If you’ve ever been to a concert in Austin, you know it’s never just about the music. The audience participating, the libations and the ambiance form a full experience. We all crave entertainment that stimulates our many senses.
But what happens when you strip away the “entertainment” factor and leave an audience with nothing but the the artist and the music? Does the experience fall flat? Perhaps unexpectedly, guests at Cafe con Letras in Austin find their senses set on fire by the connections they see, hear and feel between the artist and the music.
Musical Experience Set to a Different Tune
In 2007 a group of musicians created Cafe con Letras, an offshoot of Alianza Cultural Latinoamericana, to bring more Latin American music to Austin. The event became a monthly concert series unlike any other offered in the city.
When I went to my first Cafe con Letras event, I was struck by its intimacy. The setting was simple: rows of chairs facing a stage. Performers basked in a single spotlight and the full attention of the audience. Eyes were on them; ears were perked for each note.
Mauricio Callejas, one of the series coordinators, explained that the setting of the concerts allows audience members to be in communion with the performers. Performances range from music, to spoken word, to dance and even theatre.
Discover New Voices From Latin America
Austin is home to its fair share of beloved Latin American artists. Cafe con Letras offers artists who aren’t as well known an opportunity to appear on the Austin stage. Nearly all their songs, poems and other work is original and doesn’t follow pop culture trends. This makes for a very profound experience. Surrounded by nothing but the words and melodies of these artists, you can’t help but connect to the music and the person behind it.
One thing to note is that all shows are conducted in Spanish. This might seem intimidating to English speakers, but the truth is you don’t have to be fluent in a language to enjoy a song.
Callejas hopes more Austinites will participate in the intimate artistic experience Cafe con Letras provides. He thinks that even if someone does not understand Spanish, they might be surprised at how quickly that barrier falls.
Audience Becomes the Artist
When asked who his favorite artist has been, Callejas was stumped. There have been many incredible acts through the years. “What fills me with the most joy is when the audience understands point of these shows,” he said. “They come to anticipate [Cafe con Letras] as an oasis at the end of each month.”
Callejas finally decided, “the public is my favorite artist.” Clearly everyone who is part of this incredible series has an intense appreciation for the rich cultural community that has been built around Cafe con Letras.
Spanish speaker or not, anyone who appreciates talent and the opportunity to be up close and personal with musicians and their work should check out Cafe con Letras. In a buzzing city of music festivals and crazy concerts at Stubb’s and Austin360, sometimes it’s important to take a seat and open your eyes to the beauty of simple pleasures.
Cafe con Letras takes place the third Sunday of every month at Blackerby Recital Hall (1111 W.
Anderson Lane). If you would like to learn more about the series, visit the Alianza Cultural Latinoamericana website. If you’re interested in participating as an artist, email the event coordinator.
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