Latino USA

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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.”


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2010 Grammy Award Winners ‘Los Texmaniacs’

Max Baca formed his San Antonio-based conjunto band Los Texmaniacs in 1997. In Tejano music circles, conjunto is the pairing of a twelve-string guitar called a bajo sexto and a button-accordion. Over the years, the members of Los Texmaniacs have changed. Their most recent incarnation features bassist Oscar García, drummer Lorenzo Martinez, and La Tropa F front man David Farias on accordion.

Los Texmaniacs were asked to record an album for Smithsonian Folkways featuring traditional South Texas conjunto music. The result, a CD titled “Borders y Bailes” earned the group the 2010 Grammy Award on January 31 for Best Tejano Album.

Shortly after their Grammy win, Baca and Farias visited the Latino USA studios in Austin, bringing their bajo-sexto and accordion with them.


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Paquito Hechevarría

Paquito Hechevarría was already an accomplished musician by the time he arrived in Miami as a teenager in the early 1960s. Encouraged by his father, a career military man in Cuba who loved music, Hechevarría took private piano lessons and later studied at the Municipal Conservatory of Music in Havana. Once in Miami, he became the house musician at the famed Fountainbleu, playing with such musical celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and others in the legendary Boom Boom Room. This later led to his work at Ceaser’s Palace in Las Vegas.

As a house musician and musical journeyman, Hechevarría has recorded with such artists as Mongo Santamaria, Nestor Torres, Barry Manilow, and Gloria Estefan. His influence on the Miami Sound Machine crossover hit “Conga” is well documented. In the mid-Eighties, he formed Grupo Wal-Pa-Ta-Ca with bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez and percussionists Walfredo de los Reyes and Tany Gil.

Hechevarría’s latest CD, titled frankly, features songs covered by the immortal Frank Sinatra, but with an Afro-Latino twist.


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José Feliciano

In 2005, legendary musician José Feliciano sat down with Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa. The final result was one of the most intimate radio conversations in the program’s history. If you didn’t know it before, you should know that Feliciano is a great musician. Inspired by Flamenco guitarist Andres Segovia, Feliciano emerged just as the classical guitar was finally being recognized as an instrument of great artistic dimension. But it took time for Feliciano to be recognized in his own country.

Born blind in Puerto Rico in 1945, Feliciano was one of eleven boys. Unable to compete in the physical sports of his brothers, he took up the guitar beginning at age three. By age five, the family moved to New York. He learned the concertina, but soon took up guitar again, listening to records and learning by ear. He would spend as much as 14 hours a day on his guitar. By the age of 17, he began playing clubs.

At a concert in Argentina, promoters convinced Feliciano to stay a little longer and to make a record. In 1966, his old-style Boleros became an international hit throughout the Spanish-speaking world. The success was credited to Feliciano’s style of taking known, old song and adding fresh arrangements, energy and musical twists. Two Spanish albums quickly followed.

By the time he was 23, Feliciano had earned five Grammy nominations. His 1968 hit “Light My Fire,” brought him an English-language audience. And more work went his way, including the theme song for the television show “Chico and the The Man.”

But by far, his most popular song is the 1970 classic, “Feliz Navidad.”


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Laughing All the Way to the Bank

Somewhere, in the dusty birth records filed in Murcia, Spain, either for the year 1951 or the year 1941 (depends on whose account you believe), you’ll find the documentation of the arrival of one María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten. We know her as Charo.

Introduced to American audiences by bandleader Xavier Cugat, Charo sort of took over from there. Playing the role of sex-kitten and guitar-playing bombshell, Charo endeared herself to television audiences in the 1970s with a vivacious spirit and her spirited use of language (one fan magazine claimed she learned English from Buddy Hackett), including her trademark “Cuchi-Cuchi.”

Lots of people have laughed about Charo and her persona, including Charo (all the way to the bank.) But the laughter can distract us from seeing a gifted guitarist (a student of Andres Segovia, no less) and a shrewd businesswoman, and that would—somehow—miss the point.

Maria Hinojosa sat down with the entertainer and had a long chat.


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Conductor Alondra de la Parra

Alondra de la Parra is the founder and artistic director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA) based in New York. Originally from Mexico, De la Parra founded the POA as a means of promoting music and young talent. While largely focused on Latin American works and audiences, POA seeks to diversify classical music and bring it closer and “relevant” to the people.

Reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe recently caught up with Alondra de la Parra fresh from a Dia de los Muertos concert in San Francisco.


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