MO-KUAN-ES! MO-KUAN-ES! MO-KUAN-ES!
Every show begins with this deep-voiced recorded announcement, as the smoke machines are turned on and the crowd gathers. At the fairgrounds in Managua last week (Microfer 2010), thousands started walking toward the stage when they heard the cue, chanting along and preparing to dance.
Los Mokuanes! Their name comes from an old legend about a haunted cave and an Indian princess in northern Nicaragua. The group is legendary with Nicaraguans â€” whether living in their mother country, or in one of the Nica expat communities in the U.S. (Miami, Houston, LA, San Francisco â€” Los Mokuanes hit them all on their annual U.S. tours). The band is a family-run institution, the Escoto family, to be exact, dating back to a group of musical brothers in the 1970s, continuing through the civil war of the 1980s when the musicians donned military fatigues to play at bases around Nicaragua, and continuing to today.
Nearly all the musicians hail from the northern highway village of La Trinidad, just south of EstelÃ, where I spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I often went on the road with Los Mokuanes, hopping between fiestas patronales (patron saint’s day parties) and weddings all over the country. It was a unique way to tour a country, and saw all the long hours and sweat the guys put into it, all for just barely enough cash to scrape a living out of it and support their families.
Los Mokuanes play whatever is popular in the Latin pop and dance world, and they play it well. They also write their own songs and have a respectable collection of hits, mostly sappy ballads (“LlorarÃ©” and “Mokuanes de Cavanga“) and sexually-themed dance numbers (“Chiki Chiki,” “Baila Mi Palo,” and “El Pellijito“). The “musical genius behind the scene,” reports La Prensa, is Holbein Sandino, but the entire band is filled with talent, from the horn section to percussion, to the ridiculous energy of the muchachos up front.
I first started traveling with and listening to Los Mokuanes 12 years ago. We’re still in touch and I caught the Mokuanes’ “embrujo musical” (musical witchcraft) the other night in Managua. I had my camera with me and my new speed flash, so figured it was the perfect time to try shooting a concert, which I’ve never done before. Aqui estan las resultadas: FLICKR SET OF LOS MOKUANES IN NICARAGUA