There are great music bands whose innovative rhythms, infectious beats, and passionate lyrics leave the body in a trance with no other choice but to dance. There are amazing activists whose social justice-seeking souls are guided by a compassionate heart and an undefeated spirit. Quinto Imperio is the best of both worlds.
To say that Quinto Imperio has deep roots in music is an understatement. The Dominguez family—Edy, Hugo, Fredy, and Marciano—are originally from Mexico and have the distinction of being the fifth generation of musicians. This generation’s iteration of Dominguez musicians manifested as Quinto Imperio in Back of the Yards when Edy, Hugo, and Fredy were just kids. The guys joke that Fredy needed a booster seat when he learned to play the drums. The group added their best friends Adriana Velazquez and Quintiliano Rios and they have been making their dynamic mix of music ever since.
Best characterized as a Latin fusion of cumbia, hip-hop, rock, and traditional Mexican music (with a dash of good ol’ Back of the Yards ganas), their repertoire includes songs such as “Crónica Inmigrante,” a high-powered cumbia that reminds us of our resilience and power, “Cumbé,” a cumbia hip-hop mezcla that is a vibrant homage to our ancestors, and “La Última y Nos Vamos,” an accordion-laced party anthem that even the most staunch metalheads would rock out to.
I first met Quinto Imperio through my local parish in Back of the Yards when they were practicing out of their dad’s two-bedroom apartment on Marshfield Ave. Marciano and I were members of the parish’s immigration ministry and Edy, Hugo, and Fredy participated in the church’s marimba music program. I’ll never forget the first time I saw them play for a large crowd at a church event. I was like, “Woah, these kids can play!” You know, the kind of music that gets all the abuelitas and tias yanking the abuelitos and tios out to dance.
Now, you can find them performing at Grant Park, Navy Pier, Taste of Chicago, national music festivals, college campuses, and even opening for stellar bands like La Santa Cecilia. In 2017, they released their freshman album, Crónica Inmigrante, and their sophomore album is currently in the works!
What really sets Quinto Imperio apart is their continued compassion, care, and advocacy for the community, particularly for our immigrant brothers and sisters. Individually through their activism, and collectively through their music, they have stood up for immigrants and have invited others to do the same. All of the members, except for Marciano, are under the age of forty, yet they all have résumés that rival résumés of seasoned advocates. The number of hours they dedicated in their young lives to organizing immigration know-your-rights events, voter registration drives, community workshops, marches and mentoring are countless.
Further, the members of the group helped establish “Dreamers and Allies Run,” which has raised more than $100,000 in college scholarships for undocumented students since 2012. Some have even taken the torch of la lucha to their day jobs and have worked as organizers and educators for local Chicago institutions.
Louis Armstrong once said, “Music is life itself.” The best musicians intertwine their notes, melodies, and beats to our hopes, histories, vulnerabilities, struggles, and triumphs. Their music follows the rhythmic ups and downs of life, and their songs tell the stories that reach our core and amplify our emotions. Quinto Imperio does all this and, if that wasn’t enough, they call us to action and remind us of the potential of our collective impact. Quinto Imperio is a proud product of Back of the Yards and is a perfect mix of fun, resilience, power, hope, advocacy, and of course, cumbia beats.
Quinto Imperio. facebook.com/QuintoImperio.