The musical talent on this little Caribbean island, Isla Mujeres, is amazing. We recently asked a few of the musicians that we know if they would be interested in being featured in this week’s blog article. Some are full-time residents, others live here in the winter months, and one well-known musician was born on Isla. We started to write the article from our point of view, and then decided that since the musicians had sent us such great biographies …we’d use their words instead. So here they are, in alphabetical order by surname.
Willy Chacon was born in Acapulco. He started playing guitar at age 11. He spent all his time learning American and British music. Willy formed his first band in high school and played in various venues in Acapulco. In 1995 he moved to Isla Mujeres and started a band featuring international and Caribbean music. He was a regular at Toninos Restaurant owned by his cousin, Juan Basto. Other venues include NaBalam and Sunset Grill. In 2000 he began playing at Faynes when it opened. In 2005 he moved to Michigan and continued to play a variety of gigs and venues. In October 2015, Willy moved back to the island and joined Toso Martinez’ band “Los Que No Son.” He is currently adding a variety of music to his repertoire ~ bossa nova, reggae, rhumba, and flamenco. On April 7, 2015 he was recognized with Toso and inducted as part of “La Trova Islena”….these musicians are preserving our local cultural treasure of traditional Isla music. Currently, Willy and Toso play together at Faynes with “Los Que No Son” and as a duo at Parque de Los Suenos. In addition, he works as both a chef and entertainer for Dinnertainment owned by Javier and Marla Martinez.
Mike Davanzo has been playing guitar and singing professionally with a variety of bands since the age of sixteen in the New York area. He has also performed in twenty American states, plus locations in Canada and Mexico. Mike has worked with numerous old time rock n rollers including Lou Christie, Jimmy Clanton, Chubby Checker, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, Jay and the Americans, The Belmonts, The Crystals, The Vanilla Fudge, The Rascals and Tommy James and the Shondells. Mike has been visiting Isla Mujeres for 15 years and now spends the winter here. He plays and sings rock n roll of the 50’s-60’s- 70’s during the November – March winter season at Miguel’s Moonlight and Parque de Los Suenos, with guest appearances at Marina Paraiso and other venues.
|Miquel and his son at Barlito’s
Miguel Angel Hernandez grew up in an artistic family in Mexico City. At the age of twelve he started learning guitar, playing in a band with his uncles when he was a young teenager. By the time he entered high school he had his own rock band that performed at school functions and parties. By learning the harmonica, Miguel was able to find work with a Mexico City blues band, entertaining at dance clubs. He also studied flute and guitar at the Escuela Libre de Muscia in Mexico City for two years. By 1987 Miguel had discovered Isla Mujeres and a Louisiana band who played blues in Cancun and also on Isla at the Bad Bones Bar. Then he switched to bass guitar for five years at the same island restaurant when it was re-named Ya-Ya’s, and still later when the name was changed to Jax. In those years there was only work for musicians during the high season, the winter months so to keep himself employed Miguel traveled to Canada and Germany with other musicians. Today the Isla Mujeres music scene is so busy he is employed throughout the year as part of both The Sol Rockers, and La Banda Sin Nombre as well as solo gigs. Miguel says, “Music has been my love, and my life, and I am always available to play for private parties and weddings.”
Javier Martinez Cen was born and raised on Isla Mujeres. He writes: I can’t remember when I picked up an instrument for the very first time, but when I was eight years old, my fifth grade teacher asked me to play Mexican songs for a school festival. I asked my dad to show me how and it was fantastic, people clapping and smiling. I knew then I wanted to be a rock star!
Year by year learning more from my musical family (my dad and his musician friends, The Vampers), I finally got my chance on the electric guitar. I played everywhere I could including five government sponsored international festivals. My favourite gigs were with La Trova Isleña, an association tasked with preserving our cultural music. With La Trova Isleña I went to Cuba where I learned to play percussion. A few years later I toured with my dear friends Sebastian and Miguel Hernandez, through Germany and Holland. Later I met my beautiful wife, Marla Bainbridge, and we created a duo called Hammock for 2. We toured through Chicago, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis doing private performances. Fun!
Little by little I started my cooking business with Marla, where I can mix my two passions, cooking and music. Our Dinnertainment created the opportunity for my restaurant, Javi’s Cantina where I combine a taste of Isla Mujeres with international flavours. I love what I do there; cook and play my guitar!
My gigs are Javi’s Cantina, Faynes, Adelitas, Zama Beach Club and where ever a costumer asks me to play. La Banda Sin Nombre, my second family, is the oldest band in town. Love all of them, Julio, Yasser, Miguel, Javier and my dad Toso, together play anything we want. Music, music, and more music!
Ryan Rickman: Having started to play music at the age of eight, Ryan has always loved performing on stage and being a musician. Once done with High school he immediately got a job with Club Med as the house musician, starting in the Bahamas and then landing in Cancun in 2003. Lucky enough to find Isla for the first time on a day trip he fell in love with the Island and continued to visit ever since. Having started many of his own bands in California and always working as a musician, Ryan has always been busy with music. Being in the right place at the right time in 2012, Ryan met Penny Deming the owner of El Patio and he has been playing music for her establishments ever since. His musical selections include, Smooth Island tunes, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s Soft Rock, Country, California Reggae, Jazz, and lots of originals too! Never far from his side is his huge, but lovable four-legged companion O.G., who will steal your heart (and some of your food) the second you meet him. He is part of the show! Ryan loves Isla and is happy to be a part of the community here and being able to have the opportunity to help Isla evolve, grow, and continue to stay the beautiful island that we all love and some of us are so fortunate to call home!
Ken Wanovich: My first trip to the island was in 1989 just after hurricane Gilbert. The impact on Mexican families made a huge impression on me. Now, twenty-seven years later, my wife Debbie and I are regular visitors to the island in February and July, where I play music as a soloist, and we work for our non-profit organization “Keys 4 Life.” When we are on the island, you’ll find me playing music at Mamacita’s, Chi’s ‘n Charlie’s Beach Bar, Caribbean Brisas, Sardinian Smiles, and Nash’s Tapas Bar. It’s hard to put a title on my style, but variety comes close: Classic Rock, Trop Rock, Oldies, Country, and Pop. Our work with Keys 4 Life has allowed us to work with families in Guadalupana and La Gloria installing new cement floors over dirt, repairing and replacing leaky roofs, bringing school supplies & clothing, supplying paint for the soccer stadium and middle school, and recently, installing new white boards in each of the thirteen classrooms at the middle school.
There are more folks out there making beautiful music, folks that we weren’t able to connect with this time around, but we’ll do another article featuring island musicians – soon. We hope you liked reading about some of Isla’s great musicians.
|Local musicians honoured by La Trova Isleña
Get out there and enjoy the great tunes!
Lynda & Lawrie