The soft colors and fake palm trees of a local Peruvian spot served as ideal backdrop as we caught up with the unique band of personalities in Latin reggae band Mono Verde. For many of the band members, this quiet spot recreates a feeling of home, with its imported South American beers, (fake) birds placed on the trees and delicious Chimichurri sauce. Recreating home is a common theme for Mono Verde, because, for most of its members, their band family is the only family within thousands of miles.
"Being part of this band helps me remember where I come from, after being scattered in American culture when I first got here," says guitarist Henry Torres.
Torres, a native of Venezuela, is one of nine people in the band. They hail from everywhere from Peru to Ohio. Bassist Joe Baker is from Michigan, while Alex Chavieri is from Peru. That is the beauty of the collective. There are a couple of members who barely speak English -- including lead singer Rafael Torres -- yet the music transcends the language barrier.
"It's all about creating positive energy and promoting peace with the music," says Rafael Torres (in Spanish).
Part of creating that energy is working with the community and volunteering their musical skills to causes they believe in. Recently, they performed with Voz y Corazon in conjunction with Mental Health Center of Denver at the Creighton Learning Center to help young people with suicide prevention.
"We do quite a bit of those types of events if we get paid or not, because it's important," says Henry Torres.
"It was a seed swap and a lot of the Latin community goes there," interjects Torres.
The music leads these musicians to these types of events because of the calming nature of the music. Blending Latin and Reggae music may not be familiar to people locally but is often done more in South America and the Caribbean. Still, Mono Verde is somewhat unique in this country. The outcome is a soothing mixture of Reggae percussion, with Latin style guitars, congas, keyboards and Spanish lyrics that creates a unique style of music.
"When we play together, people just love the melodies and dance, maybe not the lyrics because they don't understand them, but it's all about the energy and the feeling," says Henry Torres. "[We make] conscious music, reggae style to talk about what's happening politically."
The unique music is why they are invited to such events as Earth Day in San Diego at Balboa Park, to L.A. and Venice Beach or to the annual Rebel Soul Reggae Festival in Boulder. But they don't skip over community events like the Swansea Neighborhood Garden launch in East Denver last month.
Rafael Torres says that broad range is the main purpose of the music. "We want to unite cultures spreading peace and new ideas to everyone."
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