Category Archives: Cultura

Los Texmaniacs Conquer Under The Volcano…Again!

lostexm2While most of my friends were at home watching a dumpster fire (the RNC), I took the night off from forming an ulcer and headed over to Under the Volcano on Bissonnet to catch my favorite Tex-Mex conjunto super group, Los Texmaniacs. Having caught their show at such an intimate locale in February, I figured catching them again would be better than the last time. And it was! This time, I brought the whole familia.

A very diverse crowd came ready for what was truly an Americana music show. Although they can sling that conjunto music like no one’s business, they add some country, Mexican traditional, cumbia rhythms, and some rock-tinged Tex-Mex to the set-list with ease. They blazed through a diverse set of songs for two straight hours–other than a few stops for sip of something cold, or a quick adjustment to an amp.

They kicked off with the haunting Danzon Juarez, which allowed each of the musicians to show off their chops, particularly Bajo Sexto king Max Baca, and his nephew Josh Baca, an already accomplished accordionist at age 24. With an already full dance floor swaying to this tango-esque tune, they moved on to their tried and true Tex-Mex ranchera stylings with a single from their current CD Americano Groove, Como Te Quiero which then transformed into an accordion instrumental polkita.

Then came How Can A Beautiful Woman Be So Ugly, I Wanna Know Your Name, an education lesson on how Tex-Mex conjunto was created, and a personal favorite, Cancion Mixteca. A Huapango/Chotis medley and a medley of Ruben Vela hits “al estilo Valle de Tejas,” and one had the perfect evening. But there was more!

lostexmAfter they closed the show with upcoming single Mexico Americano, the crowd yelled for more:  “Otra! Otra!” Max re-plugged in his Bajo to the amp and the band seared through another hit single, Down in the Barrio, which ended with rockin’ solos from the all the band members, including:  Tio Baca and Nephew Baca, as well as Noel Hernandez-Bass; Daniel Martinez-Drums; and Fernando Martinez-Rhythm Guitar.

With each tune, the Bacas provided their own personal touch–a hot pasadita on the squeezebox, a bit of axemanship on the bajo. I’m looking forward to their next Houston visit.

Los Texmaniacs will be performing at SA’s newest venue, The Squeezebox, on Friday, July 22. Go check them out!

Here’s a live sample from a show at A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keiler.

DC Reviews: Intocable ~ Highway

intocablecoverNot releasing an album in three years did not hurt Intocable. Twenty-two years of music has allowed them to amass quite a catalog of hits–hits that make for memorable set lists that always get their sell-out crowds singing along.

Still, one always wonders what else Intocable can accomplish on a new album. They have achieved much in the studio and on the road, but their newest album, Highway, is a project that reminds us of Intocable’s versatility, the excellent songwriters they hang with, and why we always get excited about their “next album” taking too long to be released.

In an interview a few years ago, band leader Ricardo Muñoz stated that he may not be the best vocalist in the business, but his on-stage confidence is bolstered by having some of the best musicians in the business. Highway leaves no doubt about this, especially the bajo sexto creativity of Johnny Lee Rosas. While Rosas recorded the entire album, he recently left to sew his own creativity with a band he founded years ago, Masizzo. Nonetheless, his and Alex Gulmar’s bajo playing on Highway is the best I’ve heard on a a Norteño album.

Although the run-up to the album’s release came with online releases of some of the tunes over the course of a few weeks, the band had been riding on a powerful single penned by Louie Padilla, Tu Ausencia. In another interview, Muñoz stated that the tune was a strong reminder of the loss of his father a few years ago. Having lost my Mom 6 months ago, I must say that as I sing along  to it, I usually get a lump in my throat. Released with an excellent video, the next single and video was a lighter one with Quiereme (Amame), a cumbia.

