Enter the dreamy, Caribbean world of Balún - Queens Chronicle: Qboro: Arts, Culture & Living

Enter the dreamy, Caribbean world of Balún

by Peter C. Mastrosimone, editor-in-chief | Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019 10:30 am

“Our music comes from a place of joy and friendship and fun,” singer, songwriter and accordionist Angélica Negron said of her band, Balún. But as with any artist, the group also goes deeper, with “layered and more complicated” themes and messages.

In Balún’s case, those mostly have to do with the members’ homeland, Puerto Rico, which is under pressure from both environmental threats and political drama, and the tug it exerts on members of the diaspora, such as Negron and her husband and bandmate, José Olivares, who live in Brooklyn.

“Things we care about and are concerned about work their way into our music,” Negron said in a phone interview. “We definitely do songs about the constant push and pull from the island and what it means to be in a constant state of alert, with environmental threats and other, bigger struggles.”

On the latter, she and Olivares agree that great strides have been made recently, as the Puerto Rican people have come together, largely without political division, to take control of the island and their own destiny, changing governors rapidly earlier this month. “It’s a great start,” Olivares said, as Negron called it “an incredibly important and positive moment.”

Also positive, but less weighty, will be the concert Balún is set to perform Sept. 6 at The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, in the group’s first Queens concert. The free show will wrap up the season’s series of performances at Noguchi, held under the auspices of Bang on a Can, an international organization dedicated to supporting experimental music.

Balún’s unique style, which the group calls “dreambow,” can be seen as a type of dream pop that blends electronica, Puerto Rican folk, other Caribbean sounds including Reggaeton and contemporary classical.

Olivares and Negron do most of the songwriting, with the other band members contributing. And their work is getting noticed: Their album “Prisma Tropical” was named No. 4 in Rolling Stone’s Top 10 Latin Albums of 2018 and they’ve also made charts produced by National Public Radio and The New York Times.

And the name Balún? It’s a made-up word meant to sound as if Spanish simply adapted the English word “balloon.” It didn’t; the Spanish word is “globo,” but the group’s music can make you feel light and airy nonethless, like a balloon floating free, even if caught between two worlds.

Bang on a Can: Balún
When: Fri., Sept. 6, 6 p.m.
Where: The Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33 Road, Long Island City
Entry: Free. (718) 204-7088,
noguchi.org, balun.bandcamp.com