On Nov. 2, the Manitoba Museum’s planetarium will come alive in celebration of the dead.
The Mariachi Ghost, who have spent a decade threading traditional Mexican music with experimental performance, will overtake the venue to revel in the release of their second record, the seven-years-in-the-making Puro Dolor.
Lead singer Jorge Requena said the album’s ethos is “life is made up of things that are taken away, and there’s basically a complicated sense of loss and sorrow that sort of drives the entire album.”
“It’s kind of supposed to feel a bit like a funeral,” he said.
As a vibrant, nuanced exploration of life and death, it’s no fluke that the album’s release coincides with Day of the Dead.
Much like the traditional Mexican holiday, Puro Dolor takes a more complicated approach to death, allowing for shades of joy and celebration to paint the music.
“Nothing is always just as simple as anger or sadness or happiness. There’s always some other colour in there,” Requena said.
As Requena explains, the planetarium is the perfect space to translate the many facets of the band’s message.
“The planetarium offers a chance to use the dome as a way to communicate to the audience in a totally different way that is not music or theatricality or dance, the way we’ve done it before,” he said.
“You’re watching the band, you’re watching the canopy, you’re watching the band, you’re watching the canopy.”
This sort of room-filling performance art is nothing new to the group.
The band has been blending several forms of media since its inception.
A filmmaker in his own right, Requena said creating an all-encompassing artistic experience is in the band’s DNA.
“A big chunk of what we do is try to make more than one platform available to our audience when we create art,” he said.
“As much as we love being a band for the sake of being a band, and everybody in the band is really good at playing music, we also believe that you can take people places if you create a sort of more multi-media experience.”
Requena credits his work as a filmmaker and the combined expertise of his bandmates — The Mariachi Ghost is comprised of engineers, actors, music teachers and language teachers, among others — with the group’s unorthodox approach to music and performance.
That wide berth of experience also means that The Mariachi Ghost moves at a different pace than many bands, with Puro Dolor being the culmination of seven years of life lived.
“Because we all have careers, things take a little bit longer,” Requena said.
“But that also means that the projects have time to simmer in our brains and develop properly.”
The result is an art project as much as it is an album, combining video, performance and music to commune with the dead and, however briefly, bring them back to life.
In the seven years between their debut album and Puro Dolor, several bandmates had children and several lost parents, creating the impetus to craft a meticulous, effervescent document of both welcoming life and letting it go. Requena said the extra time was a necessary part of the process.
“We were magnanimously more careful with this album than we were with the last.”
For more info on the band visit www.themariachighost.com