Cuicani (kwi-kani) is a collective of singer-songwriters paying homage to world and soul music. The five-piece group draws influences from the sights and sounds of Los Angeles, the multi-cultural metropolis that the band calls home. Cuicani is Marlene Beltran-Cuauhtin and Marisa Martinez (The Mavens) on vocals, Tony Sauza (Tone-Irie) on vocals and guitar, Caitlin Moss on drums, and John Northup on bass.
Formed in 2012, Cuicani’s members joined forces not only to create music, but to serve as dedicated agents of social change. Collectively, they have developed songwriting workshops, drum circles, theatre classes, and other empowerment lectures for their local communities. As music and arts educators working with youth from K through 12th grades, all Cuicani members have been dedicated to developing the next generation of music makers with the intention of inspiring growth, enjoyment and healing. Since coming together, Cuicani has compiled a body of work that encompasses the educational curricula, and a collection of songs that have become the debut double album Now & Then, set to release on March 25th.
Now & Then is a 16-track double album that reflects Cuicani’s work in three distinct studio sessions, the first at Coney Island Studios with Grammy® winning percussionist/engineer Alberto Lopez (member of Quetzal and Jungle Fire), the second with Grammy® winning producer/musician Quetzal Flores (founder of Quetzal), and the last at 54 East Sound Studios with producer/songwriter London Parker McWhorter. Now & Then also represents two phases of the band’s career—early work makes up the first half of the album titled “Then,” and the second disc includes the recently written “Now” tracks. The album takes you through a range of world, soul, Latin, and Afro-Caribbean sounds that include reggae, dancehall, cumbia, timba, son, rock, and blues. The songs circle around themes of cultural identity, struggle of the working class, empowering community, heartbreak, love, and unity, while maintaining an uplifting sound and flow.
Now & Then opens with the upbeat ska tune “They Say,” featuring Tony on lead vocals. This song’s positive message is a plea for love and hope in times of hardship and tragedy. It is followed by a danceable reggae-infused track titled “New Day,” written during a New Year’s Eve celebration in the first months after Cuicani was formed, expressing the excitement of starting something new. The second disc begins with a tune reminiscent of 50s R&B titled “For Them Now” featuring Marisa’s soulful vocals, and lyrics that call for stronger black and brown unity. Marlene rides the groove and powerfully belts out “Mama,” a soul song driven by an environmentally conscious theme related to standing against water privatization and corporate greed. “Free As A Dove” is a blues-rock anthem for rebel hearts that have the courage to break free from the ties that bind. Now & Then closes with “Money,” a smooth groove with flowing vocals by Marisa, about getting to a more natural and cooperative existence by leaving the stresses of money and our capitalist way of life behind.
The debut album Now & Then available March 25th.