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Fringe Benefits: funk band's Central American dream

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Two years ago, musician LeRoy Bach was one of many North Americans who attended celebrations in San Salvador soon after agreements between the revolutionary FMLN and the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government ended the violent civil war. "There was a big block party, you might call it," he says now. "There were bands all day. Music has a really important role down there in the social struggles, and that's some of what I saw." Bach even got into the act himself, playing a club gig and singing Phil Ochs's antiwar anthem "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" on the FMLN's Radio Faribundo Marti.

Bach is now a key member of the Chicago-based R & B funk dance band Uptighty, which has recently been invited by Radio Faribundo Marti to play a series of shows in El Salvador to celebrate the second anniversary of the war's end. The band members will arrive in San Salvador December 13 and stay for ten days, performing in the capital city and in various towns in the north, the area most heavily damaged by the war.

"The fact that we've been invited is totally crucial," Bach says earnestly. "It's not like we're a bunch of gringos looking for something exciting to do. It would be ridiculous to assume that the Salvadoran people have a need for our brand of funk. But knowing that we were invited, then yeah, I feel good about going down there and kicking out our tunes, and knowing that it's in stark contrast to the Rambo or 90210 imagery they usually get from the United States." Bach sees the tour as a chance to reverse ill will caused by U.S. actions during the protracted civil war. "This kind of cultural exchange is crucial to nations coexisting more peacefully."

To help pay for the trip, Uptighty is holding two fund-raising concerts this weekend. "The financial resources of a band like Uptighty are very small, but it's a lot more than what people have in El Salvador," says Bach, explaining that the FMLN can hardly afford to pay for dance bands visiting from the United States. "Our hosts are going to be great hosts, but they said, 'You gotta get here first.'"

The shows take place at 8 and 10 PM Friday at HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee. The group is asking for a donation of $15, but as little as $6 will get you in. For more information call 235-2334.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.

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