Seven Spaniards and an Italian in The Hague: Mamihlapinatapai Seven Spaniards and an Italian in The Hague: Mamihlapinatapai

Mamih-lapina-tapai: "People work too hard, and live too little."

, Tekst: Bart van Gent | Foto's: Esmée de Vette

This weekend, Mamihlapinatapai will play the Haags Podium at Parkpop. On a cold winter night earlier this year, 3voor12 Den Haag sat down with Luciano, Fernán and Guillermo to discuss the upcoming season. And what is a more suiting place than Spanish Restaurant La Tapa to talk about music, plans and the world with this Spanish (with one lost Italian) 8-piece world music band? ¡Vamos!

Malima…, Mamima…, Mamihlapa… Luciano comes to the rescue for your struggling reporter: “Mamih-lapina-tapai. But you can call it Mamih.” Right, now that the hardest part of the interview is done, it is time to meet the band.

Luciano and Fernán begin: “We used to play in Skarallaos, a band from our hometown in Galicia. When we moved to The Hague to study Jazz at the Royal Conservatory we needed some extra money and started playing as street musicians.”

Not soon after, the band started to grow. And since “a double bass is not the easiest instrument to play on the streets, what can we do?”, Luciano asks. The accordion and bass were joined by more musicians, the band expanded and moved from the streets to venues.

Once the band was complete things took off, with a first ‘real’ gig at the HHS Festival in 2016: “It was a special concert for us. We expected to play for the whole university. But the live music at the festival was more for 3, maybe 4 persons. We shot the video for ‘Suave’ there. It was well edited, because it looks like an amazing gig with a great crowd.”, Guillermo laughs.

Luckily, the audience is bigger now. “From that moment it was growing really fast, actually. We played at festivals. And we had a clear plan, worked on an album, and we released our first album Camino del Sol in 2017.”

Mamihlapinatapai is:

Luciano Varela Ramil | Double Bass and Vocals
Fernán Mejuto Vázquez | Accordion, Keys and Vocals
Guillermo Martín Viana | Drums and Cajón
Daniel Rivas Denis | Guitar and Backing Vocals
Nano Peláez Alonso | Percussion and Backing Vocals
Emilio Tritto | Tenor Sax
Bruno Valle | Trombone
Álvaro Artime Jiménez | Trumpet

So what do you actually play?

Luciano: “We like to describe it as world music. We are inspired by a lot of music from all around the world, and learn about new styles from people. Learn from different traditions and respect it. The Netherlands is great for that, because there are a lot of different cultures. We try to learn all we can, and then mix it.” Guillermo: “A stew!”

Does this also explain the way you dress on stage?

Guillermo: “Well, that is an interesting question. In the beginning we had the idea to connect with cultures that are living with nature, native and indigeneous people. We wanted to bring awareness, a tribute to those people. But the problem was, people misunderstood us... it looked like we were all dressed up like native americans, cultural appropriation. Which is not good, because this is not what we tried to do. We are now looking for less controversial ways to get the message across.”

And your songs are in Spanish. Does that work in The Netherlands, a (mostly) Spanish band with Spanish lyrics?

Luciano: “What we want to tell the crowd is easiest to express in my mother tongue. Not only singing, but also writing. Sometimes I try English… well, we are working on it…. This is why our music is in Spanish.” Guillermo corrects: “We have one-and-a-half song in English, ‘Keep Trying’ and the second half of ‘We Were Born’.” It is interesting, you can share feelings with words but also with music.”

“For example, we have a song called ‘Comparte Felicidad’. We can express the happiness with the music. You don’t get the lyrics? Doesn’t matter. You get the feeling. And this connection is something you feel when you play.”

Fernán: “It is the best and most honest way to tell something to somebody, but also the most natural way for people to accept what we say. It is a pure way to connect to people. Hundreds of people can be together with you through a song. And we make music for that reason.”

While the band explains how eating Padrón peppers is like Russian roulette, they set out their plans for the upcoming season. Later this summer, Mamihlapinatapai will release a new single. And another one later in autumn. These two songs will be part of a new album, together with ‘Plantico’ from 2018. This second album of Mamihlapinatapai will be released early 2020.

Fernán: “Releasing albums and streaming is the way it works. But who pays 15 euros for an album they have not listened to? A lot is being released nowadays, basically anyone can release something. This means there is a lot of different quality, people have to search for something they like.”

Guillermo: “And it is hard, but also great. Because there is room for people like us, our music would not have been released if we could not work as an independent band. And this is why streaming is great. We make our music to be listened to. If people sit at home, listen to your music first, then they might actually consider buying the 15 euro album. People are willing to buy records they like, maybe even go to concerts or pay for a t-shirt.

Fernán: “Our first album was a bit premature, with lots of energy to prove ourselves. Our new album will be more mature, more political and philosophical. It is about people building walls around feelings, being part of society, which is sad and dangerous. People work too much and live too little. We do not live to pay bills.”

Dear people! We have an awesome weekend ahead! 🔥 Saturday 29th we will be at Simmerdeis Festival in Drachten 🔥 Sunday...

Posted by Mamihlapinatapai on  Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Guillermo: “An upcoming song is about exactly that. It is called ‘Nino’, kid. It is about what you wanted to be when you grew up. This thought moves away when you go to school and work. Why is the world like this? This pure and honest feeling is buried and destroyed. This song is how people feel when they realise this.” Fernán: “Just let the kid live! Everybody has some moments when the kid comes back and say, whatever, just do it!”

And while Guillermo grabs his phone to take a picture he apologises: “Even with all this flower power we are supposed to do social media. I hate that, we are here for the music. But it doesn’t matter how good you play, if you don’t have 10,000 likes no-one cares about what you do.”

And do you think you will stay in The Netherlands forever?

Fernán: “That is up to the kid to decide.” Luciano: “This is like in the beginning when we moved here, it was not really planned, it happened. We like to be here, and now we are here for five years already. Maybe it is a Spanish thing too, Spanish people don’t like to plan.”

Luciano: “And we like the festivals here, people want to create a whole atmosphere. It is not just a bar and a stage with live music, but a whole world with excited people. In Spain we have a lot of festivals, but it is not much, just a lot of mud.”

Nearly two hours later the interview concludes and we estimate this probably sets the record for any 3voor12 Den Haag interview.

Luciano: “Well, you should come to one of our rehearsals, you will be thankful it is just the three of us now. Oh and by the way, we are looking for a place to rehearse. It is hard to find with eight.”

Nu we toch even de aandacht hebben:

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