Señor Loop Part II

FeaturePhoto.JPG. Señor Loop performing at Pepper’s Club in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Elizabeth Lang.

Feature image: Señor Loop performing at Pepper’s Club in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Elizabeth Lang.

Señor Loop’s Multisensorial Panamanian Music and Art

This is the story of how the Panamanian band Señor Loop created their colorful, multisensorial music and art that’s synonymous with experimenting with different music genres and styles. The band was created in the nineties out of pure chance and no expectations of how far they’d get.

PART II: How Panamanian Band Señor Loop Creates Colorful Music Honoring Nature

The Panamanian band Señor Loop is about a celebration—one where their multisensorial and colorful music and art converge to honor nature. It’s one where they also exalt their folklore and Panamanian roots. It's a celebration of an unexpected story synonymous with their love of creating music and art, a legacy in their country as Latin American artists.

In PART I, you learned that Señor Loop came to life through experimentation. Now, take a seat and relax. You’ll go on a trip with Señor Loop and their colorful music that honors nature. Their music is art, which is reflected visually in their album covers, some of their music videos, their musical palette, and their songwriting. It’s a multisensorial art in the form of colorful music that takes the audience on a relaxation trip.


Yet, the relaxation aspect is something resulting from years of experimentation and growth for the band. To understand this evolution, you need to start with their third album, “MCMLXXXII,” released in 2008. The album cover was done by Panamanian artist Jonathan Harker. It’s an illustration in black and white with no color. One that Lilo Sánchez, the band’s vocalist, described as a heavy piece of art. It’s an artwork that speaks about Panama’s reality in the eighties.

MCMLXXXII.jpeg. MCMLXXXII cover art by Jonathan Harker. Courtesy of Señor Loop.
MCMLXXXII cover art by Jonathan Harker. Courtesy of Señor Loop.

“MCMLXXXII is very conceptual and private for us. If I don’t tell you about it, maybe no one will understand. 1982 was the year in which Panama started going down the drain. General Torrijos died in a very mysterious plane crash,” Sánchez said. “Something CIA style. Then, in 1982, Noriega came through as Panama’s General. Everything began deteriorating at that moment.”

Sánchez recalled that their dream of Panama was deteriorating, and the album became a very unhappy musical and artistic piece. They focused on creating rock songs with heavy electric guitars. That musical choice was accompanied by Harker’s selection of black and white for the album cover. It was a musical and visual reflection of their anger with what was happening on a political level in Panama.

“Panama was selling its beaches and all our access to the forests and rivers. Right now, there are certain beaches that you can go to on a Sunday with your family,” Sánchez said. “But there are others that if you don’t have a house or access to a building, you can’t enter.”

The band was angered with the government limiting Panamanians' access to their own nature and reflected on it musically.

“We’re artists. In the end, the artist reacts to reality. Unconsciously sometimes. That album MCMLXXXII was our reality,” Sánchez said. “It was [a reaction] like men. Like Panamanians. No one had children at the time. We were angry.”

From Anger to Beauty

Nature is always involved, in one way or another, in Señor Loop’s music and art. It’s present, whether they’re angry about a government mistreating it or realizing how beautiful their homeland is. Their fourth album, “Vikorg,” explores their understanding of their naturally beautiful and blissful Panama.

Vikorg.jpeg. Vikorg’s cover art conceptualized by Jonathan Harker and photographed by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Señor Loop.
Jonathan Harker conceptualized and Pablo Cambronero photographed Vikorg’s cover art. Courtesy of Señor Loop.

Once again done by Harker, the cover is one where green abounds, and the immensity of Panama’s forest was portrayed by Costa Rican photographer Pablo Cambronero. You can barely see Señor Loop’s members, but there’s a reason for that aesthetic. Harker was inspired by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s depiction of environments in a "giant” manner with a distant perspective where people are small.

