Music is an Immigrant


Music is an Immigrant

Follow Enrique and Diego Chi of Making Movies, a Kansas City-based band with deep connections to the rhythms and sounds of Central America, as they return to Panama to visit their grandmother. In this 30-minute documentary, the brothers will explore their musical influences and perform songs from their shared cultural heritage.

AIRED: March 22, 2018 | 0:26:40

(acoustic guitar music)

- [Interviewer] You know, one of the

things that just really, I really wanted to ask you about,

I Am Another You, the title, a Mayan greeting?

- Yeah, there's a phrase that we use on the record

called In Lak'ech Ala K'in.

And it's something that the

Mayans used to greet each other with.

(acoustic guitar and singing in a foreign language)

(rock salsa music)

(singing in a foreign language)

In Lak'ech part means I'm another you,

and Ala K'in means you are another me.

So if we run into another,

instead of saying, hey what's up, how you doing,

they'd say In Lak'ech.

And you'd response Ala K'in.

So it's, instead of saying hello,

you say, I'm another you.

You're another me.

And there's this kind of interweaving theme on the record,

there's three characters, three young men,

who share very different lives,

but their experiences meld into one singular experience.

And that's the main theme of the record.

There's something connecting us all together

and that's the overarching theme of the music

and the lyrics of the album.

(electric guitar playing)

(acoustic guitar and singing in a foreign language)


(speaking in a foreign language)

I'm a musician.

Years ago I started a band called Making Movies

with my brother Diego.

So we took the time to visit our family in Panama

and explore our country.

This is really a place that my roots are from.

But it doesn't feel like I'm really from there anymore.

I moved to the United States when I was six years old.

So part of me is still here.

But a part of me is now a different human being.

(speaking in a foreign language)


When Diego and I formed this band Making Movies,

we knew that it had to be honest to our story

and our lives have been in English and Spanish.

Really since day one.

From our Grandmother who spoke English,

to when we moved to the United States as kids.

So the music is in both languages.

- Well the thing is when you leave your house,

when you leave where your house,

I don't care where it is and what kinda house it is,

you suffer.

And I don't care who you are, where you're going,

what you're doing, you suffer.

So you got to find a way to not suffer so much.

And my way was singing.

And I think that songs and music

express our most, any kind of feeling that you can have.

In the first year that I was in Santiago,

and there was a television program,

we got a television after one year,

and there was a singer from Mexico,

his name was Pedro Vargas,

and he was one of the best singers

in Latin America at that time.

He sang it and I understood everything

that he said in song.

And that made me so happy,

because I understood Spanish.

And I could listen to the music and understand Spanish.

(singing in foreign language)

(groovy rock salsa music)

(singing in a foreign language)

(electric guitar solo)

(violin solo)

(singing in a foreign language)

(quiet Latin rock)

- I end up understanding the world through music.

I pretty much understand all of my relationships

by the way that I look at music.

And so I wanted to understand

what it means to be an immigrant that plays music

and kind of explore the idea of what music is

for immigrant people.


(mellow strong music)

(soft Tejano music)

(speaking in a foreign language)

- Senior.

- Que pa!

- Hey, como estas?

(speaking in a foreign language)

(ukulele playing)

(keyboard playing)


♪ All I need's a friend

♪ Won't you come on now

♪ Call

♪ Whoa

♪ Could you come when I

♪ Call

♪ I get the devils in the wings ♪

♪ Yes, anywhere

♪ Call

("Ego Trip" by Making Movies)

(singing in foreign language)

(drumming solo)

(singing in foreign language)

(electric guitar playing)

(waves lapping)

(mellow acoustic music)


- Human needs aren't universal.

There's communities that don't have anything.

That don't really have running water,

they don't have technology,

they don't have any wealth,

in our traditional way of defining that word.

Yet they live with nothing right on the waterfront,

and they have these things that only the wealthy,

in most other communities, only the super rich

dream of having as their retirement.

No universal truth to what is the

right way to live our lives.

- The place we're heading to is called El Mosquero.

It's a longstanding late night food places in Santiago.

- It might be the only.

- It might be the only one.



- Wow.

- Like the salad?

(violin music)

(funky Latin music)

(waves lapping)

- Well hello.

- Hola.

- Hola.


- I've never seen you on a boat in Panama.

Good to see you, man.

Nancy, what a treat.

This is awesome.

Thank you guys for inviting us.

I better jump in the water is what I think.

Three, two!


(motor starting)

(water lapping)

(monkeys calling)

- I can't remember where it was,

but I read (mumbling)

attacked by these monkeys on this island.

Like feed the monkeys...

- [Enrique] Feed the monkeys at your own risk.

- Don't get on their island or something.

(Latin acoustic guitar music)

(waves lapping)

(speaking in a foreign language)

- Human being's brain, the music, when you make people do,

and music therapists talk about this too.

With the clapping together or the dancing together,

it triggers multiple parts of our brain.

And it ties into the human need for a community.

Humans need community to survive.

