Music Monday: Can Rupa and the April Fishes Live Up to The Hype?

Press Photo by <a href="http://www.flarefilms.co.uk/" target="_blank">Judith Burrows</a>

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San Francisco loves Rupa and the April Fishes. The local world-beat ensemble recently garnered a nomination in the alt SF Weekly’s annual music awards, and packed the space with adoring fans at a performance piece I attended last week.

Part of the appeal lies in the group’s personal narrative, which seems designed to bait music editors: Frontwoman Rupa Marya is a physician; their musical influences include gypsy swing, tango, and polka; they sing in Spanish, French, Hindi, and English.

Luckily, their music mostly lives up to the hype. Marya’s vocals are a fine blend of slow-burn passion and buoyant belting, and her backing musicians are highly skilled and perfectly synched.

At the show I witnessed, where the band provided a musical backdrop for acrobats and actors telling the story of illegal immigrants (SF music scene alert!), they lit up the stage. Packed tightly together in all-white garb, they infused their ballads and up-tempo numbers with fervor and grace. When the final song exploded from a slow, sexy tango into an upbeat dance song, the audience couldn’t help but get up and jive along.

Rupa’s recently released CD, Este Mundo doesn’t quite capture this joie de vivre. Some of the group’s best live tropes—escalating tempos, sing-speak vocals—feel suffocated and repetitive on disc. Part of this might just be that their spirited music requires audience interactivity (clapping, dancing, swaying) to really come alive. But I also wish they’d taken more chances in the recording, especially since those they did take were so successful at keeping the music fresh—like a soulful guest rap interlude in “Soledad” and a beautiful classical string section in “L’éléphant.”

Bottom line: If you haven’t heard Rupa and the April Fishes yet, their new CD is a fine place to start. But to truly understand what’s made them musical darlings, best to catch them live.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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