On Saturday (March 18), Jarabe de Palo will play at the Vive Latino festival in Mexico City, the first concert since the release of the band's new album and Jarabe founder and frontman Pau Donés' announcement that his cancer had returned.
Donés had publicly battled colon cancer - which he dubbed "the crab" - from his diagnosis in the summer of 2015 to April 2016, when he announced on social media that he had beaten it. Then this past February, Donés told his fans that at the same time he was preparing to release a new album and go on tour, doctors had found another tumor.
"After thinking about it a lot I reached the conclusion that I wasn't going to let the crab take me away from my music again," Donés wrote in Spanish on a blog post on the band's web site. "I didn't care. Whatever happens, whatever they say, in 2017 Jarabe de Palo will return to the stage."
Jarabe de Palo had cancelled 18 U.S. dates in the States in 2015 when Donés fell ill and was hospitalized for surgery. After Vive Latino this weekend and two shows in Monterrey, the band is set to tour the States in April, stopping in Austin, Miami, New Orleans and other cities.
In May, Donés and musicians return to Spain, where concerts in Barcelona, Sevilla, Madrid and Zaragoza are already sold out.
The just-released album, 50 Palos (on the band's Tronco Records label) marks Donés' 50th birthday, also commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the band. It's a collection of new acoustic versions of the group's well-known songs, including "Depende," "Flaca," and "Grita." The earthy pop ballads incorporating flamenco, Cuban, jazz and Brazilian rhythms and even a little tango, are ripe with a sentiment that's heightened by the back story of Donés' illness.
The release of the album was accompanied by a book by Donés, an autobiography of sorts that includes his reflections on cancer and his mother's suicide when he was age 16, and anecdotes about his music.
Donés' introspective song lyrics and Jarabe's live jam fusion band sound have always transmitted a life affirming, seize-the-day spirit that resonates from a different perspective on this album.
Donés calls a new song, "Humo," one of his most beautiful love songs.
"Now that now is the only thing I have; now that all's that's left is to wait for the now," he sings. "...Now that I don't care if life wears black; because I'm not afraid of anything, because I don't have faith.
"I wrote it when I thought that one of my great loves, life, was abandoning me," Donés said, adding that it's the kind of song that "when you sing it you get a lump in your throat."