Q&A: The Mona Passage's Bonafide Rojas


Q: Please describe what the Mona Passage is, what it represents.
A: The Mona Passage is a musical experiment by painter/illustrator Vincent Ramirez and myself. Our love for 60’s psychedelia and the 90’s Seattle music scene was our first initial admiration. The longer we’ve played together is the more “experimental.” We want to make the music in the overall presentation of The Mona Passage. The Mona Passage represents an outlet for two artists who are multi-disciplined to make their art their music.

Q: Why Mona Passage? How and why is the group named this way?
A: If the reader doesn’t know what The Mona Passage is, then they should research right now. I chose The Mona Passage as the name for the band as a sign of solidarity between two musicians, one Puerto Rican, one Dominican. We are not overtly political with our music, but we are proud of our heritage and how it plays a role in music. We will probably never play a salsa/merengue/bomba/bachata song, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t influence a guitar riff, a bass line or drum pattern. Currently, the lineup for The Mona Passage is all Puerto Rican and Dominican (which is on purpose).

Q: What are the short- and long-term goals of Mona Passage?
A: Our short term goals are recording our first EP by the spring and playing as many shows as possible but with purpose -- not just for stage time. Our long term goals are putting out numerous records and playing all over the world. We want what every band should want: respect.

Q: What makes Mona Passage different to other bands?
A: (Different) the main difference between us and majority of our peers is our foundation in the arts. This band still has its roots in poetry and art. Our presentation is important because we don’t want to just play a show, we want to entertain, so yes, the large flags are there as a symbol of heritage, the posters with sayings on them is our homage to poetry and respect to where we are from, as well as the kind of artist we pay respect too.

Q: So far, what are the top three accomplishments of Mona Passage and why?
A: We have accomplished nothing: we have just started: ask me again next year.

Q: What are some of the challenges?
A: Basic challenges are staying as a five-piece unit, rotating lineups and financial issues. It is also being taken seriously by the music community as well as the Latino community whose relationship with a band which plays a form of American rock & roll is almost non-existent outside of Santana, so that’s indeed a main one.

Q: Who would you consider competition and why?
A: I enjoy competition, but I prefer a network of bands that we could build something with: Alla from Chicago, Los NueroNatas from New Jersey, and Dialectic from San Francisco. I strongly feel that a strong scene would be better than competition. Look at history: 60’s swinging London, 70’s NYC Punk Scene, 80’s LA Strip Scene, 90’s Seattle Grunge, and in hip hop its always a new geographic section of the United States that stakes its claim: NY, West Coast, Dirty South, etc.

Q: So far, what has been your favorite venue?
A: My personal favorite venue that is no more was Sin-E, great sound, great stage and historic spot. But currently I really enjoy the Bowery Poetry Club. It’s a venue that really allows the artist to do what he/she feels and needs to do, No 5 minutes to set up, 5 minutes to set down. It's really a spot that bands/artists who want to expand what they do in a show should look into.

Q: Where is your dream place to perform and why?
A: The Fillmore because it’s the Fillmore, Park West in Chicago for its acoustics and Carnegie Hall only because of Miles Davis “Dark Magus” record and Bob Dylan’s Live at Carnegie Hall. Yeah, I would enjoy letting my guitar feedback in there!

Q: Please tell me anything else you'd like to say that I didn't ask.
A: Feel free to visit our MySpace, say hello when you see us in the street. Take a look at Vincent Ramirez’s art. We’re very big supporters of his work. And yes, I am still performing poetry, but this band takes a lot of his time. So, take time out and enjoy.

Check out these sites:

www.myspace.com/themonapassage
www.myspace.com/bonafiderojas
www.myspace.com/artistvast


-- Clarisel Gonzalez

Editor's note: Definitely visit Mona's Passage MySpace. There is a sampling of the band's music at the site and information on upcoming shows.

(Photo courtesy of The Mona Passage)
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