Latino USA

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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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Watch a slideshow as you listen.

Multi-Latin Grammy Winner Calle 13

Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 were the big winners at the 10th Annual Latin Grammy Awards, celebrated November 5 in Las Vegas and hosted by actress/singer Lucero and actor/comedian Eugenio Derbez. Calle 13’s René Pérez (aka Residente) and Eduardo Cabra (aka Visitante) swept their five nominations, taking home Record and Album Of The Year, Best Urban Music Album, Best Alternative Song, and Best Short Form Music Video.

Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa, known as the Voice of Latin America not only for her artistry but her championing of social causes, passed away Oct. 4. Her last album, Cantora 1 won two Latin Grammy awards including Best Folk Album.

Calle 13′s Pérez, known for his irreverent attitude, made perhaps the evening’s most touching gesture in calling onstage Sosa’s producer/musical director Popi Spatocco to hand him the Album Of The Year statuette. Pérez participated in Cantora 1, which had also been nominated in the Album Of The Year category, but lost to Calle 13′s Los De Atrás Vienen Conmigo.


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Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet

Three-time Grammy nominee Wayne Wallace is known for the use of traditional forms and styles in combination with contemporary music. An accomplished arranger, educator, and composer with compositions for film and television, Wallace has performed, recorded and studied with acknowledged masters of the Afro-Latin and Jazz idioms such as Aretha Franklin, Bobby Hutcherson, Earth Wind and Fire, Pete Escovedo, Santana, Conjunto Libre, Whitney Houston, Tito Puente, Steve Turre, John Lee Hooker, Con-funk-shun, Manny Oquendo and Libre, Max Roach, Orestes Vilató, and others.

Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Wayne was exposed to Blues, Country and Western, and Jazz at an early age. His studies of Afro-Latin music and Jazz have included several trips to Cuba, New York, and Puerto Rico.

Wayne teaches at San Jose State University, Stanford University and the Jazz School in Berkeley. He is also the head of his own record label, Patois Records. His latest CD is simply titled ¡Bien Bien!


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Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quartet on YOU TUBE.

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.


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Mercedes Sosa – Solo Le Pido a Dios

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.


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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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