Highway is definitely a journey of experiences and of emotions. It’s also one of Intocable’s darker recordings, perhaps a journey of their own experiences as a band and as individuals. From love to love hurting to love lost, the band seems to describe just about anything that any given individual has gone through. Tunes like Te Perdono, a ranchera, reveal the pain of love lost by setting standards by which one forgives–and they’re not easy standards:  “Te perdono si un dia traes a Dios hasta mi puerta; cuando vea que a tus ojos salen lagrimas de sangre…” One even feels the sadness of the acordeon.

Equally haunting is the ballad, En La Obscuridad, about moving forward after losing on love, but what remains are the thoughts that cloud one forever. That much is noticeable in the song’s extended musical ending with the haunting back-and-forth of the acordeon and what can only be described as mind-noise in the background.

Intocable also hits on an important social issue, the missing and murdered women of Juarez. Wilfran Castillo’s Dia 730 tells the story of a 17 year-old girl with dreams of becoming famous lured by a man offering opportunities of success only to go missing and probably murdered. This cause has been around for years and the lack of response (few arrests and convictions) continues to instill fear in Juarez. Thankfully, Intocable adds to this discussion, including the pain families go through and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement. It’s a powerful and descriptive tune.

The band also reminds me that they grew up in the same rock era as I did, and Un Dia Sin Ti and Duele El Amor, both rancheras, have tinges of rock guitar and drumming (by Rene Martinez) that effectively set up the songs. The signature Intocable cumbias are also evident, with Cuando Me Vi En Tus Ojos and Sueño de Amor providing some danceable treats.

Intocable also invites a guest lead vocalist, Beto Zapata, on Cuestion de Tiempo, which he delivers quite well. The album is well-rounded out with Cuidare, Usted Me Encanta, and Quiza No Sea Tarde, making this a musically diverse album.

Intocable is:  Ricky Muñoz, Rene Martinez, Sergio Serna, Felix Salinas, Alex Gulmar, Juan Hernandez, and familiar new entrant, Danny Sanchez.

You can find the new album on various online outlets, but also exclusively for sale at Wal-Mart. Kudos to Ricky and the crew on a great production. They keep proving that independently produced records are the best ones out there.

RIP ~ Emilio Navaira

emilioThe passing of Grammy-winning performer Emilio Navaira has sent shockwaves through the industry–affecting fellow musicians and fans alike. At 53 and riding a wave a success after what many consider a second chance after a horrific tour bus crash in Houston sent him to the brink of death, it would seem Navaira had many years to go in his storied career.

Late Monday night, tweets and Facebook posts from friends, family, and fans announcing Emilio’s death took over news feeds, as well as YouTubes of videos and songs he made famous. Some were songs from his 90s heyday with Emilio and Grupo Rio, and for others, like me, who followed him since the mid 80s, it was tunes from his stint with David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, where he launched his career in his early 20s.

As popular as he was in Texas and the US, Emilio was filling seats in Mexico in the last weeks of his life, and he was expected in Texas this weekend. His most recent album released in 2015 was one of duets, Juntos, with Tejano figures, including vocalists with whom he used to compete for business, such as Ram Herrera, Jay Perez, Ricky Muñoz (Intocable), Michael Salgado, Max Baca (Texmaniacs), Bobby Pulido, Marcos Orozco, Ricardo Castillon, and his old boss David Lee Garza. The CD also includes a re-do of his monster hit, Juntos, with his sons Emilio and Diego, and daughter Emely. In a MYSA.com article, Michael Morales , a long-time producer for Emilio, stated a new album was in the works, but no news as to completion.

Emilio leaves a catalog of huge hits, but simply going over various shared Facebook posts, it is obvious he also leaves a lot of memories. Even for me. I was recalling the mega-dances in the 90s, like the TMA Caravan of Stars at Palmer Auditorium in Austin, or a huge concert at the Alamodome, or dances in which people packed in like sardines at Cocktails in Austin. It was a an active time in La Onda. The last Emilio performance I attended was in 2013 at a Tejano Music Festival in Humble and it was a strong one.

 

Que En Paz Descanse, Emilio.

Services by Castle Ridge Mortuary, San Antonio:

Sunday, May 22 – Visitation for Fans 10AM to 5PM at Freeman Coliseum, SATX.

