Grupo Fantasma with Joe Bataan 5.27.22

Michael Minasi

You’re probably familiar with Grupo Fantasma by now. They’re only one of the greatest bands to ever emerge out of Austin; blessing the Capital City, and the world, for over two decades with their unique brand of Latin Funk. They’ve earned a Grammy Award (“Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album” for 2011’s El Existential) and performed with Prince, Sheila E., GZA and many more. They’re also the heartwood of an always-growing family tree of related Austin groups from Brownout, Money Chicha, The Los Sundowns, to name a few. As legendary as Grupo Fantasma has become, they’ve never forgotten to pay respect to the musicians who came before them.

Greg Gonzalez of Grupo Fantasma explains best the significance of Joe Bataan on them and music in general stating, “We have always been fans of Joe Bataan and felt that there was a lot of synergy between his story and ours. Joe is an Afro-Filipino artist who grew up in Spanish Harlem running with Puerto-Rican gangs in the 50s-60s before he got incarcerated. During his time locked up he became involved in music, singing doo-wop and then later getting in on the Salsa scene as one of the first signees to Fania records. He helped develop the style of music known as Boogaloo, blending salsa and Latin rhythms with R&B and doo-wop. When he discovered that he was being exploited by the label’s notorious founder Jerry Masucci, he left and went independent, helping to form the Salsol label. There he explored the convergence of funk and disco with Salsa and Brazilian rhythms and even early Rap.” 

Greg adds, “His story resonates with ours, being from the USA and being culturally and ethnically diverse, Grupo Fantasma also gravitated to Latin music, mixing Cumbia, Caribbean rhythms and Salsa with our own influences in rock, funk, hip hop, and soul, much like Joe did. Also like Joe, we remain independent, underground artist for the most part, never quite fitting in with anyone’s cookie cutter perspective of what constitutes ‘Latin music’ and refusing to be pigeon-holed by ethnic or racial identities and barriers. We consider ourselves kindred spirits in that sense, building our own forms of expression that embrace diversity more than the music industry is generally open to.”

Grupo Fantasma concludes, “Joe Bataan is one of the last remaining legends of the early New York Salsa/Boogaloo scene and as such he represents the source of a musical legacy and tradition that has gone on to influence and inspire countless generations of musicians such as us. He represents the true beauty of America’s cultural diversity and the vitality of authentic expression when it is freed from the narrow constraints of convention, but ultimately limiting musical genres and cliches. He remains a model of independence and inclusivity, and his message continues to remain relevant to this day.”

We’re honored Grupo Fantasma and Joe Bataan joined us and our Concert Club in Studio 1A for this once in a lifetime performance. Check it out below.

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Set List:
The Prayer
Gypsy Woman
I Wish You Love Pt. 2

Musicians: Joe Bataan (vocals, electric piano), Jose Galeano (timbales, vocals), Kino Esparza (vocals, hand percussion), Beto Martinez (guitar), Greg Gonzalez (bass), John Speice (drums), Matthew “Sweet Lou” Holmes (congas), Gilbert Elorreaga (trumpet), Josh Levy (baritone saxophone) and Mark “Speedy” Gonzales (trombone)

Host: Jody Denberg
Producer: Deidre Gott
Cameras: Michael Minasi, Renee Dominguez, Gabriel C. Pêrez, Karina Lujan; Edit: Renee Dominguez
Audio Engineers: Jake Perlman; Rene Chavez
Audio Mix: Jake Perlman

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