“Jonathan [Harker] already had the technique thought out. The concept. And he’d explain to us and we’d be like: ah, that’s great. But we didn’t know anything about that vaina [thing] before he explained,” Sánchez said. “He did the cover with Pablo Cambronero, who’s another important figure. No one but Pablo Cambronero takes photos of Señor Loop. They don’t let anyone else in.”

Cambronero is a key elemental artist with Señor Loop’s visual portrayal. But he’s also a fundamental collaborator for Harker in every artistic piece that they create. Sánchez stated that without Harker’s artistic visual creation of Señor Loop, they wouldn’t be Señor Loop.

“I wonder what we would’ve been without Jonathan Harker. What would we have done for the cover? A photo? I don’t know. Imagine any ridiculousness, which is what’s commonly done,” Sánchez said. “The group wouldn’t have that mysticism it now has.”

Concert4.JPG. Señor Loop’s percussionist Toni Morales performing at Pepper’s Club in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Elizabeth Lang.]
Concert4.JPG . Señor Loop’s percussionist Toni Morales performing at Pepper’s Club in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Elizabeth Lang.]

And that mysticism clearly comes through in their “Vikorg” album cover. A bright green cover celebrates nature and goes beyond just showcasing Panama’s natural beauty. On a conceptual and musical level, the album speaks about their love for their home. It’s an awakening of appreciating the nature that’s always been “normal” for them.

“Vikorg was like, I can’t believe that I hadn’t realized that all of those things I thought I didn’t like, were actually the ones building me. It’s about appreciating nature, the beauty of Panama, and our responsibility of taking care of certain things,” Sánchez said. “Mostly cultural things. Exalting folklore and certain beats. Certain things about the drums and certain vainas [things] that maybe get lost in modern music.”

Lighting Up Positivity with “La Leña Que Prende Madera”

The responsibility of appreciating their nature and exalting their culture then led them to a more mature approach to their music and art creation. Their last album, “La Leña Que Prende Madera,” which was released in 2019, is a very positive work. At that point, most of the band’s members have children and are on a trip to create beautiful and personal songs.


Along with that positivity, their cover art comes through in the form of light. They’re literally light, and they’re creating music that speaks to their sons, daughters, and wives. They’re creating personal music with positive messages. For the album cover, Harker comes through again with wildly artistic ideas in collaboration with photographer Raphael Salazar.

LaLeñaQuePrendeMadera.jpeg. La Leña Que Prende Madera cover art conceptualized by Jonathan Harker and photographed by Raphael Salazar. Courtesy of Señor Loop.
La Leña Que Prende Madera cover art conceptualized by Jonathan Harker and photographed by Raphael Salazar. Courtesy of Señor Loop.

“Jonathan listened to the songs and saw this vaina [thing]. And La Leña Que Prende Madera was crazy because they were photographs with light. Different lamps, flashlights, and candles through crystals,” Sánchez said. “I didn’t participate in the photos, but I have the documentation. I don’t know what happened there, but it’s incredible the mysticism that it has.”

The mysticism is there in the form of bright orange and yellow light that takes you on a visual trip accompanied by relaxing music while they sometimes sing about nature. The beauty of nature cannot be ignored at all with Señor Loop. Their colorfully calm rhythms and beats speak about nature through their peaceful lyrics, which are an expression of their everyday realities. Their every day realities include a daily dose of nature in all its forms that bring relaxation.

Concert.JPG. Señor Loop performing at Pepper’s Club in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Elizabeth Lang.
Señor Loop performing at Pepper’s Club in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Elizabeth Lang.

Nature: The Most Perfect Entity

“Nature is beautiful and even more so in Panama. It’s crazy. I mean, you’re from Costa Rica. It rains, and what comes after the rainy season is uffff. Some green luxuries that are impressive,” Sánchez said. “We grew up with nature. We grew up seeing the sea and the beach. When we were young, we were very tied to nature. The sea. The mountain.”

Honoring nature with its colorful music and art is about paying respect to the only entity they consider to be perfect. It’s the only thing Sánchez believes works well in the world. They incorporate it in their art with the sounds of crickets, the beach’s breeze, and waves, and in their lyrics.