Sunday, May 22 – Rosary, 4PM at Freeman Coliseum (Fans Welcome)

Monday, May 23 – Funeral Mass, 1PM at San Fernando Cathedral

DC Reviews: Jay Perez ~ Un Amigo Tendras

jaypTejano crooner Jay Perez is back with his long-awaited release, Un Amigo Tendras. After riding the radio waves with the title track, a smooth sax-driven cumbia, we get to enjoy the other 11 tunes. That’s right–12 tunes on this Freddie Records release. Produced by Mario Ortiz, this new production really hits the spot.

Perez seems to be going for a more laid-back vibe on this release as one notices a different feel to the introductory ranchera, Cuentale De Mi. No, Perez hasn’t abandoned the formula he uses to produce music, but this CD seems to offer up a smoother R&B feel; especially on his rancheras. He Venido A Decirte is an acordeon- and bajo-fueled ranchera that is sure to be a favorite. Quiero Amarte, though, is that standard ranchera with which Perez has earned his reputation. Hasta El Fin Del Tiempo and El Adios Es Asi are both beautiful tunes, especially the latter with its slow acordeon intro. Perez also offers a re-make of a previous hit, Me Sigo Acordando, but with a mellow feel

Perez still has a knack for those smooth, R&B-laced cumbias and No Se Me Olvidan will rank as one of his best. Of course, Perez is also known for his powerful ballads and La Ultima Vez proves to be a beautiful anthem to love lost, along with Ya No Puedo Verte. Perez also returns to his country roots with You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This.

Perez and the band close strong with Tu Fiel Amante, which seems to be the next single on the production. The keys, acordeon, and a more than audible guitar give this ranchera a strong foundation.

Kudos to Freddie Records and to Jay Perez for offering up a classy production for the fan base. Always offering a great live show, there’s no doubt that these tunes will sound strong in a live set. Get your CD today through most online music stores.

 

DC Reviews: Stefani Montiel ~ La Dueña

stefanimontiel15Ever since the 90s, I’ve been a fan of Stefani. From her early hits like Celos and Por Que Soy Mujer, she has built a following and a career founded on a great voice and great music. Always willing to go the extra mile and try something new, she has stayed true to the Tejano genre. No doubt, her newest release, La Dueña, will rank up there among her greatest works.

Produced by Gilbert Velasquez at VMB Music, Stefani Montiel offers up some rancheras, lots of cumbias, and some beautiful ballads. Kicking off with a rockin’ intro, she leads us into Cumbia Fantasia, an acordeon-heavy vallenato styling based on sonic vocals. And if that tune doesn’t get you dancing, Loca Por Quererte will certainly get you on the dance floor; a ranchera in which she is backed up by David Lee Garza and in which Stefani lets loose on some high notes on the way to catchy chorus.

Earning radio play and popular in the DJ scene has been ¿Quien Quiere Shots?, a get-down-and-party cumbia. The ranchera, Mas Que Amigos, is definitely a hit with its harmonies and conjunto vibe. Other cumbia-rockers include Work and Delirio, which will definitely be dance-floor fillers. La Dueña brings us back to conjunto, the title-track being a proclamation of ones ownership of another’s love–it’ll be another favorite.

My personal favorite tune is Que Risa Me Das, which can only be called some sort of rock-ranchera fusion with its awesome acordeon and bajo sexto licks. It’s one of those insult tunes to a guy that deserves it.

Stefani slows it down with a classical-guitar and mariachi-backed ballad, Adios Adios Amor, in which she belts out the beautiful goodbye song. Si Fue Un Juego and Pero Why are a couple of catchy tunes with a cumbia groove. Agua Bendita is a haunting, slow flamenco-ish tune that many will enjoy. The big ending comes with a re-boot of Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, but in a bad-ass cumbia styling.

After listening to all the tunes more than once, I can honestly say that these 13-tracks (plus the intro) make up a full and diverse production for Stefani. There’s no doubt that she and her production team went all-out in creating something special that will be on constant rotation–at least on my MP3!

Get yours today!

 

Houston: Cesar Chavez Parade on 3/19/16

chavezparade

This is always a great event.

DC Primary 2016 Voter Guide

donkey-fight

Tuesday, March 1 is Democratic Primary Day. This means, for those that didn’t vote early, that one must vote in their home precinct. Here are a few tips for Tuesday.

But if you think it’s too late and just want to know for whom I voted in the contested races, well, you can VOTE THE STACE SLATE.

 

 

Velasquez Institute Decides NV Latino Vote

index_r1_c1There’s been much debate about the Latino vote in Nevada. Entrance polls had Bernie Sanders winning by 8 points. The Clintonites cited their paid pollster Latino Decisions (I liked it better when they were independent) polls of heavily Latino precincts being won by Clinton as proof she won the Latino vote. The problem with that is that not at all Latinos live in Latino-heavy precincts anymore. Hell, I don’t live in a Latino-heavy precinct. Latinos are everywhere, even in Nevada. So, the Willie C. Velasquez Institute did their own study where they explained it all.

In my view, I think both Bernie and Hillary get participation ribbons for helping increase Latino participation to 19% of those caucusing. In WCVI’s view, the poll results are consistent with Clinton’s margin of victory. Here’s their story:

After hearing about disputes between the Sanders and Clinton over the Edison Entry Poll Survey results on the Latino vote in the Feb 20 Primary Caucuses WCVI undertook a review of the publicly disclosed data.

WCVI concludes that the survey results are statistically consistent with the margin of victory of Hillary Clinton on Feb 20. The main dispute among pundits and between campaigns has been the assertion that it is statistically impossible for Hillary Clinton to narrowly lose the Latino vote (45% to 53% with Latinos representing 19% of the voters) and narrowly lose Whites (47% to 49% with Whites representing 59% of the voters) and still win the election by 5.3%.

However WCVI concludes the Clinton margin of victory is adequately explained by the large margin of victory Secretary Clinton won among African American voters (77% to 23% with AA’s representing 13% of the voters).

Simply put there is no relevant statistical inconsistency between Edison’s Entry Poll results for Latinos, Whites, and Blacks and the overall election results. Based on this fact WCVI concludes that there is no statistical basis to question the Latino vote breakdown between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders.

We note that some analysts have said that Secretary Clinton’s victories in heavily Latino precincts proved that she won the Latino vote. However the methodology of using heavily Latino or “barrio” precincts to represent Latino voting behavior has been considered ineffective and discarded for more than 30 years due to non-barrio residential patterns been common among Latino voters since the 1980’s.

Lost is this controversy is the fact that the data shows a record high Latino vote share in the Democratic Caucuses with Latinos representing 19% of the vote compared to 13% in 2008.

I think we can move on, now. But I will say that Clinton has a Latino problem. At least in Nevada, they opened their minds and didn’t follow blindly. I’m hopefuly that the pattern will continue.

24 Hours in Cristal

flopopeyeI spent a day in Crystal City, TX this past weekend for my mother’s funeral mass. Yes, THAT Crystal City that’s been in the news after the indictment of its mayor, a couple of councilmen, and the city manager. Recently, another councilman was indicted for human smuggling. And, then, it made national news again when the water turned black and dirty.

Crystal City has a political history in Texas. What most Chicanos see as a history of political involvement and self-determination, others saw as a bunch of young brown-skinned radicals that Texas’ then-Democrat Governor called communists. Other Dem leaders pushed back against migrant farm workers (including activists from my hometown) marching to Austin to demand higher wages. They didn’t seem to get that in the process of political change, Chicanos in South Texas saw an increase in higher education attainment and Chicanos were finally part of the political process at various levels–and by their own doing, not through political favors from the establishment Democrats who preferred docile, unquestioned loyalty.

