As the band puts it, QUITAPENAS is one word, all caps, four syllables, “all claps,” an apt name that gives you a taste of their rhythmic contagion. Deeper than that, QUITAPENAS literally translates as “to remove worries,” which is exactly what they do when they play their music. They are modern day urban Latinx curanderos, healers with mystical musical second sight giving their creative output a restorative power that touches their audiences wherever and whenever they encounter them. This tropical Afro-Latin combo has a lot of catchy hooks that seem effortless and at first glance appear to be tailored for easy-going evening fiestas full of unity and enjoyment at the beach. Indeed it’s quite fitting that QUITAPENAS was born under the warm California sun because their music is hot, bright and uplifting, though some of the lyrics deal with serious subjects like social issues or painful emotions that are not your typical hedonistic lyrical content. They borrow aesthetics from the radical 60s, 70s and 80s and are very socially committed to their community and many positive causes.
QUITAPENAS is Daniel Gómez, guitar and voice; Héctor Chávez, saxophone and coro (chorus); Mark Villela, percussion, maracas; Ivan McCormick, synthesizer, keyboards; David Quintero, bass; and Eduardo “Eddie” Valencia, drums and percussion.
According to the band, each song echoes a remix of history and invites one to engage in the liberating anthems of Angola, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and beyond. QUITAPENAS is definitely inspired by danceable tropical music – aka música tropical y bailable. Some members love classic salsa dura, others Congolese soukous. One thing is for sure: all the guys in QUITAPENAS love cumbia, especially the raw, folkloric kind as performed by Colombian squeeze-box star Andres Landero. Indeed, QUITAPENAS is a veritable encyclopedia of Afro-Diasporic beats, deploying a fantastic array of intricate, life-affirming percussion with names like bougarabou (from Senegal), primero (“first” drum of the Garifuna of Belize), bongó (from Cuba), caja and cununo (essential to Colombian música costeña). QUITAPENAS percussionist Eddie Valencia says personally he also loves ritualistic music found within the Diaspora. The band has a shared affinity for fusing the love for these traditional rhythms and then having a little fun with it all. So you’ll hear rhythms that feel like salsa, Afro-Colombian champeta, Cape Verdean funaná, Puerto Rican plena and semba from Angola but as Eddie puts it, “we flip them to our flavor. Some artists that inspire our sound are Abelardo Carbonó, Nidia Góngora, Ebo Taylor, Jovens do Prenda and Fruko y sus Tesos” — sounds good to us here at Peace & Rhythm!
Pursuing their passion for making this original pan-Afro-Latin inspired roots music in a sometimes indifferent or costly world has not always been easy. According to Eddie, “being in a working band is a huge effort. We all work a day job, have relationships, some of us are raising children, several of us have other musical projects, we are all multi-layered, complex lil’ creatives who still make time to practice, learn, listen and rehearse” — on top of everything else! “It’s not easy, it is a struggle but it is a beautiful struggle.” Of course here are a lot of struggles in this world, some heavier than others, Eddie notes; all the band’s parents immigrated to the US from Guatemala and Mexico. The guys are all first generation and grew up in those communities. Their families were (and are) mechanics, day laborers, warehouse workers, teachers, constructions workers, “and all the hustles. Lots of struggles and being a musician is a beautiful struggle.” Beautiful struggles from a beautiful community make beautiful music!
We asked Eddie how the band got its start. He told us that in the summer of 2011, he, Daniel, and John were in Vietnam. Mark and Héctor had just graduated from University. David was out dancing salsa almost every night. “We’d spent the first half of the year crafting songs inspired by champeta, soukous, salsa, son, cumbia, semba y mas. I had spent a lot of time at KUCR, my university radio station, digging heavy into the international music section. I was sharing all this music with the crew and everyone was digging into blogs of diasporic tropical Afro Latin music, checking out different selectors from Listen Recovery, Soundway Records, Canicule Tropicale, Sofrito and Soul Bonanza. When we reunited in the fall we kept working on music and the group continued to evolve.” QUITAPENAS recorded their first set of singles in 2012 with Lewis Pesacov of Fool’s Gold, which is how Peace & Rhythm first discovered the band. In 2013 QUITAPENAS rocked their first SXSW and began to do frequent shows in the Los Angeles area. From that positive experience, says Eddie, “I got a lot of love for the Los Angeles community of music lovers.”
