Puerto Vallarta Gets a World Music Festival

Puerto Vallarta is slated to host its first Bahia World Music Festival this coming December 7 & 8 at Oscar’s Restaurant in Isla Rio Cuale. The two-day event will feature performances by bands of international renown bringing to our city the sounds of South America, Europe, the Middle East and other regions of the world, along with a talent competition focusing on local underage musicians.

The Bahia World Music Festival is the brainchild of Jair Cabrera, who along with brother Caleb and cousin Gibran, conform the group Media Luna. Formerly based in San Miguel de Allende and recently moved to Puerto Vallarta, Media Luna combines gypsy rumba, flamenco, rock and huapango to create their own unique sound. They are highly regarded throughout the country and have even opened for the acclaimed Lila Downs. “It was just a dream, more than anything else,” explains Jair, who conceived of the festival as a way to perform the music they so much love, exposing it to a broader audience. 

Bahía World Music Festival masterminds, Christie Seeley and Jair Cabrera.

Media Luna is one of several local bands presently being promoted by Christie Seeley, a local anglophone music lover and protégé who started attending performances by groups such as Tatehuari, Media Luna and Moruno, and eventually created Vallarta Sounds, a website dedicated to promoting their music to new audiences.

One day, Jair approached Christie about his festival idea. “When I told her about my idea, we tentatively thought that we might be able to launch it in 2020, but upon looking at our preliminary budget, we realized we could easily put together a pilot version of it and launch it in December.” A pivotal factor in coming to this decision became clear when they approached Oscar’s restaurant on the Isla Río Cuale, and the restaurant offered their grounds to hold the festival at no additional charge (Oscar’s will sell food and beverages to the public).

The festival will take place at Oscar’s lawn where a taco menu will be offered, along with the restaurant’s regular menu. There will be seats available, along with traditional lawn seating.

Most music festivals showcase important groups and Bahía Music Festival is no exception. That said, a competition to motivate and reward young talent was indispensable for the organizers. “I’ve always felt that if you choose to do something that doesn’t have some sort of favorable impact on society, you might as well not do it,” explained Jair. “We deliberately decided to focus our talent competition on underage musicians to prevent those forming part in professional bands from displacing younger kids.” 

Any instrumentalist aged 18 or younger can submit a short video of a performance in style of music. The videos will be scrutinized by the bands that will participate in the festival and a shortlist of semi-finalists will be determined. These will, in turn, perform during the event in front of the public and a jury that will determine first, second and third place winners. The first, second and third place winners will receive a monetary prize of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 pesos, respectively. All the competition guidelines can be found on the festival website.

As for the music you can expect to enjoy during the festival, the organizers have opted for a “less is better” approach. “Many festivals favor quantity over quality,” explains Jair. And by that, I don’t mean the quality of the musical guests, but the overall experience for the public. Often times, when many bands are scheduled, there isn’t enough time for each band to properly get ready for their turn to play, resulting in music that doesn’t sound good or is too loud to enjoy. Here we’ve opted to feature a smaller number of bands in our main stage, which gives us a better opportunity to ensure that they look and sound as though they were recording an album. In between bands, we’ll use an alternate stage for people to enjoy other performers to be determined.”

In terms of the actual bands that will perform during the first Bahía World Music Festival, visit their website, where you’ll find detailed information about each one of the guest performers, along with ticket information.

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