Caifanes -founded in 1987, is a rock band that achieved fame throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s in Latin America and gained recognition in the U.S. The band formed in Mexico City - Mexico and its original lineup consisted of Saúl Hernández (vocals & guitar), Sabo Romo (bass guitar), Alfonso André (drums) and Diego Herrera (keyboards and saxophone). Argentinean guitarist Alejandro Marcovich joined in 1989. Caifanes are considered to be one of the most important Latin American Rock groups to emerge from Mexico and an important reference point in the Latin American Rock Music (Rock en Español) genre. Caifanes’ style can be described as a hybrid of British new wave, Progressive Rock, Latin based rhythms mixed with the and deep, somber, uniquely Mexican lyrics and vocal style of Saúl Hernández.
The name Caifanes is derived from 1940’s Mexican Pachuco (zoot suiter) slang "Cai fan" , it’s equivalent in English would be something like, “cool dude.” The word has also been used to describe the proverbial Mexican Pachuco, delinquent, or outsider.
The seeds of what was to later become Caifanes was planted in 1984 in the band Las Insolitas Imágenes de Aurora (Aurora's Unusual Images), a band that included Saúl Hernández, Alfonso André and Alejandro Marcovich. According to Marcovich, this project started out as a side project for the purpose of performing as a party band for the filming of his brother’s Carlos film projects. (Carlos Marcovich went on to direct various videos for Caifanes).
At the time, both Hernández and Marcovich were playing in different bands. The members enjoyed the experience of playing in "Insolitas" and decided to continue. As the seriousness of the project grew, the band began to play in different spots in Mexico City like Rockotitlán, High Tower, and El Jabalí. In May of 1986, Insolitas recorded a live demo performed at Rockotitlán. By then the band had developed a strong cult following in Mexico City.
"Insólitas" broke up in 1986. Saúl and Alfonso reformed as Caifanes with bass player/producer Sabo Romo and Diego Herrera on keyboards and sax.
Caifanes’ first live show was April 11, 1987, in Rockotitlán. Expectations were high, the building was filled to capacity and many people were left outside. Their popularity began to grow throughout Mexico City. By late 1987 Caifanes had carved a niche for themselves as a dark contrast to the corporate pop/rock and light ballads that dominated Mexican radio and television during the 1980’s. At times the image and the sound were considered radical for a very conservative Mexican music industry. Between December 28, 1986 and January 3, 1987 Juan Aceves produced a four song demo for the band using "free" studio time at night at Arco Studio (where Aceves was chief engineer). The demo was showcased in independent radio program Espacio 59 (Space 59), a show that promoted up and coming rock bands. With the demo under their arms Caifanes approached CBS Mexico. According to sources, Caifanes’ were not treated nicely. The musical director at the time shunned them for dark new wave attire and said, “You look like fags.” At the time, Caifanes’ sound and look was influenced by British post-punk groups such as The Cure and The Jesus and Mary Chain. They dressed in black suits and sported frizzly hair and makeup. This was too radical for the Mexican CBS executives. Upon hearing the demo of “Sera Por Eso?” (Is It Because of That?), the CBS executive uttered these words, “At CBS, our business is to sell records, not coffins.”
Nevertheless, the movement of Rock en Español (Spanish rock) or rock en tu idioma (Rock in your language) was too strong to ignore by record execs. The flood of groups from Spain and Argentina forced Mexican labels to take a second look at up-and-coming Mexican bands. Caifanes received a big break when Ariola records invited them to open for Argentinean rocker Miguel Mateos’ Mexico City show. The show brought Cafaines to the attention of Miguel Mateos’ producer Oscar "Cachorro" Lopez. Oscar fell in love with the band and took them to the studio to record a demo. Lopez would be instrumental in their signing to RCA-Ariola and would go on to produce their first two albums.
Caifanes’ debut album, the self-titled Caifanes (also known as Mátenme Porque Me Muero, or Volumen I) was released in August 1988 by RCA-Ariola. The LP was preceded by an EP made up of three songs. This was in order to test the market. The immediate sale of 300,000 copies of the EP cemented the bands appeal. The first single “Mátenme Porque Me Muero” ("Kill Me Because I'm Dying") became a minor hit in Mexico City. With the release of their first album Caifanes became notable trendsetters in and around central Mexico. The first three singles garnered sufficient radio play. In December of 1988 Caifanes released a cover of Cuban folk singer Guillermo Rodriguez Fiffe’s classic tropical dance song, “La Negra Tomasa,” (Black Girl Tomasa) as a maxi Single es: La negra Tomasa. The song was a massive hit in Mexico and introduced Caifanes to a wider audience nationally and abroad.
Mexico’s Most Important Band:
By 1989 Caifanes had emerged as one of the hottest rock acts to come from central Mexico. In June Caifanes played two sold out shows at Mexico’s Auditorio Nacional (National Auditorium), a 10,000 person venue – a first for a Mexican rock band.
