A few short years ago, several young travelers were somehow drawn to a mystic convergence by the shores of Lake Atitlan high in the mountains of Guatemala. The travelers had come from Canada, Texas and the southwestern U.S. From a simple guitar duo the band grew with the addition of percussion, bass and, surprisingly, digeridoo. They began to develop a unique sound spawned of the Central American jungle – based on a very thick bass and percussion line, layered with strong guitar grooves and topped off with a spiritual “one world” philosophy.
After building a fan base in Guatemala with live performances before thousands and a Top 10 radio hit, Kan’Nal began to tour the U.S. and Mexico and has been featured at numerous festivals such as the Om Festival in Canada, Belle Chere in North Carolina, Dreamtime in Colorado and Burningman in Nevada. Their almost constant touring brought them to the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver last Saturday as the warmup for the classic reggae band, Burning Spear.
With a theatrical entrance to a droning, organic jam you could easily liken to a tropical cousin of the Grateful Dead, the band took the stage to a rousing cheer from a mixed crowd of music fans. The bass of Rodolfo Escobar and percussion of Gilly Gonzales tug at your primal core awaking ancestral memories of tribal celebration, while the vocals of singer and rhythm guitarist Tzol are as palpable as the humid rainforest air. He sings songs about, “One race, one country, one planet,” with soul and unquestionable sincerity. The lead guitar of Tierra weaves color and life through the music, the way the Quetzal bird blesses the jungle with its brilliant presence. To this, Aaron Jerad adds the otherworldy and intrinsically primitive moan of the digeridoo.
Meanwhile, Teresita and Akayate dance in costumes at once Central American and Mediterranean, performing an indigenous interpretation of the music which builds in intensity from one song to the next. During the show they frequently change costumes, enchanting the audience with shamanistic theatrics and natural props.
Kan’Nal’s music incorporates elements of heavy rock, electronica and new age with classic jams to create a seamless tapestry we’ll call World Beat Tribal Rock. The occasionally rough vocals contrast sharply with the insightful lyrics. Tzol sings primarily in English but Spanish is used for certain songs. During a brief meet and greet, he said the band is definitely interested in connecting with the Latino community in the U.S. and so we’re introducing them to you.
The hypnotic rhythms elicit visions of firelit, primitive celebrants cavorting about a giant primodial pyre. The music snakes into the crowd, connecting with and compelling many to move with its magic. Teresita added a hiphop, poetic explosion to one song, while the drums beat out their enthralling rhythm and the whole band danced.
Around the periphery of the audience, young women dressed in attire reminiscent of the ’60s (full-length floral skirts, beaded belts and sleeveless knit tops) spun about wildly, arms flailing, performing a dance a little bit Latin, kind of Middle Eastern, but ultimately American.
It would seem the movement that spawned the Bohemians, Beatniks and Hippies is emerging once more. Who knows what name they’ll receive, but this movement, in its latest form, seems destined to be bigger, more international, multicultural, multilingual and perhaps more influential than ever before.
And this group of wanderers, who convened at Lake Atitlan in 2001, are likely to be as much a part of this 21st century phenomenon as the Rolling Stones and Beatles were to the social revolution of the ’60s.
When they finally left the stage reluctantly, they left the crowd hanging on these words: “Tear down the borders, Rep(resent) the planet.” However practical the sentiment in this day and age, it has an intrinsic beauty, much like Kan’Nal.
For more info or to contact the band visit www.kannal.org.
By Don Bain
Don Bain is the Entertainment Editor for Denver, Colarado based LA VOZ Nueva.