A foundational experience for Eddie came in October of that same year when he took a solo trip to Colombia for a festival of the drum at the historic village of San Basilio de Palenque (often referred to by the locals simply as Palenke; the word “palenque” means walled city and in this case a fortress made with wooden poles), founded by escaped slaves (cimarrónes) in the 16th century who were eventually freed. The town is a cultural heritage site and preserves many aspects of the founders’ African heritage from language and religion to music and cuisine. Eddie returned to LA from this journey refreshed and inspired, most importantly with a new perspective on drumming. In 2014 the group slowly shrank from 9 to 5 members (Eddie says “creative differences, right?”); with this reduction, the band took a different shape. In late 2014, QUITAPENAS stepped into the studio with Alberto López of Jungle Fire (another band beloved by Peace & Rhythm!).
In 2015 the group dropped their first full-length record which received heavy rotation at Peace & Rhythm DJ gigs, as it did elsewhere. The record (and most of the band’s subsequent visuals) featured artwork by their good friend, the extremely talented and funny artist Deladeso, something that immediately caught our eye over at P&R, a label where the cover and design needs to be at least as great as the music! At that time Eddie booked a west coast tour for the band to support the album and the run of venues turned out to be a success; most importantly, says Eddie, “we had a good time!” One of the better shows was at the Sol Collective in Sacramento. They invited the guys to their 2015 SXSW official showcase. When they returned to home base, Eddie added a second drummer to the group, local musician Ivan McCormick.
In the summer of 2016 half the crew headed to Colombia. This time Eddie’s plan was they would go to Cali for the Festival de Petronio Álvarez where the guys all danced to the beautiful sounds of cununo y marimba. Eddie is always on a quest; he’s not someone to sit just sit still resting on his achievements feeling like he has mastered his instrument simply by playing in a band; his other agenda while in Colombia was to study on the drum more deeply. He set up a lesson with maestro Tomás of the Palenque sexteto band Las Alegres Ambulancias, met one of the group’s musical heroes, Abelardo Carbonó and danced salsa at the infamous Troja night club. When they returned from this informative trip, completely inspired and energized, QUITAPENAS then did a mid-west and east coast run, which is where P&R’s DJ Bongohead opened for them in NYC at Nublu. Now the band was getting known on the other coast!
2017 found QUITAPENAS passing another important milestone by making the roster of the famed California festival Coachella, where René Contreras was the mastermind behind the new Sonora Stage. The guys rocked a 1 PM show to 700 happy dancers; according to Eddie, “It was epic.” That year they also dropped some singles with our homies Names You Can Trust, a record label and DJ crew much respected by Peace & Rhythm (shout out to our mutual amiga Nati Conrazon for linking up the band with NYCT).
In early 2018, the band signed with their current management, Counter Culture. They were also presented to new audiences in NYC by Barbès and Electric Cowbell at the global alt. underground APAP showcase Secret Planet, giving them more East Coast exposure. The band has been busy since the NYCT releases, putting out their second long play, the beautiful Tigradaas well as a few digital only singles on Bandcamp including a bachata. The Tigrada LP was lyrically driven by Daniel Gómez, QUITAPENAS’ guitarist and songwriter, while the music was an all-band collaboration inspired by champeta, soukous, Cuban/Mexican son and several other rhythms.
Which leads us to where we are now! Peace & Rhythm were contacted last year (2020) by Eddie on behalf of QUITAPENAS and Buyepongo, another LA contemporary Latin band, and we were given a proposal we could not refuse, as we had been followers (and friends) of both outfits for years and they pitched two incredible tracks to release on a split 45. What’s not to love about that? See our news post about the release for more specific details.