Often, culturally significant bands are said to “transcend labels.” They go beyond conquering a genre and leave behind a legacy of musical fusion. To say that the Latin GRAMMY-nominated, Afro-Latino rock band Making Movies has integrated a variety of styles is too passive. It’s more accurate to describe their performances as energetic fever dreams with roots in cumbia, Son Cubano, mambo and the African diaspora.
Making Movies, Live Album recording at the Folly Theater. Photos: Josh Chaiken
Most of all, their performances are fun. Before kicking off their 2023 tour in Memphis, Making Movies invited their home-base Kansas City community to a live recording of their XOPA album at the Folly Theater on Jan. 28.
Guitarist and vocalist Enrique Chi is vulnerable and intense on stage. It balances out bassist Diego Chi’s constant head-banging, his eyes hidden behind 3D glasses. Percussionist and keyboardist Juan-Carlos Chaurand slips off his shoes while he plays. Drummer Duncan Burnett even garners wolf-whistles as he strips off his shirt, working up a sweat from rapping on the drums.
This live recording underlines what’s at the heart of Making Movies, and has been since its formation in 2009: the urgency of interconnectedness.
Enrique Chi was born in Panama and immigrated to Lee’s Summit, Mo., with his family when he was 6. He describes the band’s sound as “outsider music,” but he’s confident that it can reach anyone who’s willing to listen.
“Early on, we learned we had to code-switch to get in the door,” Chi says. “That really hasn't changed. At this point, we're more focused on making music that pulls you somewhere, and the language is irrelevant.”
“Last year, we got to play this big music festival in Mexico. And Slipknot was the headliner. We’re not very Slipknot-y,” Chi laughs. “There’s no masks. I haven’t learned how to scream like them. They played to, like, 50,000 Mexican people, and I could’ve sworn that none of those people spoke English, but they were singing all the words. I don’t think I’ll never write a song in English again, but I’m less worried about it. We’re going to Slipknot people. That’s the new mission for Making Movies.”
XOPA is an album written entirely in Spanish, but whether you’re fluent or you only know how to ask “¿dondé está la biblioteca?,” you’ll be able to understand the meaning from the rhythm. It’s full of universal experiences and themes like desire, loss and the search for meaning in a disordered world.
(Above) Making Movies, Live Album recording, Folly Theater. Enrique Chi, Duncan Burnett, and Diego Chi.
Photos: Josh Chaiken
One of the songs closest to Chi’s heart is “Mamá.” It’s based on a dream that the singer had of his deceased grandmother, where he was able to ask her what she has learned since she passed on.
“The spirit of the song is threaded throughout the album,” Chi says. “It’s a reconnection with my own feminine energy. We carry male and female biology within us, and part of the album is about expressing that duality. ‘Mamá’ is about the idea of all the women who came before me to make me who I am. These women's journeys, their wisdom, sometimes their pain and their trauma, and their flaws because of their trauma…it's all inside of me.”
Chi, his brother Diego, Chaurand, and Burnett are in sync on stage and off, but their distinct personalities are what gives the band its strength.
“It’s a band that requires four identities to really be what we are, and I hope it remains that way. Some bands become a name. They can swap and replace other members,” Chi says. “These four identities, right now, are on the same page on the why. We see music as a way to better ourselves as individuals, our spirits, on our journey through this life. It’s a way to better ourselves as brothers, and a way to better our families. The more successful our band becomes, the more we’re able to inspire young kids who feel disenfranchised.”
In 2017, Chi founded Art as Mentorship, which encourages typically underserved students through the support of international recording artists. It also gives the students access to instruments and studio facilities.
Although Chi believes that the success of Making Movies depends on the individuality of its band members, he is passionate about ensuring that Art as Mentorship can survive on its own.
“I’m really close to a feeling like this can live outside of us,” he says. “Once we saw the hole and we started to fill it, the next step was, ‘How do we create a system that can fill this hole that doesn’t depend on us individually?’”
Whether you’re interested in donating to Art as Mentorship, supporting the band on tour, or you’re just curious about the phenomenon that is Making Movies, Chi has a message for you.
“Come see it for yourself,” he says. “Take off all the labels and just come see it for yourself. See if we Slipknot you.”