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Arranca is Spanish for "uproot" or "tear out." It's also the name of a new South Florida band that tackles Cuban music -- and politics -- with the energy of old-school punk rock.
The band's frontman and songwriter, Victor Garcia-Rivera, was arrancado from his Cuban homeland at the age of two when his father, a doctor, emigrated to America. Garcia-Rivera grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. "I never adjusted to it," he says. "I still clung to my Cuban identity, and I never accepted that my move to the North was permanent."
Arranca's self-produced, self-released album, Exile on Pain Street (Exilio Doloroso), draws from the sounds and moods of the best political punk bands of the late '70s and early '80s. Garcia-Rivera cites as his main influences Stiff Little Fingers and the Clash. "The Clash kind of stole their whole fashion theme from the Cuban Revolution with Sandanista! and the fatigues," he points out. "So I figure, if they can steal from my heritage, I can steal from theirs."
And steal he does. Graying punks will recognize the boisterous pub-chants of the Belfast band Stiff Little Fingers in some of Arranca's songs. But where SLF's choruses were mostly pro-Irish and anti-English, Arranca's are pro-Cuban and anti-Castro. "Himno Racional (Rational Anthem)" tells the tale of two young Cubans struggling to leave the island. On the title track, a terrific sing-along with a pirate-style chorus, Garcia-Rivera sings, "AHablo engles o Espanol? Do I drawl my r's or do they roll?"
According to Garcia-Rivera, Cincinnati "is not really much for ethnic diversity. So it was really useless doing anything there." Last winter he relocated to Miami along with his friend Jim Burke, who plays drums, and found a local bassist named Derrick Estefan. Arranca has since played all across Miami-Dade and Broward counties, though gigs have been few and far between. They've also been rather far-flung. Arranca has been booked into odd places such as Dastardly's, the hair-band venue in Fort Lauderdale, and Club Q, the punk-rock dive in Davie.
Garcia-Rivera has certainly done his share of marching through the small-club trenches. As a member of the Edge, an '80s-era punk band, he toured with the Minutemen, HYsker DY, the Descendents, and even the Dead Kennedys. The Edge folded after a long run -- from 1982 to 1991 -- only to see bands such as Green Day, Offspring, and Rancid give birth to a punk revival. Garcia-Rivera found it just a tad ironic. "The whole thing with Green Day happened, and it was just hilarious," he says. "That was like, 'Wow, a dozen years ago, this was already happening -- with much better bands.' I guess I was playing in the wrong decade."
But instead of reforming the Edge, Garcia-Rivera put together Arranca. "When we first started, the band had more of a punk feel," he explains, "and now the songs have progressed more. We add more elements. We add guaguanco, guaracha, son, that kind of stuff. But we're still a rock band."
For a copy of Exile on Pain Street (Exilio Doloroso), send $7.00 to Victor Garcia-Rivera, 260 Crandon Blvd., Ste. 32-408, Key Biscayne, FL 33149. For more information send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.