ElMonoYLaCulebra.png. Frame from Señor Loop’s music video for El Mono y La Culebra. Via Señor Loop’s YouTube.
Frame from Señor Loop’s music video for El Mono y La Culebra. Via Señor Loop’s YouTube.

One of the greatest examples of their speaking about nature is in their song “El Mono y La Culebra,” which translates to the monkey and the snake. The song started out with the music composed by Iñaki Iriberri and Sánchez. There were no vocals or lyrics, but Harker listened to it and wrote its lyrics, thinking of the song as a story about a monkey and a snake. Sánchez came back the next day to read the lyrics, and he was impressed. 

“Jonathan wrote the lyrics and I recorded it. We didn’t have much expectations for that song because it’s super long. And it was an incredible boom. Children love it,” Sánchez said. “When you see children singing your song, you can’t feel any better than that. They like the song because they have no prejudices. No one is convincing them of anything. They’re the purest people with their senses. They like it because they like it.”

They never expected to reach a children’s audience because they see themselves as “hairy stoners.” But it was an affirmation and lesson that when they do things honestly and real, they come through in a great manner. You can also see that in the music video for “El Mono y La Culebra.”


Panamanian film director Ana Endara was the film director behind the music video with a simple idea of presenting Señor Loop’s members as the animals they sing about in the song. The masks were made by artist and psychologist Pilar Moreno . They were created with clay and paper, which Sánchez said gave the video more personality.

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ElMonoYLaCulebra3.png
ElMonoYLaCulebra4.png

Frames from Señor Loop’s music video for El Mono y La Culebra. Via Señor Loop’s YouTube.

“The masks are a heavy art piece, and everything has its concept. It was done with a lot of love and care. There’s the crocodile and monkey,” Sánchez said. “The owl is around there, and even though it’s not mentioned in the song, it was there at some point. It was the man checking everything. The slot is Iñaki with the mask and the claw. They’re the characters in the song. Super simple.”

Celebrating Love and the Patria

They are super simple and fun, which is a characteristic of their songs. “Mes de la Patria” is another of their songs that comes through as exciting because of its vibrant sounds and visual portrayal of one of Panama’s most important patriotic traditions.

The music video was filmed by Martín Proaño while the Banda Internacional El Hogar was in the midst of a band practice out on the streets of Panama. This particular band stands out during Panama’s patriotic parades in November when playing their popular music. The sounds and beats you hear in this song are from Panama’s traditional “banda de guerra,” a popular band with over 100 people playing.

MesDeLaPatria.png
MesDeLaPatria3.png,
MesDeLaPatria4.png
MesDeLaPatria5.png

Frames from Señor Loop’s music video for Mes De La Patria. Place in a slideshow. The Banda Internacional El Hogar playing their different instruments. Via Señor Loop’s YouTube.

“This music is super popular and very institutional at the same time. This type of music is seen only two days: November 3rd and 4th during a parade where they have to salute the president,” Sánchez said. “They’re schools. Those days have been important in regards to music. Certain bands have given their backs to the president in certain delicate moments for Panama.”

The bands use a very particular rhythm and beat that is specific to Panama, as Sánchez sang it.

With that patriotic rhythm and context, you’d think that the song speaks about Panama, but it’s not the case. The song tells Chale Icaza's love story with his wife and how he was in the midst of decision-making to stay in Panama or go back to New York. His story is sung through a meticulous vocabulary chosen by Sánchez, Iriberri, and Icaza.

MesDeLaPatria2.png. Frame from Señor Loop’s music video for Mes De La Patria. The woman is holding a lyre. Via Señor Loop’s YouTube.
Frame from Señor Loop’s music video for Mes De La Patria. The woman is holding a lyre. Via Señor Loop’s YouTube.

