Latino USA

Archive for October 8th, 2009

PBS’ Latin Music USA

Latin Music USA is an extensive look into the myriad styles, cultures and sounds that collectively comprise “Latin Music” in the U.S. Spanning five decades, this rich documentary covers Latin sounds from a fusion of Jazz, Rock, Country, Rhythm and Blues, and more. From Salsa to Reggaeton, Norteño to Tejano, Pop to Rock, Latin Music’s variety is captured in this epic four-part series.

The national PBS broadcast of Latin Music USA begins on October 12. (Check your local listings.) This series was produced by WGBS in Boston and co-produced by the BBC.

PBS PREVIEW

Remembering Artist and Activist Mercedes Sosa

Mercedes Sosa titled one of her early LPs “Yo No Canto Por Cantar” meaning she didn’t sing just to be a singer. With such a statement, Sosa, born in a remote Argentine province in 1935, told the world that her music had a message. It combined music and politics in a time and place where such a combination was dangerous. Later, when a military junta controlled the country, Sosa found herself spending several years in exile while many of her friends and comrades disappeared, were killed, or simply were harassed into hiding.

Argentines lined up to pay their respects to legendary folk singer Mercedes Sosa. (Flickr Photo by blmurch)

Known as both an activist and a singer, Mercedes Sosa was a powerful voice in the Latin America “Nuevo Canción” movement that fused native sounds, human rights, and modern music together. And her music and message took her around the world. She performed at such places as Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, the Roman Coliseum, and Paris’ famed Teatro Mogador. But she performed even more in rural towns and villages, where thousands would dub her the “voice of the voiceless.”

A prolific recorder, Mercedes Sosa, who died October 4th at the age of 74 in her native Argentina, left behind more than 40 LPs and many recordings of her live concerts. Currently, she has three open nominations for next months Latin Grammy Awards.

When Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa moved to New York as a student in the 1970s she found a thriving Chilean and Argentine immigrant community. It was here she discovered Mercedes Sosa, who was always more than simply an interpreter of songs.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

Mercedes Sosa – Solo Le Pido a Dios

Legalize LA

In many ways the Los Angeles-based clothier American Apparel has been ahead of the social-political curve. A model for “sweatshop free” American-based manufacturing, American Apparel has long called for immigration reform, fair wages, domestic partner equality, and other controversial issues. In fact, its Los Angeles factory proudly bears the banner “Legalize LA” across its building top.

The fact that undocumented immigrants were working for decent wages with paid healthcare benefits at the clothing factory was something of an open secret. Company officials say they followed the law to the letter in their hiring practices. Still, hundreds of its employees with fake documents were working for the company. But instead of a massive workplace raid where people were shackled away and charged with criminal acts of identity theft, American Apparel was hit by something different by federal immigration officials – employer sanctions and hefty fines.

Now, the company is being forced to fire more than one-fourth of its employees – 1800 people in all – because of pressure by federal immigration authorities.

New York Times reporter Julia Preston speaks with Maria Hinojosa about this major shift in immigration enforcement by the federal government.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

Brownout – Aguilas and Cobras

Grammy-nominated band Grupo Fantasma is not the only group of musicians to have alter-band egos. For years, it was an open secret that a couple of members of the East L.A. rockers Los Lobos would occasionally gig as the Latin Playboys. So it’s not difficult to imagine that some members of an 11-piece funk band from Austin, Texas would spin off to do their own musical thing under the name Brownout.

Like its Grupo Fantasma counter-part, Brownout is a 70s-style funk band. Relying more on hand made music over modern electronica, Brownout pushes a sound that is fast, dance-ready and often energetic.

The second CD is titled Aguilas and Cobras. Nicely titled even if their depiction is off. An “aguila” is an eagle and a cobra is a particular snake but the CD cover in fact depicts a falcon and a rattler. Perhaps it is a reflection of the illusions of grandeur the band has for itself under the Brownout incarnation.


Right-click here to download an .mp3 of this segment.

Brownout is currently on tour. To see their current tour dates and locations, click on their link to Six Degrees Records.

Brownout Music Video – “Slinky”

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