It was during this time that I was born and grew up. A lot of these newly degreed Chicanos and Chicanas would become my teachers. I was reminded of this when two of my former teachers that I had not seen in decades attended my mother’s funeral mass. I was reminded that the History of our little town was indeed a positive one and not one worthy of blame for any problems that were actually caused by a power structure that demanded Chicanos be politically and economically (cheap workforce) subservient. Cristal was punished, no doubt, for its activism. In a sense, it’s still being punished.

When an anglo Republican, a few years ago, somehow finagled his way into the city attorneys and then the city manager’s job at a salary almost equal to that of the Mayor of Houston, a lot of people began questioning what was going on. That the guy’s salary took 1/2 the city’s operating budget was questionable enough. But now that indictments have come about because these guys were getting [allegedly] bought off to ensure a gambling business’s success, among other things, the city has gone through a lot of embarrassment that somehow has called into question the City’s political history. What it did show was the town’s vulnerability.

Then, the water turned black, according to a few pictures and internet memes. For sure, the water had some sort of contamination. While the town’s water tower and system has always been under some sort of repair, there’s no doubt that there has been a need for major investment in the town’s infrastructure. Streets have been crumbling, pipes have been bursting, and leadership (state and federal) has been lacking. Surely, the town’s tax base couldn’t cover the costs of infrastructure development since major businesses have avoided Cristal for other area towns. Even the fracking boom mostly missed the town for other localities, while some of my friends gained a few jobs in the field. Still, we’re talking about a town of 7,000 souls who should have a right to drinkable water. A town whose population grows older and infirm. But this stuff isn’t reported in the news. (And we’re still awaiting the results of water tests from TCEQ.) And the needs of these South Texas towns, even with billions of dollars being made by oil companies, have gone largely ignored.

sawsBut I was also reminded that there are a lot of good people in the world. The San Antonio Water System sent a semi with 5,000 gallons of drinkable water to give out to the people. An environmental services company and the neighboring town of Carrizo Springs sent several pallets of bottled water to give to the elderly and homebound. Volunteers came together to make sure this happened. I felt a bit of pride in my town while I watched some of this happen.

Crystal City has turned out many survivors and fighters. And even folks like me who left the day after high school graduation who will still advocate for it and the people. The town has been through much while people who had been stepped on for decades pressed forward–at times successfully, if only temporarily. When other forces pushed for its demise, the town and its people survived. Crystal City can and will survive this.

The wheels, ever slow, are in motion as, hopefully, some good people without any self-interest will be elected to a new City Council after all the business of recalls and court dates is done. All new management will be hired to hopefully put the city on a better path. For now, though, it’s inevitable that the town will see a bit more turmoil and drama while it works out the kinks. “No hay mal que por bien no venga,” as my momma Flora used to say.

My mom loved her pueblito. She was born there, grew up there, and she and my Daddy made their family there and ran Medellin’s Texaco for decades. They even switched to La Raza Unida after conservative Democrats defeated Sissy Farenthold for Governor. Through all the changes and turmoil, we survived on love and friendship. We experienced that all over again as we returned for a day to give mom the Catholic funeral mass that she deserved. A lot of family and a lot of friends joined us, including the Flo-Fans from Facebook. Thank you for a wonderful experience. ¡Que Viva Cristal!

 

2016 Tejano Conjunto Fest Schedule

tcflogoMy FB friend, Juan Tejeda, the long-time organizer of the Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio, posted the schedule for this year’s fest to be held May 11 – 15, 2016 at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and at Rosedale Park. I know I’m making plans to be there for some of the festivities! Here you go:

Below is the complete schedule and musical line-up for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s 35th Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival en San Antonio 2016 which will take place from May 11-15 at the historic Guadalupe Theater and Rosedale Park. Hope to see you in San Antonio for the landmark 35th Annual, and por favor spread the palabra and schedule to your familia and friends. Gracias.

