Dr. Shenka of Panteón Rococó is a Mexican Ska Rebel

Dr. Shenka of Panteón Rococó is a Mexican Ska Rebel
Josue Rivas

Luis Román Ibarra also known as Dr. Shenka may not be a real doctor, but he can surely prescribe the perfect dose of consciousness and revolution through his voice. The vocalist of Panteón Rococó grew up in the harsh streets of Mexico City, the largest city in the world. Back in the day him and many of his peers on the streets used ska as a way out of the streets and as a form of expression. So as a youngster, forming a ska band was inevitable for Ibarra.

Since then, Panteón Rococó has toured all over the globe, making them ambassadors of a unique blend of sounds only passionate musicians can produce. Although the journey hasn't been an easy one Dr. Shenka and his banda have remained faithful to the philosophy of moving forward even if their own government attempts to shut down a soon to be musical revolution. The Panteonés stopped by La Naranja selling out The Observatory in Santana last Sunday and we got the chance to chat with El Doctor.

See also: Panteon Rococo - The Observatory - Aug. 4, 2013

OC Weekly (Josue Rivas):For those who have not heard the music of Panteón Rococó, how would you describe your sound?

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Dr. Shenka: Well, I think it is a blend of a lot of kind of genres of music you know, throughout  the 18 years that we've been playing we've learned the value of plurality in music. We entered the ska movement in Mexico City in 1995, but I think with time we started to play our own music because we started traveling all over the world. We discovered a lot of new music and cultures that we learned from. At this point I believe Panteon's music can be described as something like "ska-rebel" music, something like that. Because in our sound we have ska, we have Punk,Son Jarocho and even a little of Norteño. In our case I think it is music to party to, dance to, and to create consciousness about some of the things happening in Mexico.

In your music the idea of resistance is important, what are you referring to when you speak about resistencia?

When we talk about resistance we mean many things. In Mexico, to play rock is a very hard task. On top of that, to write revolutionary lyrics and make a career out of it becomes a dangerous task. Most of the musicians in the band are from working class backgrounds. In this case we feel like we have a responsibility to say something with our songs. I feel the people find a sense of identification with us because we are singing about their problems which were also our problems at some point.  

How does it feel to play for people that come to your shows who may have migrated from Latin America to the United States?

It is a very special thing to be here to play music for our people. We understand that their lives here may be more intense. They may have feelings of entrapment while living and working in another place were the majority of the people don't speak their language. This, I think, can make them feel a little bit insecure, but when they come to our shows they feel like they can party. They are very intense. It feels like they have freedom that they may not have here, you know? I think they use this as a chance to meet other people who may be living in the same situation. We meet people who may have been here for many years. Some of them were even born here, but some of them may be new here, maybe they even just arrived a month ago.

How does living in Mexico City influence your music?

Mexico City I think it is a great factory to write music and to do music because there are around 30,000 people there. You are walking on the streets, riding on the bus, riding the subway and you can see a lot of faces. I'm very grateful that I was born in Mexico City because of these kinds of things. You are can see a lot of faces inside of the same place. This gives you a lot of different experiences. It is a great mix of cultures.

What is the importance of Ska to the Mexican music scene?

I think in Mexico it was easier to play Ska because this rhythm can be easily blended with revolutionary and social lyrics. This has been the philosophy since the beginning. For example if Ska makes it to the United Kingdom the same thing would happen. The working people will embrace it. I think the same thing happened for us in Mexico. I think a lot of Ska bands in Mexico were influenced by California Ska bands, such as Save Farris, Reel Big Fish and Voodoo Glow Skulls and many others.

I heard from a friend about your song "La Carencia" (The Shortage) What is the meaning of this song ?

This song talks about the feeling every working person has at some point. The feeling of waking up and having to go and work. This is what makes this song successful. It is the song everyone likes to sing when we perform, even people in Europe know the lyrics to the song. It goes something like " In the morning I wake up and I don't want to go to work, I get on the bus and begin to observe the people passing by, throughout the avenue is circulating the working soul of my city, people that are always working and use their spare time to dream..." I think it is a catchy song with a special lyrics that makes sense. It happens when we play in Germany that people at the end of the show hear the song and sing along, and then bamm! There is the idea that this economic imbalance happens all over the world. La Carencia it happens in Mexico. It happens in Buenos Aires. It is happening in Madrid right now. Then you start noticing that this socioeconomic imbalance is making the people poorer and poorer. This makes the song so successful. It became an atemporal song. I wrote this song in 1994 and even today we are still living in the same situation in the world. I think this song is what made Panteón Rococó an international band.

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