And what do Mexicans think of
you are. A lot of people in Mexico don’t have a clue where
Ireland is. A lot of people say [US-]Americans are ignorant,
but Mexicans can be ignorant too. An Irish friend of ours
visited Mexico and he always had a great time because people
saw him as someone different. They thought he was a gringo,
but he told them he wasn’t. Mexico is very friendly, but there
are eejits there too!
Did you find it easy to settle in as a Mexican/Latin American?
I think in
people don’t really have an idea of
Mexico, generally they only know what they have seen in
American films or in shows like ‘Speedy Gonzales’ [Warner
Brothers cartoon character of a Mexican mouse]! I don’t get
offended because I didn’t know anything about
before I came here. A lot of Mexicans do get offended, and
complain about it when they come back from Europe. For me it’s
just a little annoying, but some Mexicans think that it’s
racism. I think people are just trying to be funny. The middle
classes and upper classes in Mexico can be so pretentious.
They study in American-style universities and dress like
Americans, yet they say they are proud of Mexican culture.
Then they come here and get called ‘Speedy Gonzales’!!
Did moving abroad make you more aware of your identity as a Latin
don’t really know, they think we’re Spanish, they call us the
Spanish couple, whatever, I don’t really care. Throughout
Latin American history people have been conquered, and now we
are bombarded with American culture. I don’t really focus on
Mexico they don’t teach you that the Aztecs were an amazing
and advanced civilisation. In school they use racist words for
indigenous people, it is really cruel. A few well-educated
people know about the Aztecs, and some good teachers teach the
truth. The Mexican President [Vicente Fox] didn’t want people
to mention the Aztecs, which was very bad. When Mexican people
go abroad and live in other countries, they get confused, they
think ‘I’m not indigenous, I don’t know what I am - but I know
I’m not Speedy Gonzales!’
You start to
think about your identity and where you’re from when you are
abroad. Some crazy people say ‘we’re Aztecs,’ but they’re not.
In Europe, people have been fighting so long for their
territories, so identity in every country is strong. Over
there people are only proud to be Mexican when they’re drunk!
Some of the local people, the working classes, they know
they’re Mexican and they don’t worry about it. Their skin is
usually darker and, though they may not know anything about
the Aztecs, they don’t get confused. The upper classes are
usually more European-looking.
is really a very racist country. At the beginning when I went
back to Mexico from Ireland I thought this was terrible, but
now I accept things the way they are and that you’re never
going to change things.
is a welcoming country to foreigners but Mexicans can be
racist towards one another.
The image on
television over there is just Barbies all over the place, and
particularly in soap operas. Young actresses and newsreaders
look European, that’s the cool image for young people. People
grow up with terrible complexes. A typical Mexican girl with
dark skin who is really beautiful would still think she was
You played with Irish folk musicians - to what extent did living in
Ireland influence your music?
with Robbie Harris, and other Irish folk musicians. To be
honest, harmonically they did not have much influence, but I
was quite impressed with Irish music. I saw it live, and
enjoyed seeing young talented people playing in contemporary
ways. My right hand, my percussion hand, is influenced by
Irish folk - my hand was impressed with the bodhrán
[traditional Celtic frame drum]! It sounds so fantastic and I
tried to play it. Robbie and I went together to buy a
bodhrán and he tried to teach me how to play with the
stick, but I gave up and just played with my hand. That’s
actually the original Irish way so I play it in the pure form!
(Enda Casey, www.rodgab.com)
You are repeatedly referred to in the Irish media as playing with ‘Latin
flair’/ ‘Latin style’ - do you consider your music to be
‘typical Latin American music’?
No, I don’t
think we play ‘Latin music.’ We are influenced by it, because
some of the music is fantastic. Though we are much more
influenced by heavy metal. Before I got into that, music was
everything to me as a child. My mum always played salsa. I
never really liked salsa, I thought it all sounded the same,
and was really monotonous, but eventually I thought it was
cool. We came here to compose a different type of music, but
Latin elements started to come up. We never studied Latin
music, so we don’t even really know what ‘Latin’ is. Really
you can call our music whatever you want, except flamenco!
A few years
ago we played a song called ‘Libertango’ based on the music of
Astor Piazzola [influential Argentine tango composer]. I love
Piazzola, it’s not pure tango. I think in
they hate him because he mixed tango with jazz, but I love his
music! So we did a version of his song, but also with Irish
influences. I have loved tango music since I was a little
girl. My mum had a great collection of albums, loads of tango
and instrumental music. I still love that, and the dance
itself. I also like bossa nova and jazz, but not so much
Mexican music. You hear that a lot at parties when you’re
drunk! When I’m back in
I watch Mariachi [traditional Mexican bands] on TV and some of
the bands are really good, but it’s like in Ireland where a
lot of people hate Irish music. When some Irish people hear
Irish music, they don’t stop and say that’s cool, they just
hate it. I have come across a lot of people like that.
Why exactly did you choose to record a song with the Hungarian Roma
violinist, Roby Lakatos?
amazing, we saw him on TV and thought this guy is amazing. The
record company for the album wanted us to jam with different
people, but we wanted someone that we really admired. The only
one that responded to us was Roby Lakatos, so he came to
Bath and recorded the song in just two hours. We were
playing like crazy - he wanted to play on the whole album and
to be on the cover, but we said no. He is amazing but crazy!
Rodrigo y Gabriela
(Enda Casey, www.rodgab.com)
You recently appeared on Mexican television - how did the Mexican public
respond to your music and your story?
We got loads
of messages saying ‘guys, you played really well,’ but the
majority of people just said ‘wow - you are going to be on TV
in America.’ They are more impressed by our story than by the
music, like the fact that we were on Jay Leno [US-American
chat show]! I didn’t really want to go to Mexico at all, we’ve
been touring and recording constantly for the past two years,
we have no life. So going to Mexico to work didn’t sound that
inviting. But we tried it out, we did a whole day of publicity
on the TV and on radio programmes, from
7am in the morning to
9pm at night!
So we’re just gonna wait and see what the response is. Maybe
we’ll go back there to work, maybe just on holiday. We know
some people were impressed, but on the streets they were much
more impressed with our travels.
Do you want to eventually return to
settle in Ireland or elsewhere?
have a house in a village in Mexico, in Ixtapa [beach resort
in the state of Guerrero, 200km north of Acapulco], and that’s
where I’ll definitely spend the European winter. I really like
Europe and I’d miss Ireland if I was away too long. For the
moment, because the album was released in America, it’s
convenient, because we can easily go back from there to the
village in Mexico. But who knows, our record label is Irish
and our manager is Irish. At least for a couple of months a
year I’d like to live in West Cork. It’s beautiful, I’ve been
there twice, I love the West of Ireland. I would like to live
there for a while. I don’t know, I just know I can’t stay in
one place for a long time, I have to keep moving.
information, music and concert dates available on the
excellent website, www.rodgab.com. I am very grateful to
Gabriela Quintero, for so enthusiastically doing the
interview, and to Carlo Polli, for organising it.
 'Two adventurers
and music-lovers went off to seek their fortune overseas, and
encountered praise and applause.'