The Texas Talent Musicians Association, which produces the Tejano Music Awards, announced the Top 5 nominees in each category. There were some surprises, at least for me, but I do have my favorites.
I’m of the opinion that Jay Perez’s 25th Anniversary Contigo album, which was a Grammy-worthy (and nominated) production of actual new tunes, is the best of its kind in a long time. Of course, Jay Perez’s vocals are unmatched in the industry. I’ll also give a nod to an excellent collaboration, Ayer, featuring Shelly Lares and J.R. Gomez. Oh, and Los Desperadoz’s Calm Before the Storm was a pretty damn good Conjunto album, too! But, hey, I let them know by voting, along with thousands of other fans.
Anyway, here are the nominees and good luck to all of them. The winners will be announced at a virtual ceremony on December 19, 2020. Stay tuned!
Posted onDecember 4, 2020|Comments Off on Selena: The Series Has Captured My Interest
Twenty-five years after the murder of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, her fandom continues to grow, including fans who weren’t even born during her days on the stage. No doubt, Selena, the movie, did a lot to bolster the icon and spread the fact that she existed. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
When I heard of Selena: The Series, I didn’t know what to think. After the movie, what else could be said? Well, for those of us who grew up with her music, watched her in charity softball games, or even stayed around after her early shows, we knew a lot more could be said that hadn’t already been said.
The Selena I remember was thirteen years old, opening for La Mafia at the Crystal Ballroom in Crystal City. My sisters had come to visit from Austin and took me to the dance as the designated bailador for them and their friends. Of course, we knew who La Mafia was. They’d been around for a few years and their innovative, brightly lit, and loud stage shows were already nipping at the heels of bands like Mazz, Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos, and La Movida.
The place was packed, obviously, but the radio ads hadn’t made mention of an opening band. As a thirteen year-old kid myself, I became interested when I saw a fellow teenager getting up on stage wearing some shiny purple outfits, along with a bunch of young musicians. When they started to play, they had the same professionalism as the other Onda Chicana bands I’d seen, except they were young. Then, the vocalist began to sing and that was it for me. A trip to the K-Mart in Uvalde a few weeks later had me buying one of her cassettes recorded on an indy-label. A few weeks later, she was on Johnny Canales.
In the early 80s, there weren’t many female vocalists that drew big crowds, except for Laura Canales. Stories abound about how badly Laura was treated by promoters and managers and other musicians as she was growing into her career. Selena’s story also tells of her struggles with the pendejos who didn’t take her seriously. Because of my sister’s love of music, I was quite the fan of Laura Canales, too.
There was one guy who was the best promoter of La Onda Chicana at the time and that was Johnny Canales. Canales put bands like Mazz, Laura Canales, Roberto Pulido and so many others on the map through his TV show, El Show de Johnny Canales. And when younger bands like La Mafia, La Sombra, Los Chamacos, and Selena came around with bigger and brighter stage shows, Johnny was at the forefront of promotions–even taking the bands on tours to cities in the Mid- and Northwest where his syndicated show was popular.
So, when I hear the stories that the new Selena netflix series was going to include scenes with actors int he roles of Laura Canales and Johnny Canales, I thought, “Finally!” More of the history of the music and culture is being told, rather than the sensationalized and Univisionized versions put forth through bad chisme talk shows, and yes, even the movie.
So, I’m happy that the show is happening. On top of that, it’s great to see more brown folks on screen, too. I’ll start watching this weekend.
Posted onDecember 3, 2020|Comments Off on QEPD – Maria Jimenez, Leader and Activist
I was saddened by the news that local civil and human rights activist, Maria Jimenez, had passed away after a battle with cancer.
This bio on Chicana Por Mi Raza points to some of the history Maria made. No doubt, it was her stories about the Houston side of La Raza Unida Party that put a lot of the history in perspective. It wasn’t just about the local Cristal stories that I grew up hearing from my parents, but about something bigger. The best advice she ever gave me, based on my political campaign work at the time, was to never forget that the work is about addressing the issues and keeping the personalities involved accountable.
Throughout my twenty-two years in Houston, I’ve known many young activists and leaders of all walks of life who proudly point to Maria Jimenez as having been their mentor, shero, and supporter. It is the work of these newer organizers today that proves the impact Maria had at so many levels.
My heartfelt condolences go out to Carlos, Stalina, and Maria’s family–actual and causa-related. May we all gain strength from the memory and results of her good works.