Touch and community and feeling a part of something bigger.

(mellow acoustic music)

When we were in Puerto Lindo watching

the kids play, the diablos dance,

and that was something, that costume,

and that dance, and that music.

They did it as a way to kind of

be a kiss off or a flip off the Spanish

right in front of their noses.

So they made a devil costume

'cause the Spaniards brought that religion to them.

The idea of a god and a devil.

And the devil really represented the Spaniards.

And the devil runs around and whips the black people.

The only way you can get the devil to not whip you

is to give them money.

And there's a dance to it.

And it's a little tradition.

It's this thing that they were able to do to express,

that to me, I just love the resilience

of the human being to

grab pain and suffering and turn it into music and dance.

(rhythmic clapping)

(singing in a foreign language)

Music is a sense that transports me to

different times and different places.

♪ Whoa

♪ Eh, eh, eh

♪ Oh, oh

♪ Eh, eh, eh

(heavy Latin rock music)

(acoustic guitar and singing in a foreign language)

♪ La la la la la

(drumming and clapping)

(singing in a foreign language)

I think about the congas culture in Panama

and the slave culture that has brought us

all these rhythms that now are

kinda the foundation for all western music.

They're the foundation for everything we do musically too.

Brendan if you could play a rumba clave,

and have JC play,

so the clave's the pulse that keeps it going,

so the tat, tat, tat, tat, tat.

And when you hear the congas,

this sounds like Cuban music to us all the sudden, right.

That's Cuban music, but you hear that same rhythm

land in the Americas in the northern part

where there's less concentration of Africans,

and then it trickles into their guitar work.

(electric guitar playing)

And so what we did with this album,

with the band as a whole, is we try to go as far deep

into those as we can,

and then build from there.

From the older rhythms.

That's where you hear a song like Spinning Out

is not a Latin song to me,

but the rhythms feel like Latin music

because they're the rhythms that made Cuban music

but really they're the same rhythms that made

Bo Diddley Music too.

So I said well what is this?

Is it just rock and roll or is it just music?

And perhaps it's just better to call it music.

(upbeat music)

♪ Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

♪ Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

We don't pick the language of the songs,

they seem to kinda pick themselves.

A song comes to me in whatever language it's meant to be in.

There's been a few times I've had a musical idea

that starts off as a rhythmic thing

and I put some melodies to it and I'll experiment

with it in either language, but it's usually obvious

what language fits the music the best

(music instruments warming up)

All right, cool.

(mellow drumming music)

And over the years we really learned how to

express our culture through our music.

And our culture is not Panamanian culture anymore.

It's this hybrid, it's a fusion of

being in the United States,

meeting people from other Latin American countries.

People always ask us what kind of music you make

and I just tell them I make good music.

And I think good is defined by saying something.

And you really have something to say and something to share.

And we had this idea of the immigrant story,

I remember hearing my cousin in Venezuela,

who appears on the record,

he leaves me voice messages on the record,

and he immigrated from Venezuela to Panama

because of the political turmoil and unrest in Venezuela,

and in Panama there's this idea,

there's this frustration because they have

all these immigrants taking their jobs.

And I thought that was such a funny echo

to what happens here and it's even sillier

in Latin America because ethnically,

these people look the same,

they're from the same, you know, speak the same language,

there's only slight cultural differences, really.

And so I realized what a second,

that's not an American condition.

That's kind of a human issue.

(mellow keyboard music)

- My name is Jose Alejandro.

I'm Enrique's and Diego's cousin.

I'm a doctor in medicine.

For me music it's an important part

of mental health and also physical health,

because it can help you focus what you are doing.

physical activity, whether it's your regular job,

or if you're doing a fitness work.

I found really interesting information.

If it's listening to or perform,

it can help both sides of the brain.

For me as an immigrant, recently moved to Panama,

I decided to move here because there's more opportunities.

Music or how it could influence an immigrant person

in a society, I think it could help adaptation.

Because I just read a couple of days ago

that the only universal language is music.

(woman speaking in foreign language)

(dramatic music)

(soft acoustic music)

(singing in a foreign language)

- [Announcer] Let me introduce

band members that hail from

Santiago, Panama.

(crowd cheering)

Guadalajara, Mexico.

(crowd cheering)

Kansas City, Missouri.

(crowd cheering)

So I need you to welcome with as much energy as

you possibly can to Making Movies, y'all!

(crowd cheering)

(accordion music)

- [Enrique] Any kind of distraction from

the original goal is a mistake.

That seems to be reaffirmed

as I travel and experience

folkloric ways of creating music,

and folkloric cultural experiences.

They really are spiritually kinda one.

When a performer or musician's doing his job right.

(microphone feedback)

Gracias, thank you, thank you.

(crowd cheering)

(mellow Latin music)

♪ Come on, come on

♪ Whoa

♪ Come on, come on

♪ I said, hey

♪ It raising up

♪ To make it on your own

♪ Are you on your own

♪ Are you on your own

♪ Ah


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