“The song says: in between diana and lyre. The dianas are played at five in the morning on November 3rd. [The diana] is a small band. Three snare drums. Three tenors. Trumpets. That’s a diana. Diana is not the name of a woman,” Sánchez said. “It was about Chale being in between going to New York or staying here. But we used the instruments’ language used in bands. We used the expression of romper fila used in the band.”

That meticulous use of words resulted in a “dictionary” of Panamanian words from “bandas de guerra” spoken in the patriotic parades. This is part of their natural research process to create their songs. Their lyrics are well thought out, and a lot of research goes into finding the right words to express themselves and the subjects they want to speak about.

Along with their gently curated lyrics, Sánchez sings in a manner where it’s clearly understood he’s singing in “Panama’s Spanish.” This means his Panamanian accent and sayings come clearly as a means of sharing their culture in a distinguished way that makes it recognizable that they’re from Panama.

Experimenting and Celebrating Quieras o No

Their colorful music and art that honors nature constantly showcase Panamanian culture in all possible ways. That’s evident in a subtle manner in their song “Quieras o No.” If Sánchez didn’t explain the song’s origin, you wouldn’t understand its Panamanian roots.

“Iñaki composed that song, the music, and most of the lyrics. That song speaks about the carnivals in Panama, which are one of the most surreal experiences that you can ever have in your life,” Sánchez said. “Most people are drunk, but we were on other things—more experimental. The best carnivals are in a small town in Panama.”

For Señor Loop, living the carnival experience meant waking up at 9 AM, drinking whiskey or rum, and going out on the streets. There’d be a truck with water, music, few clothes, lots of sweat, people enjoying life, and alcohol.

“In our case, it was alcohol, mushrooms, and other things. That song is our psychedelic vision of the carnivals,” Sánchez said. “It’s the most chaotic thing you can imagine. Mardi Gras on a whole new level. This vaina [thing] is crazy. The destape of the Panamanian. The relief of the Panamanian.”

It's a relief on an experiential level. On a musical level, it’s about mixing electric guitars with salsa rhythms.

It’s also one of Sánchez’s favorite songs to play live because he can dance around the stage while playing the cowbell with a strong Latin American sazón or seasoning that characterizes them. It’s a vibrant moment of liberation for Sánchez.


But it’s also part of the experience they generate for the audience attending their concerts. They want their fans to have an incredible time and reach an emotional point of connection and enjoyment. It’s the pinnacle of their music and art. The point where their colorful music, art, and nature converge as one multisensorial experience for the listener.

Concert2.JPG,
Concert3.JPG
Concert5.JPG

Señor Loop performing at Pepper’s Club in San José, Costa Rica. Photos by Elizabeth Lang

That moment of convergence to celebrate their “cult band” was evident in their last concert in San José, Costa Rica. The neighboring country of Panama the band loves and has long reaffirmed them that they’re on the right path with their music and art. A place where everyone gathers to celebrate the Señor Loop experience.

“It’s about relief. Rest. Disconnection. The vaina [thing] is ugly outside, and that's enough. We try not to bring anything very sad to our palette, music, and concert. Nothing very dramatic, political, or idealistic,” Sánchez said. “Trying to keep ourselves very neutral. Señor Loop’s concerts are a celebration. I need people to cry and take their clothes off, kiss, and everything within decency.”

Señor Loop is about a celebration. One where their multisensorial and colorful music and art converge to honor nature. It’s one where they also exalt their folklore and Panamanian roots. A celebration of a story that was unexpected and synonymous with their love of creating music and art that’s a legacy in their country as Latin American artists.

“It’s a legacy. I think I’m in that movie of a legacy for my country, and I want people to do more things. I was not supposed to do these vainas [things]. I was not supposed to meet a lot of people. I was not supposed to play with Rubén Blades in the Hollywood Bowl,” Sánchez said. “This was not in the plan. But it happened because I dared to move forward, meet people, and we’re always very grateful.”

To learn more about Señor Loop, follow them on Instagram at @senorloop , on Spotify at Señor Loop , or visit their website .


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