By Jorge Fuentes
Click aqui para español- > Doctor Nativo
Imagine an explosion of music so powerful that, as soon as the first beat plays, the entire audience begins to dance. That happened on a Thursday night last month here in New Orleans when Doctor Nativo gave his live performance at the Hi-Ho Lounge.
Doctor Nativo suddenly appeared on stage accompanied by his four band members, and after lighting a candle, he began to play, sing, dance, and tease with gestures and hand motions that made those in his presence immediately give in. Before half of that first song, we were already bewitched, dancing, jumping, sweating with the same freedom and joy as children playing in a field.
Doctor Nativo is originally from a beautiful Central American country that he calls Guatemaya. He earns his audience one by one, pulse by pulse. He overflows an impressive energy and infects us with his subtle smile during a performance forged with such care that it appears spontaneous.
This is the way Juan Martinez, the artist behind the Doctor Nativo character, has achieved the artistry that singles out the masters: he makes us believe that what we are seeing is reality, and that any of us could do what he does. He knows how to take his audience where he wants. He integrates lyrics and music with his and the band’s attitude on stage, leaving nothing to chance, but nobody notices.
“Doctor Nativo knows how to take his audience where he wants. He integrates the lyrics and the music with his and the band’s attitude on stage, leaving nothing to chance.”
At least half of the audience present that night did not speak Spanish. It was my impression that many of us in the audience were seeing him perform live for the first time, yet we all had the feeling of being amongst friends.
Martinez had the guts to confess to his parents at a very young age that he will drop out of school to devote himself to music. In a surprising turn, they decided to support him, on the condition that he dedicated himself to music with determination. “They said they wanted to see me practice until my fingers bled,” he tells us. So, he did just that, and began participating in events known as “kermeses” in his homeland, playing in recognized bands in Guatemala like Mariposa Negra, and later on, performing outside Barcelona with the band Barrio Candela he formed in the Spanish city. It is around that time when his emblem song “Guatemaya” got released.
Living outside of his home country, he kept running into the same scenario. “Every time I introduced myself to someone, when I told them I was from Guatemala, they answered me with the usual saying, ‘Ah, from Guatemala to Guatepeor,’ and I didn’t like that,” said Doctor Nativo. [Meaning “from Guatebad to Guateworse,” a wordplay of the ending syllables of the country’s name.] “It never seemed positive to me, so I decided to give it a spin and honor our Mayan ancestors with the word Guatemaya. And that’s how it stayed,” he tells us.
“The amalgam of reggae and cumbia with a touch of hip-hop in a high-dance acoustic performance” is what made local promoter John Driver bring the band into the city. “He’s very charismatic,” added Driver.
The most recent album is precisely titled Guatemaya and was finally released in 2018. The tour in support of the album has taken Doctor Nativo through several cities in the United States and Canada and culminates on December of this year.
Doctor Nativo’s band is currently comprised of four more members, including his wife, and his cousin. “I hope I am known as someone who gives himself without asking for anything in return,” says the Doctor who shares his time between Guatemala and Miami.
Driver, the local promoter, has been convinced of the power of Doctor Nativo. “My hope is to bring him to New Orleans again in January,” he hints.