In early October, Argentinian-American string band Che Apalache toured the US/Mexico borderlands of Arizona, performing in both Sahuarita, AZ and Nogales, Mexico. The trip was a harrowing look at the effect the border wall and the border’s effect on the lives of those that live around it. Guided by the Rev. Randy J. Mayer (Pastor of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ), Che Apalache were able to tour the border wall and the facilities that go along with it, and hiked to water drops in the desert. They performed for migrants and locals in Mexico, and sang their a cappella song ‘The Wall’ in front of the actual wall.
This week they’ve released a documentary which explores this trip in more detail which you can watch below. Immigration is a powerful topic for Che Apalache bandleader Joe Troop: A polymath, polyglot, and world traveller, Troop left home at a young age, emigrating from this country in search of a better life. Raised in the North Carolina Piedmont, in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Troop came of age to the music of bluegrass and all-night jam sessions at festivals, but being a young, queer man in the South, at a certain point he no longer felt welcome in his own home region. He took refuge abroad, travelling Europe and immersing himself in his two great loves: music and language. He studied Spanish in Spain, spent summers in Morocco, and eventually moved to Japan to teach English. He carried his music and his fiddle with him always, picking up elements of flamenco, jazz manouche, and swing. In 2010, Joe immigrated to Argentina, and, looking to make friends and build a scene, he began teaching bluegrass.
Nine years later, Che Apalache, led by Troop, features three powerhouse Latin American musicians – two from Argentina, Franco Martino (guitar), Martin Bobrik (mandolin), and one from Mexico, Pau Barjau (banjo). Famed banjo player and cross-genre trailblazer Béla Fleck was so taken with the band that he signed on to produce their new album ‘Rearrange My Heart’, which we reviewed over the summer. Most recently, the band have been nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Folk Album which is all the more brilliant given how outspoken they are on current US immigration policy. Good luck boys!
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