Their music speaks of a journey.
It is a journey that brought the Andino Suns to Kipling on Saturday Feb 25th. The group performed at the Community Center as part of the Kipling Arts Council's Stars for Saskatchewan Series.
But it is a journey that began decades ago...in a country blessed by the sun...and cursed by violence and political upheaval.
The three members of Andino Suns...Andres (Andy) Davalos, Cristian Moya and Andres Palma...are all sons of Chilean political exiles. As the band's lead man, Andy Davalos, told the crowd on Saturday:
"In 1973, the government of Salvador Allende was overthrown, and a military dictatorship took control of Chile. My father spent two years in jail. In 1975, my parents were able to bring their family to Canada. They were scared. There were a lot of uncertainties confronting them. But, when they arrived with their family in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan people met them with overwhelming love. They were provided with an apartment and clothes for their kids. They were so very glad to be here in Canada living with prairie folks."
Defying the pain that had brought them here, these three families transplanted their Chilean heritage and culture here. So, these three sons grew up learning their native language...learning their culture and their traditional stories...and listening to the music.
The Andino Suns are firmly rooted in their Chilean heritage. As Andy remembers,
"The band was created in 2009. The music of Chile, as well as other countries like Argentina and Peru, has been a huge influence on us. You can hear the sound of the Andes in our music."
But, Andy notes that the bands Latin American sounds are combined with other influences that are 'closer to home':
"All three of us were born here. We are prairie boys first...and that is also a huge influence on our music. For example, in some of our songs, you'll hear some bluegrass incorporated into a Latin American sound."
Andy explains that the Andino Suns began the way many bands do...but eventually grew to become more then the founders might have expected.
"When we began...this was just a hobby. We had our buddies playing with us in the band. But, over the years we have grown to take this 'hobby' much more seriously. Andres Palma is brilliant. Cristian is a true savant on the strings. These days, when a musician comes on stage with us, they are the best of the best. Our drummer (Justin Hauck) is a true professional. Our bass player (Danny Jones) plays with the Regina Symphony. I could not find a finer group of musicians anywhere than the people that are up on that stage with me."
He notes that this is due to the way that the band's music has grown and matured.
"Latin American music is technically very challenging. It requires a person to be able to do finger picking...to be able to handle the transitions. The Latin American rhythm is very complex. It can be hard to learn for a musician who did not grow up with it."
However, Andy goes on to point out that the members of the band are also gifted performers.
"We don't want our music to be so 'technical' that it becomes boring for the people who come out to hear us. So, our performances are part comedy-show as well. The stage has become a second home for us."
Through their music, the Andino Suns still tell the story of the political violence and upheaval that brought their families to Canada. But, they tell deeply personal stories as well. For example, one of the songs that the band performs tells of the eight year struggle that Andy and his wife went through in order to become parents.
"We longed to be parents. But, we found we could not do that without help from modern science. The treatments we required were not affordable here...so we traveled to Mexico. We went through so much...but over and over we seemed to end up on the beach...in front of the place we were staying in...feeling sad. Our song, 'The Beach' tells the story of that journey...of hope...sadness...and finally great victory for us. We have two little daughters now."
Andy notes that the band is not afraid to dream about where this journey may take them.
"We like to dream big. We dream about being on the world stage or performing at the huge festivals in Chile. We know that it may never happen. But...you have to dream!"
For now, Andy says that the Andino Suns are happy with the places that their journey has taken them so far.
"We love playing in places like Kipling. When people first come in they are a little unsure. Many of them have never heard music like ours before. But, we always find that at the end of the night our audience has become a room full of friends!"