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SocraticGadfly had two pieces related to recent climate change news. First, does a new Norwegian-British study show the James Kunstler alarmist types might be right? Second, it appears we now have the measurement tools to implement a carbon tax PLUS carbon tariff, which must be a part of climate change control.
Seriously, we should all stay home with those that reside within our household and be thankful that we’re still here. Call (or Zoom) those relatives you aren’t able to visit. Be safe.
According to Ready Harris, we’re still at Level 1 – Stay Home.
Level one signifies a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning outbreaks are present and worsening and that testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded. At this level, residents take action to minimize contacts with others wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine.
Take it seriously, please.
If you’re in need of a good pie recipe, check out the Karo Corn Syrup recipe. It’s so easy, it’ll mix in 5 minutes. Add a simple 9 inch pie crust from the store and you’re on your way to scarfing down your food plate just to get to dessert. (I add a splash of Maker’s Mark Whiskey to ther recipe just to make things interesting.)
I’m off to make the green bean casserole, cornbread dressing, and a pie. Happy Thanksgiving!
During the pandemic, Baca took care in keeping himself safe–virtual concerts on Wednesdays to make a few bucks via Paypal donations, and mostly living off of his savings. Eight months later, with savings depleted, Baca hit the road again to pay the bills and ventured into danger.
Trump’s promises that the pandemic was a temporary thing that would disappear were outright lies that fed into a disinformation campaign to keep people confused and acting stupidly; but, the reality is that it is long-term, cutting into most performer’s ability to make money and pay their bills. And that included Baca’s band Los Texmaniacs.
After whittling down his life savings trying to stay afloat while the coronavirus pandemic brought his live performances to a grinding halt, Baca knew he needed to look outside of his hometown of San Antonio for gigs to pay the bills.
That desperation took the guitarist and vocalist to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he found a few paying gigs playing with a stripped-down version of his Grammy Award-winning band Los Texmaniacs.
“I still gotta pay my mortgage because there’s no such thing as a deferred payment” from his lender, Baca said, noting that all his bills were urgently coming due.
It was a decision that has now put his career in jeopardy.
San Antonio Report, 11/22/2020
Baca contracted COVID-19 and has spent almost a couple of weeks in ICU recovering.
Another reality is that federal CARES funds that helped many small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic were quite complicated for musicians and performers to apply for and receive. The competition was fierce for the funds, not to mention that they were limited. And Baca, unfortunately, did not receive any funding. Now, he’s fighting COVID-19, on top of no performances, no health insurance, and the extra $600 in unemployment payments about to end.
For many performers, the gigs are their livelihood, and we have seen a recent uptick in live performances at clubs and event centers around the state. And all of this during the current COVID-19 surge. Are these the next super-spreader events that we are not hearing about in the news?
Because that is the reality: Crowded performances mean more infections if CDC protocols are not followed. And it seems the maskless and easily offended by the CDC always win in Texas, thanks to Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick. Still, venues and performers have a responsibility to enforce CDC protocols, including testing before performances–even requiring it for attendees of these indoor events. There is very little (or none) of this happening.
Houston recently announced a program dedicated to helping musicians and music venues get through the pandemic. Musicians are eligible for up to $5000, while venues are eligible for $50,000 to $100,000 depending on budget size. Unfortunately, we’re only talking about $3,000,000. But it’s something.
Some bands have built a good infrastructure to continue despite COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of them did not have the ability (or maybe confidence) to create a strong virtual presence. Bands like The Mavericks have taken to pay-per-view concerts based on a loyal fan base willing to pay the virtual door fee. Intocable were one popular band that were able to do a mini-tour of outdoor parking lot concerts in various parts of the state to some success.
And there are others in the Tejano industry who have done Facebook Live gigs asking for donations. Unfortunately, virtual gigs don’t give a band the feel of a live show with an energetic crowd. Still, it’s an opportunity that some of these Tejano bands have not fully utilized and that fans have not fully appreciated (through good donations).
There doesn’t seem to be much of a solution and as long as COVID-19 surges, there will be an eventual shutdown–or more limits on attendance. It is easy to tell these bands and venues that they have a responsibility to keep people from attending super-spreader events, but somewhere along the way, musicians were left to fend for themselves with little to no help. Thus, some are back on the road with no CDC compliance and a fan base that feels invincible to the disease (until they find out they aren’t). It’s a vicious circle.
