BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — For 30 years, Mento Buru has blended different types of music to create their unique sound. One influence that keeps them close to home is the Hispanic and Latin rhythms they’ve incorporated from their own heritage.
“My parents had this amazing record collection, so I grew up listening to all different types of music. So, I could always deep dive into my parent's collection,” said Mento Buru band leader Matt Munoz. “When you start getting into the older records, it was when they were a younger couple. So they were always listening to like the hip music of the 60s and the 70s. A lot of New York Latin jazz, a lot of Salsa, a lot of Bugulu.”
When the group started three decades ago, they began with notes of Jamaican Ska music and hints of Jazz and Funk. Munoz said it wasn’t long though before their Latin roots began to seep into their music.
“The Hispanic-Latin foundation of the band comes from the band members. We have band members who are of Spanish descent, of Mexican-American descent, Cuban descent. So over the years, we’ve incorporated everything from Afro-Cuban to Latin-Jazz to Salsa.”
Eventually, every show featured some mixture of Hispanic-Latin music, and that soon became a trademark for the Mento Buru sound.
“You can’t help but dance to Latin music, and it’s part of our culture. So when the music starts and that rhythm, you hear the drums you hear the congas,” he said. “A mixture of all different kinds of sounds, but it all starts with the beat.”
From Mariachi to Colombian Cumbias, it was a progression that was impossible to avoid given the band’s growing popularity in Bakersfield and throughout Kern County.
“It never fails, we’ll be playing a Reggae set, just trying to feel out the crowd, and we’ll say ‘Okay it’s time for a Latin tune,' then you just see instantly the entire dance floor fills up.”
For Munoz, it’s easy to incorporate Latin tunes into their songs. All it takes is a walk down memory lane.
“It was just kinda a natural progression because we would listen to the old records that we grew up to listening in our households like a Sunday afternoon, parents start putting on the Mariachi music, the Salsa music and we start barbecuing, everyone's having a good time and we wanted to recreate that.”