Interamerican Talent: Azán

Just before the holiday season, the festival ‘Noche de Galeria’ took place in the Plaza of Lajas, Puerto Rico. It was an activity that promoted local art, music, and  Lajas’s nightlife. There were several kiosks that displayed alluring handmade jewelry, clothing, intriguing antiques and art for sale. Children ran energetically around the plaza, adults played Dominoes and sipped on their black coffee, while a local band, Azán, played. The band left a big impression on the town and its people through their heartfelt lyrics. Here is their story.

What is Azán?

Azán is a Puerto Rican band made up of three talented members that study in the San Germán Campus of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. The band’s name derives from the singer’s second last name. Judith Torres Azán told us how happy she was to honor her Cuban heritage through her band’s name. Since it's her second last name, she won’t be able to pass it on to her future kids, so she’s proud to use it in her musical career.

Azán has been an ongoing project for a couple of years. Since high school, Miss Torres would meet up with her friend, who plays guitar, to jam, write songs and have a good time together. Although they never performed seriously in public and they didn’t have a name yet, Miss Torres had a burning passion to write and perform her art in front of an audience. When she entered the university, she had a chance to do so. With the collaboration of two other musical classmates, they performed their first small gig in the plaza of San Germán; it was called ‘Post-Finals Acoustic’. Miss Torres explained how although, “…it was just Judith and Joaquin playing in the plaza.” this, definitely, was the start of her dream. They played a set of originals songs with acoustic guitars in front of a small audience, mainly family and friends that came to support her project.

Who are the members?

Judith Torres Azán is a third year college student who studies Music with a minor in Accounting; she is the lead singer and founder of the band. Miss Torres has always been a fan of music, especially singing. Although never persuaded into music, most the activities she and her sister would participate in were very music oriented, “…especially when I went to the Escuela Libre de Música and back when I lived in Jersey.” This led her to study music, something she has been always good at, but ultimately, she wants to perfect.

 Ariam Cristina Bosque Figueroa plays a wide variety of instruments; she studies Education in Music with a minor Art. She got her first guitar in middle school, after desperately pleading for one to her parents. This opened the door to a whole new world of music to her.  It led her to experiment with other instruments; like the ‘cuatro’ (a string Puerto Rican instrument) and percussion. Also, she began to learn about the history of musical instruments   According to Miss Bosque, regarding her future plans, “I want to be a professor, I want to keep playing shows and just research about different instruments, different sounds, and the psychological effects of music implemented in therapy…”

Melanie Colón Montes is the guitarist of the band. She is studying Education in Music with a minor in English. Miss Colón was very inspired by her mom, who played the keyboard in her local church, “…she wanted to study music but her parents didn’t let her, because during those times music was considered a bad thing, something that wouldn’t get you anywhere. I think I just found the love of music because of her.” She aspires to be a music teacher, “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. What that music teacher was in high school for me, I want to be THAT teacher to someone else.”

Although Miss Colón described their first encounter as “so random”, they all agreed they had the perfect band chemistry; everything just flowed when they first played together. “There’s this chemistry when you perform but when you practice, it can be so stressful… here, in Azán, I love the practice as well as the shows".

To cover the bands expenses, Miss Torres sells her unique art pieces and used clothes in ‘Noche de Galeria’ in Mayagüez every Wednesday night at the ‘Plaza Colón’.

As for their performance in Lajas that night, the audience’s tearjerker was their newest single, ‘Mayamón’ and to the band’s favorite song to play. Miss Torres was deeply inspired by the tragedy that happened in the weekly festival, ‘Las Calles’ in Mayagüez, where a 17-year old boy was shot dead and 10 others were injured in front of the bar ‘La Jibarita’. While sick ‘memes’ were emerging across social media, comparing the devastating news in Mayagüez with Bayamón’s high homicide rate, she felt it was appropriate to create a song after this calamity. She also referenced other crises young Puerto Ricans are facing and have faced in the past. She references the Spaniards conquest in the Island, the three bars that were near the shooting, the Islands crippling debt, how the agriculture has disappeared, climate change and the disaster left after Hurricane María. Miss Bosque also expressed that the song “It’s not just about the shooting, it’s about all of these anxieties and all of these pressures that we, as Puerto Ricans, are experiencing. And we are experiencing a moment where young people just want to hang out and unwind and they have to face another problem, in this case the shooting.”

The song was a ‘powerful’ one, as described by Miss Bosque, with the fast paced and loud guitar strumming and Miss Torres’s singing, as if she were crying for the loss of a loved one. The song reduced some people in the audience to tears when they heard her sing ‘Ay mi pueblo llora…’ (Oh, how my town cries…) repeatedly, this is where we can see how Miss Judith morphs into a different character. One could see her as the grieving mothers, or lovers, who have now lost their loved one in this story.

What can we expect from them?

Their short-term goals are to release the single, ‘Mayamon’ and make a music video to accompany it. They plan to continue playing small gigs, festivals, and  activities on our campus, hoping to get their name out there. They aspire to move people with their hardcore lyrics and their meaning, make it something people, especially Puerto Ricans, can relate to. Their future goals are to experiment with other type’s instruments and genres, write more original songs and play with other artists from different cultures; what Miss Bosque explained as a “culture exchange”.

For more information about the band and their upcoming gigs you can check their Facebook page: Azan, https://www.facebook.com/azanmusic/