Latino USA

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Remembering Esteban “Steve” Jordan

Conjunto accordion legend Esteban “Steve” Jordan died Friday, after this week’s Latino USA was sent to public radio stations for broadcast. Last year, Alex Avila produced an appreciation of the musician and pioneer.


A Conversation With Singer Maya Azucena


We can’t think of a nicer respite from the hot summer than a dose of cool tunes. Last year, Maria interviewed musician Maya Azucena. Her album is “Junkyard Jewel,” and her style defies description.


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Visit Maya Azucena on the web here.

Summer Music

Maria is a big proponent of the personal soundtrack: the tunes that carry you from day to day, that shape the aural landscape around your life. And, yeah, that French novelist with the cookie might disagree, but we think nothing can send you back to a place and a time better than an old song.


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Latin Jazz

On this week’s Latino USA, we look at three diverse, unique, and immensely talented Latin Jazz artists that we’ve featured on the show. Hear interviews with Dafnis Prieto, Miguel Zenón, and Edmar Castañeda. And, hear some of their beautiful music.


Dafnis Prieto is a drummer, composer, and teacher. His music melds historically rich Afro-Cuban rhythms with the uniquely American genre of Jazz. Born in Cuba and educated in music since his childhood, Prieto has lived in New York for over ten years. Since his arrival on the American music scene, he’s been hailed as a virtuoso and revolutionary. In addition to being an incredibly talented musician, Prieto also composes for various performance media and teaches at NYU.


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Dafnis Prieto on the web.


Born and raised in San Juan, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón is no slouch: Masters from the Manhattan School of Music, Grammy nominee, MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, and on, and on. Zenón has taught music around the world, and performed and recorded extensively both as a sideman and as a bandleader. His style is heavily influenced by the sounds of his native Puerto Rico.


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Miguel Zenón on the web..


You may not think that playing the harp fits the machismo stereotype of Latin American men…but just take one listen to Edmar Castañeda’s brilliant work and all you’ll be thinking about is the music. Colombian-born Castañeda performs solo, leads a trio, and plays in a quartet lead by Andrea Tierra (who also happens to be his wife.) The legendary Paquito D’Rivera said that Castañeda “has taken his harp out of the shadow to become one of the most original musicians from the Big Apple.”


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Edmar Castañeda on the web.

The First Annual Summer Jukebox

The Venezuelan band Dame Pa’ Matala is all about blending: politics and music, tradition and revolution, Venezuelan rhythms and the sounds of reggae and hip hop. They’re even too cool to have their own web site. Dame Pa’ Matala uses their music to advance the cause of peace in their home country.


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For more music from Dame Pa’ Matala check out their MySpace Music page.

Since 1999, Very Be Careful has brought audiences to their feet playing vallenato, a traditional form of music from Colombia. But VBC isn’t from Colombia…they hail from good old Los Angeles. Their accordion-based sound is a whole lot of Latin, with a good chunk of American too.


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Very Be Careful’s  MySpace Music page.

What do you get when your band is half-Dominican, half-Colombian, with an address in the Bronx? The answer: Pacha Massive’s funky mix of Latin beats, bilingual lyrics, and genres ranging from dub to electronica. Dominican-born Nova and Colombian-born Maya have had their songs featured in movies, TV shows, and video games. The duo’s name is a play on pachamama, aka Mother Earth.


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Pacha Massive on the web.

Explaining Señor Coconut’s identity is no easy task. For starters, he’s got a list of pseudonyms as long as your arm. His real name is Uwe Schmidt… and if that sounds awfully Germanic for somebody going by “Señor,” well, you’re right. Born in Frankfurt, he moved to Chile in the 90s. His breakthrough album, El Baile Alemán, is a collection of Latin covers of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk. Go figure. His latest is called, appropriately enough, Around the World.


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Señor Coconut’s website
Fuerza Chile benefit album. (opens iTunes)

Imagine the tasty culinary combo of Tex-Mex in musical form, and you’ve got Los Texmaniacs. Bandleader Max Baca wails on the bajo sexto, a 12-string guitar-like instrument native to northern Mexico. Their most recent album, Borders y Bailes, snagged them a Grammy earlier this year for Best Tejano Album.


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Los Texmaniacs on the web.

Andres Martinez and Camilo Sanabria are the duo behind Monareta, named for the Colombian street bikes. Reviewers gleefully compare them to a wide variety of artists like Sun Ra and Brian Eno, and label-mates Nortec Collective and Manu Chao. The pair split their time between Bogotá and Brooklyn.


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Monareta online.

Dame Pa Matala

Dame Pa Matala is the sound of the streets in Caracas. The band espouses both peace, and a revolution of ideas and sounds. With traditional rhythms and instruments, like the Venezuelan cuatro, Dame Pa Matala, speaks to the youth of today by blending those roots with hip hop and reggae. Reporter Reese Erlich catches up with the band.


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Additional audio track: En favor de la paz

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Very Be Careful

Very Be Careful (VBC) is a Los Angeles band that plays Colombian vallenato music, a traditional cumbia sound that centers around the accordion, backed with percussion and bass. The group was started in 1998 in Los Angeles by accordionist Ricardo”Ricky G” Guzman and his bass playing brother Arturo “Brickems” Guzman. They were soon joined by Richard “Mil Caras” Panta on Caja Vallenata, Craig “Peabody” Martín on Guacharaca and Dante “The Rip” Ruiz on Cowbell.


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Gustavo Dudamel


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Miguel Zenon

Miguel Zenón is a master: a master saxophonist, a master hand-drummer, and—in a way—a master journalist. The dual MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow’s latest release is called “Esta Plena,” which celebrates el periodico cantado, the “sung newspaper” of Puerto Rico, accompanied by the hand-drum called panderos.

Zenón sat down with Maria to talk about the political nature of his music.


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Esteban “Steve” Jordan

San Antonio (14 August 2010) — Esteban “Steve” Jordan, the conjunto accordion legend has died of complications from liver cancer. He was 71 years old.

Last year, Alex Avila produced this appreciation of the musical pioneer.

Texas accordion artist Esteban ‘Steve’ Jordan has built a reputation as a reclusive, eclectic artist. Many of those who know his work say he is truly a musical genius. But unlike other Tejano accordion players like Flaco Jiménez, Jordan resisted musical collaborations and built a reputation for keeping to himself. In fact, he often refused to give media interviews.

In 2008, Jordan was diagnosed with liver cancer and cirrhosis. While he has battled those illnesses, he has largely maintained a regular schedule, playing at Saluté International Bar in San Antonio, Texas every Friday. This past February, Jordan released his first CD in nearly two decades.

Latino USA’s Alex Avila visited with Jordan and his sons.


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To hear an hour-long audio documentary on the life and music of Esteban ‘Steve’ Jordan, click on the slideshow below.

Pacha Massive

If you’ve ever wondered what the soundtrack of Maria’s life sounds like, you’re in luck: it’s the music of Pacha Massive. The cool and funky bilingual sounds of Ramon Nova and Maya Martinez have been in her iPod for years and have accompanied her across town and around the world.

She sits down with Nova — the Dominican-born keyboardist/guitarist/ writer/producer (he’s a three-slash dude!) to talk about the duo’s latest release on Nacional Records: “If You Want It.”


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

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