It was a beautiful evening at the Millennium Park in downtown Chicago when Afro-Latino funk band ÉSSO (or ÉSSO Afrojam Funkbeat) took center stage. Members of ÉSSO have been playing together since 2013 and as they continued to evolve throughout the years they began incorporating musicians from other bands to bring together a community of extremely talented musicians. It is also evident that everyone within the crew are friends creating a family atmosphere that radiates to those in attendance as well. The energy we were able to witness on stage is natural and cheerful, bringing people from all backgrounds together dancing, engulfed within the culture and rhythm.
Positioned center stage, singer Diana Mosquera was adorned in a stunning white dress with a black floral pattern design while the men of the group wore beige pants and either black or white collared shirts in a visual unison. The band wasted little time introducing themselves so that they could quickly let their music do the talking.
The band immediately got the crowd moving with “Baila,” a Spanish jam that encourages listeners to dance with rhythm and love. It progresses nicely from the soothing voice of Diana to Spanish rap before letting the breakdown of instruments consume you so the crowd could get back to dancing. They kept the energetic movement going with one of my favorite songs, “Cumbia Del Encanto”. The ringing cowbells, horn sections, and percussion made even those in seats or in the field get up and start moving.
ÉSSO slowed things down with “La Luz” off their latest album Xicago. The song is dedicated to the mothers of our lives, explaining that at a certain point in life you stop caring about the expensive material things and rather just appreciate the time you have with your mother. It is a deeply emotional song that might make you immediately miss your mom.
The band continued on with a barrage of bangers such as “Mariposa Negra” (Black Butterfly), “Uno Somos Todos” (One for All), and the rap track “Izquierda” (Left) featuring a slew of poets. One of the key lyrical lines of the song is:
‘What is holding you back? What is it that keeps you trapped? Do you wonder where the light goes when it gets sucked into the black hole of the unknown? Is your prison your addiction, to liquor and lovers? This is your vain mission you try to conquer them all. Is your jail the mundane 9 to 5 piercing your ambition like a knife?’
The verse is too impactful to list in its entirety but I implore you to listen to the powerful words because in doing so it might uplift and inspire your spirits.
As the sun began to set, ÉSSO ended their set with “Mi Gente” (My People). Band leader Armando Perez gave a shout-out to the Mexican Independence and Puerto Rico celebrations going because “In the end, we are all Latinos, we are all people. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, brown, or whatever. We are all people of this Earth,” he shared. The song itself illustrates the struggles of the middle class and the expectations the systems force upon us, making us feel guilty for being poor, as we’re slaves to an unjust structure trying to liberate ourselves yet we won’t sell our souls for food, instead sharing half of it with our communities. As the song progresses each artist tells their story while the audience chants along to the chorus: “Mi Gente!”
After the performance, band members greeted fans at the merchandise stand for photos and conversations. I asked an exhausted yet ecstatic Armando Perez what performing at Millennium Park meant to which he answered: “It’s the biggest honor to be playing on the biggest stage in Chicago. We’re happy to do what we love: play original music, putting it out there for people to enjoy, and them sharing the love back. Seeing all walks of life here is what it’s all about. We’re a cross-cultural orchestra and you can see that same representation in the audience, that’s what we want”.
ÉSSO Certainly accomplished their goal that evening, bringing people together. We forgot able our troubles or the problems in the world current. If only for just a moment we were able to dance freely expressing our soul and letting go. Until their next show.