STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
This year they played in front of an estimated 50,000 people at a festival in Colombia.
Two years ago, an estimated 200,000 pairs of ears heard them in Spain at Festival Rototom Sunsplash.
More than 320,000 follow them on Twitter, and their Facebook page has an astronomical 1.76 million likes.
If their upcoming July 30 concert at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live is anything like their live recordings or concert videos on YouTube, 15-piece Puerto Rican reggae band Cultura Profetica (“prophetic culture”) will bring a feel-good lovefest vibe to the area.
According to lead guitarist Eliut Gonzalez, audiences in Argentina, Chile and Colombia bring the exact same energy to a Cultura Profetica concert that they would to a soccer match for their hometown club.
“They’re dancing and singing — It’s crazy, man,” Gonzalez said. “We did our 15th anniversary concert in Argentina for that reason.”
2012’s “15 Aniversario en el Luna Park” is one of two live albums the band has in its catalogue.
Since 1998, much of their songs — which also contain elements of folk, bossa nova and jazz — have tackled social issues that they care about. Lately the lyrics have been about love, romance and relationships, but Gonzalez noted that Cultura Profetica’s next single is going to be about their take on recent de-criminalization of marijuana.
So far, the “Viva la Cultura” U.S. tour has taken them across Texas and California, as well as to Tucson, Ariz. and Las Vegas. “It’s amazing to see our music getting out there. We had no expectations (of drawing 500-600 people at the U.S. shows),” Gonzalez said.
Also, the indie band was surprised by a nomination for a Latin Billboard Music Award. “We don’t have the muscle to compete with these … big names. Just to be there, it’s huge,” he commented.
Gonzalez told the story of how Cultura Profetica’s reggae pedigree began with their first album, “Canción de Alerta.” Attempts at recording their debut in Puerto Rico, at that time, were not getting the results they desired. “We didn’t like how it sounded in the studio. We couldn’t find that reggae sound,” he said.
Somehow a demo reached Erol Brown, a recording engineer that had worked with Bob Marley and his family. Brown asked the band to fly to Jamaica to record them. Just after the flight had been booked, there was a fire at the studio where they were supposed to record. However, as luck would have it, the Marleys’ family studio was available.
Traveling with such a large band has its challenges. “We were going to call (the U.S. tour) the ‘80 Hours on the Bus Tour’,” Gonzalez said, laughing. “(On the bus) we watch concerts we like … soccer games …”
He added that for the sake of the fans, it’s important that the band collectively maintains a positive attitude while on the road. “It’s all about the energy we have,” he said.
Follow Brian Bingaman on Twitter @brianbingaman.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Cultura Profetica in concert.
WHEN: 8 p.m. July 30.
WHERE: World Cafe Live, 302 S. Walnut St., Philadelphia.
INFO: Call (215) 222-1400 or visit www.worldcafelive.com.