August 28, 2005
Living (& working) for the music
Seattle Times staff reporter
KEVIN P. CASEY / SPECIAL TO THE SEATTLE TIMES
During the day, they work such jobs as forklift operator, part-time cashier, drum instructor and running a recording studio.
At night and on weekends, they become Rumbeggae, a popular four-piece Mexican band that moved to the Seattle area from Veracruz a few years ago.
They play salsa, rock and other forms of Latin American music and often pack them in wherever they play.
But this is Seattle not Los Angeles, Miami or New York where the Latin music scene is much bigger.
So Rumbeggae members, three of whom went to college and one to a fine-arts school in Mexico, have to find other ways to make money while pursuing their musical dreams.
"This is a different culture, you know, the market is not big enough for what we do so that's why it's hard for us," said bassist Jorge Vázquez, 36. "We teach music, we record stuff, we produce things, we're making it."
"You can't make a living as [Latino] musician here," said keyboardist Patricia Carrión, 31, after an outdoor performance this summer at Seattle Center, where they had audience members dancing in front of the stage.
Rumbeggae (pronounced room-beh-gay) has played at such diverse venues as restaurants, nightclubs, weddings, Cinco de Mayo festivals, the Liquid Lounge at EMP, the Bite of Seattle, the Taste of Edmonds and Kent Cornucopia Days. And they've been a hit at the Mr. Lucky nightclub, across from KeyArena.
"When they played here, it was very successful," said Mr. Lucky's owner, Kyriakos Kyrkos, adding that about 300 people filled the club when the band performed several times during the past year.
"This place was jumping like crazy. They were really professional, they came in early," he said.
Carlos Ibarra, a local Latin music promoter, said the top groups, typically those that come from out of town, can make up to $1,500 a night. Most local groups, however, make much less.
Ibarra, who works as a DJ on the Spanish-language FM-99.3 and who co-owns a nightclub in Tukwila, said that the Latin music scene in the Seattle area has grown significantly since he first moved here from Mexico in 1990.
"Not only can Latin people see everything is growing, but so can everyone else. They can tell now that we have presence here," Ibarra said.
The band has recorded two albums at its own studio, Oye Producciones.
Vázquez, who majored in electronic engineering, runs the studio with his wife, Karina Cárdenas, from their Lynnwood home.
He also works part time at a local electronics company.
The studio also records music for other artists and produces commercials for Spanish-language radio stations.
The band's two albums are the upcoming "Lo que tenemos" ("What we have") and "Construyendo" ("Building Up"), which was released in 2002.
They sold their first CD at their performances mostly for promotional purposes.
They also plan to sell their CDs on their Web site: www.rumbeggae.com.
Marketing their first CD "was just a commercial necessity, a business card to say, 'Look this is my band and this is how it sounds,' " said drummer/percussionist and former biology major Stuart Vázquez, 32, of Mountlake Terrace. He is the brother of Jorge Vázquez.
Last year the Vázquez brothers said they almost opened their own nightclub to showcase their band, but decided against it.
"It's double or triple the work because you're a musician, you have to rehearse, you have to assemble and disband, you have to see that tickets are sold," Stuart Vázquez said.
The musicians would prefer to focus on their first love.
"Music is life for me," said trombone player and keyboardist Miguel Muñoz, 38, who went to college to study industrial engineering but left to lead a band.
The members of Rumbeggae have been betting on making it in music for years and still, with the trade-offs that come with the profession, they have no regrets.
"The best gift is that moment where you are doing what you like," said Jorge Vázquez.
"Then there's no better gift than that, no better reward."
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