Defining the Borderland: Meet Dulce Mal

A new band is rising on the border with their soft reggae sounds that turn into danceable cumbias. Dulce Mal is a band that brings what it means to be a band along the U.S.-Mexico border, sharing both cultures.

Composed of Helen Vargas, Allan Cisneros, Gabriel Deambulante, and Abraham Alvarez, the multi-genre four-piece is starting to get more acknowledgement on both sides of the border.

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The band is influenced by different genres – Deambulante is more influenced by reggae and ska music while Vargas has been influenced by the feminine music scene in Mexico, with artists such as Mon Laferte, Carla Morrison, among others – and this reflects in the variety of sounds found in their music

However, the band mentions they still have yet to find that signature sound they feel they should have.

“We don’t really want to limit ourselves,” said Alvarez.

“We feel that by being able to create different sounds and actually make them work into something that we think people would like, we don’t limit ourselves into one single genre. We can open more doors for ourselves with that,” continued Cisneros.

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The interesting thing about this band, however, is that they hadn’t really planned to perform all these different genres; it just happened, said Deambulante. Their music includes sounds from cumbia, bossa nova, reggae, jazz, pop, among others; and even though they are still looking for their sound, they still have room to connect with different people, playing these different types of music.

“What I like to do with the music is to make drastic changes,” said Deambulante. “So we have some songs that start with cumbia sounds and end up sounding reggae. And I feel that’s what’s getting people’s attention, because one moment you’re dancing cumbia and the next reggae, without even noticing. So I think that the ability to do that drastic change, with people noticing the change but feeling that it worked, it’s something that has been defining us.”

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The band also explains that the multi-genres found in their music was influenced by the borderland, which is where they are based out of. The band says they play on both sides of the border regularly.

“For us, what it means to be a border band comes with what is the multi-genre, which is to be able to tell our story based on the popular genres that exist in the local scene,” said Deambulante. “For example, that you could start playing cumbia on the street and somebody could stop and start dancing, things like that. In general, it’s being able to see what goes on in the city, and give it back to the people in the form of music, because it’s what they need.”

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The band will be playing in Festival SIN Fronteras May 5, in Cd. Juárez, Mexico. This is a festival that was inspired because of the negative political commentary given against the U.S.-Mexico border by the 2016 Presidential Elections. The festival without borders, from its translation, will be promoting the idea that music doesn’t have borders, by including musicians from both the U.S. and Mexico.

“They mainly want to represent that music doesn’t have borders,” said Vargas. “That it doesn’t matter where you’re from, we can all come together, at least for one day. Because there’s no walls or anything, we can be together and enjoy the music.”

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From left to right: Abraham Alvarez, Helen Vargas, Gabriel Deambulante, and Allan Cisneros. Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca.

 

By Aimée Santillán

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