Swinga Tu Madre brings Romani, French, and Latin beats to Mérida

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Swinga Tu Madre playing at Hacienda Xcanatún last April. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Concert halls, bars, and restaurants are all alive with music acts ranging from traditional trios to salsa groups and rock and roll cover bands.

But one of the most interesting bands on the scene is the Gypsy jazz quartet, Swinga Tu Madre. 

This cheeky band name is a not-so-subtle play on words on an extremely common phrase one may use when cut off in traffic. Let’s leave it at that. 

Swinga Tu Madre, or just Swinga, has been playing in Mérida’s bars and clubs for almost 10 years now.

The longevity and tight-knit nature of the band is especially apparent when you notice how well the members vibe with each other, throwing in the occasional embellishment or bit of improvisation, which is then perfectly picked up on by the rest of the group.

“We have been at this for a while now, and know each other’s styles and preferences quite well, so it all has become like second nature,” says bass player Anakaren Rodríguez.

Anakaren Rodríguez seems to effortlessly play her upright bass as she launches into an impressive solo. Photo: Courtesy Swinga Tu Madre

Gypsy jazz, also known as manouche or gypsy swing, is a style of jazz with its origins in Romania and France during the early 20th century. 

This genre is typically played without drums or other percussion instruments and is led instrumentally by string instruments such as the violin and guitar. 

Swinga Tu Madre performs Tuesdays at Dzalbay in downtown Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

As for Gypsy jazz’s rhythm, it is marked by the use of a special type of strumming known as “la Pompe,” similar to the “boom-chick,” of bluegrass. Its fast-paced rhythm is very energetic and gives the style the “swing,” it is so well known for. 

But Swinga also ventures into other genres, such as Latin contemporary, without ever fully abandoning its swing roots.

“We love manouche and have great respect for the tradition, but when we work on original compositions we often sway into more Latin rhythms — though sticking to the groovy swing style we are known for,” says the band’s accordion player and vocalist, Gonzalo Cárdenas. 

The band is also known for the occasional cover of Parisian and New Orleans Jazz standards, sometimes sung in English and sometimes in French, by violin and trumpet player Etienne Waleckx — who is himself French. 

Like all other members of the band, Etienne Waleckx is a multi instrumentalist who often switches things up by picking up other instruments. Photo: Courtesy Swinga Tu Madre

Though every member of the band brings something different to the table, Swinga’s core rhythm is attributable to Omar López Cambranis’s guitar, which really appears to tie all other musical elements together. 

The band is planning a series of 10-year anniversary concerts in the fall, but still does not have exact dates.

“We can’t believe we have already been at this for a decade, but we really don’t want this milestone to simply pass without acknowledging it. We are planning something truly special for our fans,” Cárdenas told Yucatán Magazine.

In recent years the band has also been invited to headline several music festivals in Yucatán, as well as other parts of the country. 

Swinga Tu Madre can be seen performing at a variety of venues across Mérida. For more information on upcoming concerts check out their Facebook Page

Performances by Swinga Tu Madre attract locals, foreign residents, and tourists alike. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine 
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