Heard any good SynthacousticpunkarachiNavajazz lately?
Publication Date: Friday Mar 25, 1994

Heard any good SynthacousticpunkarachiNavajazz lately?

Jackalope puts an irreverent spin on on its Southwestern, Native American, ethno-modern music

by Monica Hayde

Visitors to the Southwest have long been familiar with the jackalope, an animal that, curiously, is spotted more frequently on postcards than out in the desert, where it is purported to live. The cynical might believe that this horned little beastie is nothing more than a jab at gullible tourists, a hoax fabricated to sell 25-cent postcards.

Four Arizona-based musicians who named their band after this curious cross between an antelope and a jack rabbit know better, though. The jackalope most certainly does exist. After all, what would reality be without a little myth thrown in? And isn't the line sometimes a bit fuzzy? asks R. Carlos Nakai, a Native American flutist and co-founder of the 10-year-old band Jackalope, which makes a stop this Saturday, March 26, at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

The spirit of the wary and elusive jackalope has been the inspiration for four Jackalope recordings that blend ethnic melodies with high-tech, modern sounds. The musical result is a hybrid as odd and intriguing as the jackalope itself. Nakai, who also tours the country as a soloist, and Jackalope co-founder Larry Yanez call their combination of ethnic percussion and wind instruments with synthesizers and guitars "synthacousticpunkarachiNavajazz."

A Jackalope concert is about as easy to explain as the above word is to read, Nakai reveals over the phone from Idaho, where the band recently had a one-night engagement. "A Jackalope concert means having a good time. It means stories, it means music, it means audience participation."

But it doesn't necessarily mean what you might expect to hear from a multi-ethnic ensemble of mostly minority musicians.

"We're pretty politically incorrect," says Nakai who played the trumpet and studied Euro-centric symphonic music for 25 years before turning his attentions to the Native American flute. "We're just saying that a lot of issues--political, social issues that have to do with ethnic peoples--are just taken too seriously. We try to look at things realistically. Not everything has to be as serious as some people make it out to be."

Jackalope's latest recording, "Dances With Rabbits" (Canyon Records) seems to sum up this jovial irreverence, incorporating both a jab at Kevin Costner's earnest film "Dances with Wolves," and once again alluding to the mythical animal that inspires their music.

Not to say that Jackalope doesn't have a message or two to pass on, or that Native American or Latin American concerns are not addressed in the quartet's music. In "Boat People," for example, the musicians combine flutes, keyboards, trumpet, guitar and power tools to create a musical satire that takes a hard-edged, sardonic look at the 500 years since Columbus stumbled onto the West Indies.

"Dances With Rabbits" is Jackalope's first dance album, although the band has been encouraging its audiences to get up and dance at concerts for years.

"No one ever does, though," Nakai says matter-of-factly. "The concert hall atmosphere is just too serious, I suppose . . . but people should come to a Jackalope concert ready to participate in one form or another." One hint, Nakai adds: If you have a Jackalope recording, check out the liner notes before coming to the concert. The band will be asking trivia questions--and handing out prizes--based on these notes.


Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.

When: 8 p.m. March 26

Cost: $22; tickets available at the door

Information: 903-6000 

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