In late 1989 Caifanes began to record their second album in New York City. The record was produced by Oscar Lopez who was aided by Gustavo Santaolalla and Daniel Freiberg. El Diablito (The Little Devil) was released in July of 1990 through BMG Records. The most notable change for the band was the addition of former Insolitas guitarist Alejandro Marcovich. Marcovich’s textural guitar work considerably changed Caifanes’ sound and cemented the “classic” Mexican rock sound that Caifanes became famous for. “La Celula Que Explota” (The Exploding Cell), with its brushes of mariachi and bolero guitars and a crescendo of mariachi trumpets became both a signature of the band as well as a massive hit. Hernandez’ lyrics and somber vocals complemented Marcovich’s lyrical playing. The haunting “Sombras en Tiempos Perdidos” (Shadows in Times Lost) and the ethereal “De Noche Todos Los Gatos Son Pardos” (All Cats Are Dark at Night), give the album a most sublime imprint.
By this time Caifanes along with Maná, Fobia, Maldita Vecindad y los Hijos del Quinto Patio, La Lupita, and Cafe Tacuba helped to move Mexican Rock toward a wider audience and catapulted the Rock En Español movement of the 1990’s.
In 1992, Caifanes released El Silencio (The Silence). Recorded in Wisconsin and produced by the prolific guitarist Adrian Belew, of King Crimson fame, "El Silencio" further cemented the Caifanes sound and had and a more direct guitar driven sound. “No Dejes Que” (Don’t Let It…”), “Estás Dormida” (You’re Asleep), “Debajo de Tu Piel” (Under Your Skin), and the soaring “Nubes” (Clouds) would go on to become Mexican rock staples. The influence of Belew, who also played guitar on the album, was felt strongest in “Hasta Morir” (Until Death), “Tortuga” (Turtle), and “Vamos a Hacer un Silencio” (Lets Make a Silence). With its string of hits, its multi-ethnic hybrid of rock and traditional Mexican music, El Silencio is considered to be on of Caifanes’ best albums and one of the most influential records of the Rock En Español genre.
Caifanes toured extensively in support of the album. By this time, the group had started to make inroads into Central and South America as well as in the United States. In August of 1992 Caifanes sold out the Hollywood Palladium. In 1993 Caifanes became the first Mexican rock group to sell out Mexico City's Palacio de los Deportes (Sports Palace).
By late 1993 Caifanes became a three piece with the exit of Romo and Herrera. Federico Fong and Stuart Hamm filled in on bass and Yann Zaragoza played the keyboard. No one knew what to expect of Caifanes after the loss of two founding members. 1994’s El Nervio Del Volcán (The Volcano’s Nerve), released by BMG exceeded the expectations of both critics and fans alike. El Nervio showed Caifanes at the height of their power. With a heavier more progressive sound, "El Nervio" highlighted the musician’s virtuosity as well as their tight playing and arrangements. Signature elements, Marcovich’s staccato guitar work, Alfonso’s polyrythmic drumming and Hernandez’s brooding and haunting vocal style were even more prominent. “Afuera” the first single seamlessly fused distinct rock grooves with an ethnic inspired guitar solo. “Aquí no es así” (“It’s Not Like That Here”), and "Ayer Me Dijo Un Ave" (“A Bird Told Me Yesterday”) became radio favorites. “Aviéntame” (Throw Me), is as dynamic and powerful as the best American and British prog and alternative acts.
1994 was a stellar year for Caifanes, who were at the height of their popularity. Caifanes along with Maná was one of Mexico's premier stadium rock acts, selling out stadiums in Mexico and large venues throughout Latin America and the United States. At this time Caifanes had cemented their reputation as one of the most important Mexican rock bands of all time. They were a staple in Latin MTV, Rock en Español radio and appeared regularly at music festivals. In 1994, Caifanes opened up for The Rolling Stones in Mexico City and participated in Peter Gabriel's WOMAD festival.
1995 would mark the end of Caifanes. According to various sources, Hernández and Marcovich’s relationship was strained. On the 18th of August 1995 Caifanes played their final show in the Mexican city of San Luis Potosí. A legal scuffle over the name “Caifanes” ensued forcing Saúl Hernández to choose the name Jaguares (Jaguars) for his new project, which built on the legacy of Caifanes, as it was not too much of a radical departure of the Caifanes sound. Hernández was joined by former Caifanes and Insolitas drummer Alfonso André.
On December 14th, 2010, it was announced by Twitter that the band would be reuniting for the Vive Latino festival and the Coachella Festival of 2011, after a reconciliation between Hernández and Marcovich.
Some of Caifanes' Guest Musicians and Collaborators:
Chucho Merchán (bass), Federico Fong (bass), José Manuel Aguilera (guitar), Stuart Hamm (bass), Gustavo Cerati (guitar), Adrian Belew (guitar), Yann Zaragoza (keyboards), Cecilia Toussaint (backing vocals).
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