*RIP PAU DONES: JARABE DE PALO — Tragas O Escupes (Album Recap)

I was bummed beyond belief to hear about the recent passing of Pau Dones, the leader and frontman of Jarabe de Palo.

I first discovered Jarabe de Palo in the summer of 1999; I was dating a girl who at the time was much more knowledgable about emerging Rock en Español bands than me. She gave me a list of bands to look out for, and Jarabe de Palo was on the list. Our relationship didn’t last long, but I think the incredible music she exposed me to was the highlight of our relationship.

In those days, right after receiving my weekly paycheck from my minimum wage job, I would go on an obsessive-compulsive music buying spree. Every single week, I would make pit stops at multiple music stores throughout my city and end up spending a big chunk of my paycheck on music….. I can still clearly remember like it was yesterday when I purchased my first Jarabe de Palo CD, way back in the summer of 1999 — it was the album “DEPENDE” (1998), and it feels somewhat ironic that this past summer of 2019 marked 20 years since I bought their first album.

It quickly became one of my favorite albums of that year, and still today, it is one of my favorite Rock en Español albums ever. The whole album is pure magic, and it even includes a duet with Celia Cruz on the final track. Pau’s music was a fusion of rock, pop, flamenco-rock, and all the great Latin sounds that make Rock en Español such a fantastic genre. DEPENDE has aged nicely over the years, and it still sounds relevant today as much as it did 20 years ago — I would put DEPENDE in my top 20 Rock en Español albums of all time for sure.

Tragas o Escupes was released at the end of May on all streaming platforms, which caught me by complete surprise because I heard that the album was supposed to drop in September of this year. But it came out nearly 4 months ahead of schedule, and along with the album, Pau attached a press release thanking all of his fans and people who have supported him throughout his career. Sadly, Pau Dones passed away 12 days after the release of Tragas o Escupes; his final studio album.

Now, it makes complete sense to me why the album was released a few months earlier and why Pau’s letter was also attached to the album’s release. The whole thing reminds me of David Bowie’s Darkstar album being released a few days before his passing.

When news of Pau’s cancer diagnosis became public, there was an overwhelming outpouring of love that humbled Pau. As I read the letter he wrote to his fans, it becomes clear to me that perhaps he wanted to take this final opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those strangers who, in a way, were never really strangers to him…. Jarabe de Palo’s music brought us close to Pau and will continue to bring us closer….. Even long after he is gone from our physical realm.

The promotional first single, “Eso Que Tu Me Das,” sounds like a direct farewell to all his fans and loved ones — A farewell in the typical Jarabe de Palo manner.

With this album, Pau manages to turn the sad energy of his passing into a positive one — as you listen to the whole album, you cannot help but realize how at peace with his life he truly was. His musical approach was always about positivity and joy. The type of music that found the light within all the darkness.

I am glad that I had the chance to watch him perform live at the Howard Theatre in Washington DC, back in 2015. It was an excellent experience that I will cherish forever.

Jarabe De Palo – Live at the Howard Theatre (Washington DC, 2015)

As I listened to this TRAGAS O ESCUPES album in its entirety, it becomes such a unique and surreal listening experience to me; all the lyrics have profound meaning. It is like you are listening to a manifesto of a life that was lived fully, and now it seemed ready to come to an end — especially as I listen to the whole album within the context of his passing embedded in my consciousness.

Buen Viaje Pau….Thanks for the music.