When Cultura Profética formed nearly two decades ago, they had no idea they were embarking on a lengthy musical journey. The group of young Puerto Ricans got their start jamming out cover songs from reggae staples like Steel Pulse and Bob Marley, and within a year were performing live. However, the group truly gained their momentum when they incorporated Spanish lyrics and Latin roots into their reggae sound. This fusion created a new breed of reggae that guitarist Eliut Gonzalez says the band pioneered, and allowed them to become a voice for socio-economic and political strife in their native Puerto Rico.
Using their newfound platform to call attention to unfavorable conditions in Puerto Rico during the late '90s, Cultura Profética quickly attracted attention throughout Latin America. Over the years their content has evolved and their discography has grown to include five studio albums, a handful of live records, and a Bob Marley tribute album. With a new record due out next year, Cultura Profética continues to craft a sound that utilizes a full horn section, multiple guitarists, and a bassist and drummer who double as vocalists. The eleven-piece band swings through The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Tuesday, June 24 on their first-ever U.S. tour.
OC Weekly (Heidi Darby): This is your first U.S. tour, but not your first time performing in the states?
Eliut Gonzalez: That's right. We've done separate dates in places like San Diego, New York, and Chicago. We'd come and do one or two shows, but this tour's been great because we're playing in places we've never been before. There's a huge Latin community over here but we're also coming across people who don't know us or don't understand a word we're saying and they're really feeling it. It's all about opening up to new people, we'd love to come back and do this tour once a year.
It's been four years since your last studio album, is there new material in the works?
We've been working on new songs for the last three years, in between a lot of touring. We've got at least half of the new album in our hands. It's very different from La Dulzura. That album did really well, but we're not using that as a formula. We like to keep evolving, and hopefully the new album is going to come out early next year. We don't have the pressure of record labels so it comes down to when we stop touring and get inside the studio.
La Dulzura garnered quite a bit of critical attention, but it was a departure from your politically charged early albums?
We spent all of those years working more on social problems, and obviously putting out there how we felt about different things… We talked about the government and corruption and problems society has worldwide. On La Dulzura, we wrote about the good things in the world. We know that people need help, and that behind every revolution or movement, there is love. We wanted to document that in our music, but without doing it in a cheesy or typical way.
Did the transition come naturally?
It took us awhile to come up with the right words at the right time. For me, it's the best album we've made. It came at a great moment for us and opened a lot of doors. A bunch of labels even came and tried to sign us but we're staying independent. That album brought a whole different crowd, and lead people back to our older albums. It was great.
Your older albums seemed to really fire people up.
When we started making our own music, it was in Spanish. It was our language, it was how we thought, and it felt good. But we had no point of reference, no other reggae bands were selling albums in Spanish. In a way we were creating our own sound.
We noticed that many people felt like us, not only in Puerto Rico, but all around Latin America. People were telling us they felt the same way. People from Mexico or Columbia, and other countries were really identifying with what we were doing. It got out of our hands -in a good way. We realized we were doing something important, more than entertaining. The message in our songs really meant something. It was important for us to realize that at such a young age. Here we are eighteen years later, and we're very grateful people are still noticing us.
Cultura Profética perform at The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, Ste. C, San Juan Capistrano (949) 496-8930; www.thecoachhouse.com. Tuesday, June 24 at 8 p.m., $20, 21+. For more information on Cultura Profética visit www.culturaprofetica.com.