Joao PG Lagarto. Photo: Francesco Meliciani.
Joao PG Lagarto. Photo: Francesco Meliciani.

The Elephant Family trip

5 minutes / Ailén Rivero

01.03.2019 / Reviews

Elephant Family is a project that emerged three years ago, from the idea of a group of artists commanded by Joao Aguilera. The concept is to create a space where they can combine the greatest number of artistic manifestations to a musical band, to create a performance on stage.

He had his beginnings in the PG Lagarto project, which Joao shared with other artists since his student days at the ISA. From that first band Joao keeps his stage name "PG Lagarto", with which he presents and recorded with other musicians:

"The name -Elephant Family- comes from my affinity for animals, with the elephants more specifically and the concept of family that they establish. The band part of the need to provide a platform to artists who now have no way or where to exhibit their work. Artists who maybe work in companies or in other projects, but who do not have where to exhibit their individual work. "

When listening to his first album, which also bears the name of Elephant Family, we can understand that concept of community translated into songs that connect perfectly with each other, to create a great story that comes to be the phonogram as a whole.

The album is not a job for the mass of the public, nor with pretensions to sneak into the popularity charts. To Joao the songs were accumulated and recorded, as a way to preserve them. Elephant Family was designed for friends, the same ones who are used to hearing how Joao breaks his soul when he sings, going from rapping with swing to reggae or the most melodic bolero, always with naturalness and talent.

But since the good thing shines by itself, the disc has been strained from hand to hand in the hearing aids of many people, beyond the group of friends. And even those who have never seen it live, those who do not know who is Elephant Family, can not help but fall seduced by the sounds of their songs, those that you have to hear a lot of times because you do not finish digesting them or you can understand them with Just one listener, those that keep spinning in your head and you end up humming without realizing it.

This first phonogram is a totally independent production, and includes songs by Los PG Lagarto that have now grown with the current Elephant Family musicians. It's hard to believe them when they say they want to improve it, they recorded it fast.

The compositions are full of very long instrumentals, in songs that can last up to 10 minutes, and whose live performances adapt to the needs of the performance. In the same performance you can find Joao as a vocalist, and then, in one of the instrumental moments, enjoy the work of dancers.

Elephant Family has nurtured their work from the foreign experiences of the artists themselves, always with Cuban music as their main patron. Joao has training as a dancer and musician, so he is interested in the confluence of these arts - and of all those who want to add - in their presentations.

"Elephant Family is a trip, a project that does not stop mutating because I do not want to make a rigid band: I'm mutating because that opens doors to other types of spaces. I try to look at the work from the perspective that the project can be dismantled and that it has an interactive nature, "says Joao.

The dialogue on stage in the Elephant Family presentations almost always starts with Joao. He, as the central axis of the project and always accompanied by the melodious voice of Gabriela in the choirs and the guitar, is inviting other artists from a line up that never stays fixed.

"We have no censorship towards any gender. Reggae is always present because of my singing style, but the rest is variable. Elephant Family is a growing thing, it's a restless band ".

The music of Elephant Family leaves a lot of room for improvisation. The musicians do not play irremovable roles within the band, but Joao writes the songs and according to their creative needs the group changes.

"I do not know how to call our music, because it's complicated to use the term alternative or fusion. I have my tendency, that I call it 'trova de repartrto', that is the definition that I invented when not finding a definition for my work" explains Joao.

What began as a game, a need to "invade spaces with art", ended up being driven by the current wave of new bands in the Cuban music scene to become a project, although variable in format, very serious in music .

"We want to create a kind of movement, we do not know how far it goes, but we do not want to think about that either," says Joao, "we want to continue making music and keep recording, because I have many accumulated ideas that I have not had the chance to take".

Ailén Rivero

Journalist. Activist for sexual rights. Feminist, ecologist, left. And music lover, of course.

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    Gabriel Oramas Martínez


    Joao el «PGlagarto» o «Machetero» como otros lo conocen es sin lugar a duda una de las voces jóvenes más potencial dentro de la isla en estos momentos. Tanto su voz que hace vibrar todo espacio que toca, como sus movimientos corpóreos que dibujan posibilidades por encima de los límites lo convierten en mi opinion en un creador totlamente original altamente capacitado para regalarnos sonidos y movimientos ávidos de ser decodificados en sensaciones que nos hagan reir, llorar, degustar nuevos colores, morir y volver a la vida.

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