While the HEROES Act passed by the Democratic US House sits in limbo because of a vindictive Republican US Senate and President, at the very least the $600 of extra unemployment benefits must be extended beyond Christmas. A better solution would be for Republicans and Trump to get off their asses and pass/sign a HEROES Act that takes care of gig-to-gig performers and artists whose talents have always been taken for granted.
Wear a mask. Wash hands. Stay home. And if you must work or be out and about, wear a mask, wash hands, and physically distance yourself from people outside of your home circle.
After Los Texmaniacs reported that their leader Max Baca had contracted COVID-19, I was really worried. Sure, he’s a Grammy winner and an accomplished bajo sexto player, but he’s also a really nice guy and always willing to have a conversation about his craft so people like me can write about it for posterity. Thankfully, good people like Hector Saldana at the Witliff Center at Texas State University kept us posted on his own FB feed after actually speaking to Max.
At this writing, Baca’s been in the ICU for a grueling 10 days.He says when he was admitted, his blood oxygen level was critically low.Healthy lungs keep blood at about 95%.
Max Baca: “I got here and my oxygen level was 70%. And so now due to the breathing exercises that they have me do and then they have the therapy and treatments have been able to breath 95, maybe 97 on my own.”
As a measure of how sick he got, he spent several days on a ventilator.
Max Baca: “I was on for a little bit, for three days. But thank God (now) I’m able to talk and I’m able to breathe. And you know, thank God for the medical facilities and all the doctors and nurses and everybody has some blood transfusions, things that other patients have made it (through COVID-19), was able to help me out with that a little bit.”
“And also, you know, it’s kind of sad here in the E.R. You just hear people coughing and coughing all around you. And then all of a sudden they stop coughing and then they roll them out on the bed with a blanket over the face because they didn’t make it.”
Texas Public Radio, Nov 20, 2020
¡Hijole, que susto!
Here’s hoping the worst is over and that Max heads home soon to fully recover and rest after this ordeal.
This is just a reminder that COVID-19 is real. I’ve seen a lot of musician friends head back on the road for shows, since the work provides for their families. Some practice safety protocols, others not so much. The crowds at these shows don’t seem to care much about masks, though. As much as I love live music, I’m fine watching a livestream from home and I’m even happier to give a donation through their paypals, venmos, etc.
Whether you’re a musician or a fan: Wear a multi-ply mask! Wash hands! Stay home! And if you really need to be out and about (or working) practice safety protocols to take away any opportunity to get infected.
Posted onNovember 16, 2020|Comments Off on Dr. Varon: Next Six Weeks Will Be A Dark Period
Dr. Joseph Varon of the United Memorial Medical Center, who has done a lot of good work hunting and fighting COVID-19 in underinsured and ethnic communities of Houston, stated in a recent interview with TVV in Miami that the next six weeks may be a dark period in Texas’ big cities.
Citing what is called “covid fatigue,” Varon states that people are letting down their guard as they tire of hearing about the disease, which is the reason for the uptick in infections. Varon points out that while people ignore the disease in order to have their fun, the disease is not ignoring the people.
Varon also states that if the people do not change their ways of visiting restaurants, going to concerts and gatherings, etc., it is expected that by February, 2021, there will be over 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Over 20,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Texas, thus far.
The doctor states that a big challenge in fighting COVID-19 is the information and disinformation that people get from various sources, which has led to confusion. I’ll add that certainly the outgoing occupant of the White House has made the fight more difficult. Varon adds that Texans seem to think that they are above COVID-19 and any restrictions and shut-downs because, well, we’re Texas and we prefer freedom over safety and wellness. He’s not wrong about some of these freedom-promoting idiots, which unfortunately include Texas’ governor and lt. governor.
Anyway, we must listen to the experts, like Dr. Varon, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Hotez, and the CDC. We must continue to mask-up, stay away from large gatherings, wash hands, and stay put!
IN OTHER NEWS…
Since, I’m a huge Tejano music fan, I follow a lot of the bands and happenings in the genre. Recently, I’ve noticed more concerts occurring around the state. I’ve also noticed some legendary musicians and performers announcing they’ve contracted COVID-19 while exposing other musicians. Who knows what’s happening within the crowds as there is no physical distancing and very few masks in the photos I’ve seen. The concerts need to stop. I know the livelihood of performers has been threatened and affected, but thumbing one’s nose at reality is not a long-term solution.
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