection that music can make beyond languages and frontiers. I think more surprises come with the internet.
60M: Tell me about the song writing process. Do you sit down and say “I want to write a song about love” or does some idea just come to you? Do you come up with a melody first or lyrics? Or does it just come to you all at once?
Chak: It’s different in every song. Sometimes it is like they are alive and have their own will… Some begin with words, some with melodies, and some come all at once.
60M: How important is appearance to your live performance? Do you want a presentation or simply good music?
Chak: I think in music, it goes to the bones. I don’t think too much in the appearance, it is not very important for me.
60M: What makes a good band? Is it a band of brothers/friends or do you just want to find the best musicians that play well together?
Chak: I think the best for the music quality is the best for the band. It is not always possible to have close friends in your band, but when that happens it’s great.
60M: Tell me about your style of music and where would be the perfect place for you to present it? This means, if I was your biggest fan, where would I want to see you play live?
Chak: I’m very curious in all roots of music. I think we have information in the blood that through the music can jump to the present almost in a magical way. I have a fusion of different cultures and continents in my blood, so one style is never enough for me. But definitely Latin-American with all its fusions and Caribbean music and drums are kind of the spine of my work. The places I’ve been doing more shows lately is in the Mexican Caribbean and Canada. But the experience of playing in the Riviera Maya of Mexico is very interesting because people of all the world can listen our music and the connection is surprising. Then I think I’m going to play music in different unexpected countries, I think every stage is perfect, for example we have just been invited to the 2014 Festival YouBloom in Dublín, Ireland.
60M: Joan Jett is an American rocker. She said when she was in Japan, girls wanted her to comb her hair with their brush so that they could get a bit of her hair. Have you ever had any strange fan requests?
Chak: Yes, I remember now for example, that some fan asked me recently to have a baby, haha! It was strange enough for me.
60M: Talk about the movies you have written music for. How did this come to be?
Chak: The directors called me. They heard my music somewhere. One of the movies is “No eres tu soy yo”, (“It’s not you it’s me”) with Warner Brothers Movies, directed by Alejandro Springall. This movie was the 4th highest grossing movie in the history of Mexican Cinema. The name of the other movie is “For Your Guilt” by Gonzalo Gonzales
60M: I’m also curious if they simply chose one of your existing songs or did they want you to write something new?
Chak: They already knew which songs they wanted. In the two movies where I have music, the songs are from the first album, “Lo que Vino”.
60M: Tell about your CD. Is it available on the internet?
Chak: Until now there’s only Chak – Lo que Vino” on iTunes. (http://itunes.apple.com/mx/album/lo-que-vino/id209681898 ). And there is a new one that I just finished. I hope to have it available on iTunes in two months at most. It’s based on the poetry for children of the great Mayan poet, Ramón Iván Suárez Cáamal. The name of the album is “Spell to awake the stones. Lullabies and incantations”. It’s the first time that I personally produce something and I was traveling much during the creation of this album. I was making the sessions between Bacalar and Cancun, along the way in the bathrooms of hotels and in my little studio in Cancun. There are already two songs ready to hear on https://www.reverbnation.com/ChakChak, “Arrullo para Sanar” (Lullaby for healing) and “ Te Canto un Cuento” (I sing you a story).
60M: It’s been a pleasure and I certainly look forward to seeing you live the next time I’m in the Riviera Maya.
Photos taken from the artist’s Homepage. Copyright David Fillion.