Photos by Julia Marin

La Noche Oskura Give Ska Punk Latin Flavor

La Noche Oskura is a Sacramento-area quintet who got their start in 2008 practicing in a garage in Elk Grove. The current lineup (Nando Estrada, lead vocals; Ivan Rodriguez, guitar; Jesse Rodriguez, bass; Paul Martinez, drums; Domenic Dalpez, baritone saxophone; and Justin Klava, trumpet) plays a unique blend of ska and punk, incorporating reggae and cumbia (or Latin) vibes. The band adds some old-school flavor to their sound with the inclusion of saxophone and trumpet into the mix. With two members (Ivan and Jesse) being brothers, four of the original five members still involved, and five solid years under their belt, La Noche Oskura has a tightknit foundation from which to work. Their experience and melting pot of sound has allowed them to hone in their sound and garner a loyal fan base in the process. Vocalist Nando Estrada took time out to discuss via email the band’s cultural influences, legendary shows and plans to release an EP this fall.


For those not fluent in Spanish, what does La Noche Oskura mean?
“La noche oscura” translates to the dark night, but when we named the band we didn’t really have a clear reason of why we chose the name besides the fact that it was the name of one of our songs. Over time we felt our name represented the night before the better day, a new beginning, or the night when Latinos cross the United States border in the dangerous desert with the dream of a better life for their families.

What do you consider to be your oldest and/or most cherished cultural influence in music and perhaps in life?
For most of us, the music we heard growing up in our homes with Spanish as a first language and the music we continue to listen to at our family gatherings is what culturally influences our music. Music that reminds us of our family and our roots is what culturally influences us.

You seem to mesh styles of ska/Latin/punk. Do you prefer a genre title for your band?
We don’t really like to have only one style to classify us because our taste has no borders and there are many different genres and influences in our songs. Our music is reflected on what we are inspired and motivated by and it can change from time to time yet still sticking to the fundamental genres that we have started with like ska, punk and reggae.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of being in a group who mixes several styles?
Many people are only used to the mono-genre commercialized music that is played on the radio and TV. A band with many styles can be a little too much for some to handle. As we promote tolerance and open minds, we will continue to play what we are inspired by and hope that others can begin to respect all genres.

It is rumored that you have a new album coming out this fall. What direction did you take on the upcoming release? Did you chart any new territory in the studio?
We are currently working on a six- or eight-song EP at Milhama Studios in Elk Grove, which we plan on releasing this fall. We are recording a mix of previously unrecorded old songs and brand new songs, which are currently being worked on. We don’t really have a set direction or style, but we just want to record an album with some of our best and favorite songs.

What are some common themes in your lyrics?
We promote the human rights of all including self-determination, autonomy, tolerance, education and to be proud of your roots and culture. Through our music we take the side of a marginalized society and try to give them a voice. Most of our songs have themes of love, struggle and hope. Our music is mainly inspired by love but as well as the daily struggles which one faces. We also touch upon the movements of resistance around the world, which call for peace and justice.

What can people do to bring about a conscious change?
We try to spread consciousness and hope to be able to motivate, inspire and open minds with our music to be able to bring a change of consciousness at a worldwide level.

It was written that you sound like a Mexican version of Sublime. What are your thoughts on that statement?
Sublime is loved by many of us, but we feel we have created our own sound with influences of many different bands. Although it is great to be compared to one of the legends of the California ska/punk/reggae movement, we don’t believe to be the “Mexican version of Sublime.”

You’re currently ranked No. 1 on Reverb Nation. How do you promote yourselves other than performing live and have you guys enjoyed success on more than just a local level?
As we are a completely independent band, we have promoted the band in person, as well as through friends and family. We also spread the word through music websites and blogs to help promote our music. We are very happy to see that our shows in San Francisco, Berkeley and the rest of the Bay Area grow every time we go play there. We feel people are becoming familiar with La Noche Oskura more and more. It is always a pleasure to be invited and be able to share the stage with many national and international touring artists.

You have performed at Hemp Festivals, 924 Gilman Street and opened for The English Beat. How were all of these experiences unique or interesting?
The Hemp festivals have always been fun and enjoyable but it was an absolute pleasure to have the good fortune of playing and headlining at the historical 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley. The shows with the legendary English Beat have showed us how much ska can be enjoyed no matter the language in which the songs are being sung. Since we have been able to play a couple of times with the English Beat, we asked Dave Wakeling for tips and guidance to be a successful ongoing band, which was inspiring and we have been grateful for.

You’ll be headlining the Chalk It Up Festival. How did this festival come to be and what can the attendees expect from you? 
We have been friends with Jerry Perry, the organizer of the Chalk It Up festival for many years and he helped us get on the Friday Night Concerts in the Park series when we were starting out. He booked us downtown a couple months ago and shortly thereafter he invited us to play the festival. He surprised us with an option of headlining the festival and we greatly respect and appreciate the love he has showed us over the years. The attendees can expect an hour of great vibes and high-energy music that makes them move!

La Noche Oskura will join a great lineup of music acts at this year’s Chalk It Up Fest 2013, to be held at Fremont Park in Sacramento on Labor Day Weekend. The festival will run from Saturday to Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. La Noche will perform on Saturday, Aug. 31. For more info on the festival, go to Keep up with La Noche Oskura at