MEXICO CITY – The nine young people who make up the Mexican band Rock DI, some of whom have cognitive disabilities, are united in their belief that their conditions do not limit them and in fact can be a gateway to artistic creation, one of the vocalists told EFE.
“Our dreams are to show that disability is nothing to be ashamed of; we’re proud that we can do things and that we have no limits,” Patricia said of the group, most of whom have autism or Down syndrome.
The band was launched just a year ago but already have played outside their native San Juan del Rio, a city in the central Mexican state of Queretaro.
One of those performances was at the Cultural Center of Spain in Mexico (CCEMX) in Mexico City’s historic center, where they gave a concert on June 15 as part of the Independent Music Fair.
The band, which traces its origins to the civil association “Armonia con Sol,” has already released an EP, “Despertar,” that includes three band-composed tracks.
In creating their music, one band member typically kicks off the creative process with an idea for a song and then the rest of the group joins in to give it its final shape.
“The keyboardist, Alejandra, once wrote on a chalkboard, ‘It doesn’t matter that you’re disabled,’ and our teacher saw it and thought we needed to make a song,” Diego, one of the guitarists, said.
He added that the objective from the outset was for each individual to do what they like and for it all to come together in the form of music.
“We provide the tools so they can express themselves ... and reflect the life perspective of people with disabilities” through music, he said.
Armonia con Sol President Andres Otokani Alvarez now plays bass in the band but also serves as music teacher for this group of young people, some of whom did not play any instrument before joining Rock DI.
On stage, he guides the nervous but poised group through each track, with the band showcasing the close bond that exists among them.
“It’s really nice. I’m thrilled to see the results, but it’s tough to play, listen, talk, do ... A friend told me that the difference for those of us musicians who aren’t disabled is that we’re always waiting for that big concert and don’t enjoy the process,” Otokani said.
The Rock DI members, meanwhile, “value their first concert and it’s the concert of their dreams. They put a lot of love into what they’re doing in a very noble and very sincere way,” he added.
Otokani decided to form a rock group to provide more options for people with disabilities, especially given the lack of support for inclusion in San Juan del Rio
“What we were looking to do was break the (previous) paradigm, show what they are through music. And what better way than through something disruptive like rock?” the music teacher said.
Most of the band members simply enjoy being together and making music, an endeavor that governments at times do not do enough to support.
On this occasion, Otokani said that playing at an “incredible and impressive” venue like the CCEMX has caused a band that already had great ambitions to dream even higher.
The cultural center is a reflection of the inclusion projects the Spanish government carries out in the Iberian nation, according to Otokani, who praised Madrid’s work in that area.
“More work needs to be done in Mexico, but these steps are important because you see disability from a different perspective. More spaces should have an inclusive perspective, but it’ll be more and more common. This is starting to become a natural part of life,” he said.