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
35th Annual
Tejano Conjunto Festival en San Antonio 2016
Tentative Schedule

Wednesday, May 11/Guadalupe Theatre/10am-12noon/Free

Free Seniors Conjunto Dance
Bene Medina y el Conjunto Águila (San Antonio)

Thursday, May 12/Guadalupe Theatre/6-9:30pm/$25-$10*

San Antonio Premiere of Conjunto Blues

6-7pm Reception
7pm Conjunto Blues
Conjunto Blues is the newest theatrical/musical/multi-media performance piece by San Antonio-based musician and theater artist, Nicolás Valdez. Through live music, poetry, teatro and documentary video footage, Conjunto Blues explores the historical and social conditions that led to the creation and development of Conjunto as an original American musical ensemble and style of music, as well as an expression of cultural resistance and liberation.

8:15pm Live concert & dance with Los Nahuatlatos

Friday, May 13/Rosedale Park/5:30pm-12am/$15 per person**

5:30pm Opening Ceremonies/Poster Contest Exhibit & Awards

Hecho en Tejas: Puro Conjunto Pesado

6pm Acero (San Antonio)
7pm Santiago Garza y La Naturaleza (Jourdanton)
8pm Los Clavos del Wesso (San Antonio)
9pm The Hometown Boys (Lubbock)
10pm Los García Bros. (Eagle Pass)
11pm Jaime y Los Chamacos (Houston)

Saturday, May 14/Rosedale Park/12pm-12am/$15 per person**

Hecho en Tejas: Puro Conjunto Pesado

12noon Conjunto Student Showcase:
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
Conjunto Heritage Taller
Houston Accordion Performers
Southside High School Conjunto Cardenales
Los Fresnos High School Conjunto Halcón
Palmview High School Conjunto La Tradición
La Joya High School Conjunto Los Diamantes
Palo Alto College Conjunto Palo Alto
3pm Conteño (Brownsville)
4pm Conjunto Deltaboyz (Elsa)
5pm Los Nuevos Chachos de Jesse Gómez (Mission)
6pm Los Badd Boyz del Valle (Edcouch)
7pm Los Tremendos V (Corpus Christi)
8pm Lázaro Pérez y su Conjunto (Bishop)
9pm Los Monarcas de Pete y Mario Díaz (Houston)
10pm Los Fantasmas del Valle (Mercedes)
11pm Boni Mauricio y Los Máximos (Corpus Christi)

Sunday, May 15/Rosedale Park/1-10pm/$12 per person**

Hecho en Tejas: Puro Conjunto Pesado

1pm Conjunto Cats (Seguin)
2pm Conjunto Baraja de Oro (Dallas)
3pm Bernardo y sus Compadres (Laredo)
4pm Eva Ybarra y su Conjunto (San Antonio)
5pm Dwayne Verheyden (Montford, Netherlands)
6pm Los Texmaniacs de Max Baca (San Antonio)
7pm Flaco Jiménez y su Conjunto (San Antonio)
8pm Ricky Naranjo y Los Gamblers (Alice)
9pm Roberto Pulido y Los Clásicos (Edinburg)

Saturday, May 14/Guadalupe Theatre/10am-12noon/$45

Accordion Tuning, Maintenance & Repair Workshop
Tim Schofield, Hohner Accordion Repair and Parts Supervisor,
will teach you how to tune the reeds of your accordion and
maintain it in tip-top playing shape. Accordion tuning kits
will be available for purchase.

For workshop registration & info, call 210.271.3151.

* Conjunto Blues & Los Nahuatlatos Concert/Dance
$25 per person: Includes admission price, first-tier floor table seating, free reception with light food, two free drinks, and TCF program magazine. Tables of 4 available.
$20 per person: Includes admission price, second and third-tier table seating, free reception with light food, one free drink, and TCF program magazine. Tables of 8 available.
$10 per person: Includes admission price, fourth-tier single chair seating and TCF program magazine.

** 3-Day (Friday-Sunday) Rosedale All-Events Pass
$37 GCAC Members
$40 Non-Members

For tickets & info, 210.271.3151
www.guadalupeculturalarts.org

The Guadalupe Theater is located at 1301 Guadalupe St.
and Rosedale Park is at 340 Dartmouth in San Antonio, Texas.