Riddle me this. (I have always wanted to start a digital post with that sentence.)
This Friday August 14, Latino USA premieres a new show. It’s about music, although it’s not just about music. I mean (and I can’t reveal much), it’s about music that is “off beat.” (Not offbeat—there’s a difference.)
Producer Marlon Bishop and our Music Consultant Nadia Reiman will co-host the show. They both love music. A lot. In fact, our entire Latino USA loves music. A lot.
Anyway, we decided to do a little preshow promo for the show. After brainstorming with Marlon, Nadia and the rest of the team about what the show will cover, we decided to create this little video riddle teaser to get you ready for the August 14 premiere (subscribe to iTunes if you haven’t yet). Because of this video idea, I can proudly announce that we now have an official Preshow Video Riddle of the Week. Don’t expect a weekly series just yet because I want to know first if you like this idea or not. So, here is the video riddle:
The answer to the video is pretty obvious, right? I mean, you won’t win anything—except for the bragging rights to say you were the FIRST one to share the winning response with me.
Six girl punk rockers got together one day and decided to start a side project, just for fun.
But Ali Gua Gua, the lead vocalist, refused to start another rock band. She believed rock had gotten too fancy, too conservative, and too macho.
So they decided to go form a cumbia cover band and call themselves las Kumbia Queers. Latino USA interviewed vocalists Ali Gua Gua and Juana Chang.
They released their first album, Kumbia Nena!in 2007, queering up classics like The Smith’s ‘Lovesong’ (‘Kumbia Dark’), Black Sabbath’s Iron Man (‘Chica de Metal’ or ‘Iron Girl’) and even Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’ (“La Isla con Chicas”, or ‘The Island With Chicks’).
The side project became a hit in Latin America, and their interest in cumbia just kept growing. For their second album, La gran estafa del tropi-punk(‘The Great Swindle of Tropi-Punk’), the Kumbia Queers teamed up with Pablo Lescano, the “godfather” of Argentine cumbia villera, an urban style of cumbia born in the shantytowns of Buenos Aires. Lescano produced the album and mentored the Kumbia Queers in the ways of urban cumbia.
For their latest album, Pecados Tropicales (‘Tropical Sins’), they decided to go back to their DIY roots.
Like other queers before them, the Kumbia Queers have been out to disrupt the disruptors. They’ve gotten backlash from the very male-dominated Latin American rock community.
MAKING THEM ANGRY
“All the rockers started getting angry because we touched their precious The Cure or their precious Black Sabbath,” says Ali Gua Gua. “In that way it’s good to find that playing cumbia is more punk than playing punk.”
They’ve also been booed off the stage with lesbophobic insults when opening for traditional cumbieros. But the Kumbia Queers thrive in the backlash. They’re used to being picked on for being different, queer, and the criticism fuels their punky spirit.
The Kumbia Queers took up the word queer as a rebellion against labels. But it’s not queer theory or queer issues that interest them. Politically, las chicas are very committed to changing the situation of women in Latin America. “I hope we encourage queer Latino women to do whatever they want to do,” says Ali Gua Gua.
In the US, different forms of cumbia play at parties and concert venues organized by queer Latinos. The Kumbia Queers’ message resonates with the queer Latino communities in California, Texas, Chicago and New York, where they visited on their 2014 US tour.
“We know it’s really hard for Latino people, they have to resist a lot,” says Juana Chang, vocalist and charango player. “People were really grateful for us being here because they had a little space of Latin Americanity.”
Las Kumbia Queers are Ali Gua Gua and Juana Chang on vocals, Pat Combat-Rocker on the bass, Flor Linyera on the keyboard, Ines Pektor on the drums and Pilar Zombieon the guitar. Ali and Juana also play the charango and the guiro.
By the time he was twenty-one, J.T. Lopez had the kind of success many musicians can only dream of. He was a highly sought after session player in his native Puerto Rico, playing gigs and touring with some of the island’s top musicians. But he gave it all up to follow his own beat.
DJ Orion is half-Colombian, half-Puerto Rican and was born in Panama to military parents. You can hear him spinning live throughout the Latino USA SXSW show. In this segment, he talks to host Maria Hinojosa about his multicultural musical influences, how technology empowers his art, and even teaches her how to spin!
La Santa Cecilia have been making waves in the Latin alternative music scene since the release of their debut album last year, Treinta Dias (“30 Days”). From their collaboration with Elvis Costello to the powerful voice of lead singer Marisol Hernandez, their eventual Grammy win was all but inevitable. But one song in particular had special meaning to the band. “Ice/El Hielo” is about the struggles immigrants must go through, and the fears they face once they make it to the U.S.–immigrants like the band’s own undocumented accordion player, Pepe Carlos. Reporter Valerie Hamilton spoke to the band members to find out how they use their platform to speak openly about what being undocumented means in this country.
Valerie Hamilton is an independent producer. She reports on issues on and around the U.S-Mexico border for U.S. and European public media. She’s based in Los Angeles.
Ecuador-via-Florida musician Roberto Carlos Lange, aka Helado Negro, just released his latest record Invisible Life. Hear about his family life, musical philosophy, and meanings behind the new tunes in his own words.
Click here to download this week’s show.
From the room he grew up in, in South Florida, to his apartment in Savannah, where that restless tropical silent partner, humidity, continued to creep in, and now in his current home in Brooklyn – Roberto Lange of Helado Negro has never not made music. Tones whittled out of these places, memories, time and all its impressions, Invisible Life is Helado Negro’s third full-length album. Like captured light, it is a reflection of Helado Negro’s refined love affair with synthesis, sampling, and his own strengthening voice.
NPR’s Alt. Latino cohost Felix Contreras wants you to rock out to Latino music as 2012 wraps up. He shares some of his favorite tracks of the year with host Maria Hinojosa.
Click here to download this week’s show.
Felix Contreras is a reporter and producer for NPR’s Arts Desk specializing in coverage of jazz, world music, and Latino arts and culture. He is also the co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR’s new web based program about Latin Alternative music A part- time jazz musician, Contreras plays Afro Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands. He is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision.