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How Pixar’s Day of the Dead-themed ‘Coco’ celebrates Mexican culture and pushes back against ‘state of fear’

By in Press Enterprise on November 16, 2017

By Rob Lowman

Gael Garcia Bernal, one of the stars of the new Pixar animated film “Coco,” is tapping his feet rhythmically and singing “shak-a-ta-ka-ka- shak-a-ta-ka-ka” to give me a taste of a type of traditional Mexican music.

“It’s a beautiful type of music called son jarocho, and I enjoy playing it,” he explains, noting the folk tune “La Bamba” is a classic example of the style.

“It comes from the Caribbean part of Mexico around Veracruz, and it is done with small guitars (jaranas). You can get 30 people playing those little guitars. It is an incredible syncretic mixture of rhythms – African, indigenous American, and European,” he says.

Though the Mexican actor plays a famed conductor on the Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle,” which is returning in December, and can play guitar, he does not consider himself a proper musician.

“I know how to play some chords and bang the drums really hard, but that’s about it,” the 38-year-old actor, who has two young children, says with a smile.

However, in the musically-based “Coco,” opening Wednesday, Bernal even gets to sing a song (a track called “Un Poco Loco”) as Hector, a mischievous skeleton-ed spirit from the Land of the Dead. The animated film’s story revolves around 12-year-old Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a self-taught guitarist and singer whose family disapproves of music. The reasons why go back several generations to a split between his great-great grandparents.

When an attempt to make his own mark at a music festival goes awry, Miguel finds himself at the cemetery on Mexico’s Día de los Muertos when families go there to pay their respect to their ancestors.

Through a bit of magic, the boy suddenly finds himself trapped in the Land of the Dead, and needs the blessing of an ancestor to release him. It’s […]    

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