Tocani is a contemporary fusion band formed in 2017 and based in Toronto/Tkaronto, Canada/Turtle Island. Its members—Luis Rojas, Guillermo López, Alfonso Galicia, Jesús Mora, and Camilo Giraldo—all have their roots further south in the Americas.
With Tocani (a Nahuatl term that means “the one who plants the seed” or semprador in Spanish), this group of friends seeks to explore ancient, pre-Hispanic traditions and re-interpret them for the present day, interweaving Nahuatl language, mythology, urban legends, popular stories, and the sounds of everyday city life to both connect them to their ancestry and to use traditional ways of knowing and doing to gain a fresh perspective on today.
Percussion and wind instruments form the core of Tocani’s music, with the drum signaling the heartbeat, the unerring rhythm of life. In that regard, Tocani’s performances also seek to explore and emphasize connections among Indigenous cultures across the globe.
Dancing in the footsteps of their ancestors, the members of Tocani perform on instruments modeled on those from pre-Hispanic times: huēhuētls (a tubular membraphone from Mesoamerica), ocarinas (a kind of vessel flute), kuisi ( a type of flute from the Koguis people in Colombia), marimba de chonta (a melodic percussion instrument from the Awa and Chachi communities in Colombia and Ecuador), and teponaztli (an ancient wood-tongue drum from Mesoamerica).
Importantly, the group’s members strive to build their instruments themselves, leaning on guidance from traditional Indigenous knowledge keepers but also seeking to achieve a particular sound and look for their pieces.
“The act of creating the instrument with your own hands, of moulding it with your own body and your personal labor, forms part of the ritual that connects the performer to their drum or flute,” says Luis Rojas.
The group aims to transmit that organic sense of cohesion to its audiences as well: not matter their background, everyone is invited to immerse themselves in the rhythms, movements, and colours of a Tocani performance—to learn something about ancient traditions, to find a fresh place of connection, and, above all, to enjoy.
Tocani: sound, movement, stories rooted in the past to illuminate the present.