Land of 1000 Dances

The Music of Aztlan will never die

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: May 18, 2003

Land of 1000 Dances

Nothing is more refreshing to me as a beautiful day in Southern Califas, Aztlan, among hundreds of Raza, enjoying Chicano music, Chicano music history, and a sense of carnalismo/carnalisma that brings back those "pangs in the heart" from yesterday.

The sneak preview of the documentary movie "Land of 1000 Dances" this past Sunday at The Gene Autry Western Museum in Los Angeles was just one of those occassions.

Authors David Reyes and Tom Waldman invited about 600 of their closet friends
for a free movie screening and concert among the lush background of Griffith Park, on a perfect Sunday afternoon in L.A. The movie at time of this writing is still an on-going project, but the initial footage both inspired and pleasantly surprised the 400 or so gente who were lucky to get in and catch a peek.

Starting with the Godfather of Chicano music, Lalo Guerrero, and leading up to the early 1970's, the movie, like the book, will chronicle and showcase Chicano music artists such as Richie Valens, Cannibal & the Headhunters, Thee Midniters, Los Lobos and others, and their contribution and influence to American music history. There are also interviews with Art Laboe, Tony Valdez and Tierra bandleader Rudy Salas, with others to be added.

There have been many musical documentaries made that cover genres from Hollywoods' golden years, black music from blues to Motown, surf music, British invasion rock, country music, MTV's wannabes and never weres, and the list goes on. But this is the first time, believe it or not, that a musical documentary will focus on the specific world of Chicano Rock 'n Roll from the 1940's to the early 1970's.

No mariachi, no salsa, no banda, no ranchera. Wow! What a concept! Finally, light will shine on the Chicano music world as never before. Support is still needed, both material and financial. If Sunday was any clue, this significant cultural and historical documentary film will be completed as a monument of love by the people who lived the music. I won't give too much more away, but the Gente will be proud! David & Tom have put in some rightous footwork.

After the screening, the music began. Outside on the quad of the museum, Mark Guerrero (former leader of Mark & the Escorts), came on stage with his new group Mark Guerrero & Radio Aztlan and warmed the crowd with hot favorites like "I'm Brown" and "Cruising down the Blvd". Then Mark's father, Lalo Guerrero, the Godfather of Chicano music and 86 years young, came on stage and wowed them with his singing, dancing & pachuco humor. As always, Lalo entered and exited to standing ovations. Always a crowd pleaser, Lalo accommodated a beautiful lady as young as he, who shouted that she'd waited over 50 years to kiss him. Thanks to Lalo, she waits no longer! ?Orale!

Having a line up of stars from the cream of Chicano music, Thee Midniters, with original members Jimmy Espinosa, Romeo Prado and Larry Rendon, were joined by Tierra members Rudy Salas, Bobby Navarette, Bobby Loya (also former VIP's and Blue Satins), and Billy Mondragon; former Ambertones lead singer Charlie Munoz; Cannibal & the Headhunters drummer Robert Zapata; and Impala's guitarist Ronnie Reyes. They put on a memorable performance that brought "ooohs" and "aaahs" and standing ovations. The guys sounded so good doing Midniter & Tierra classics. I kicked myself for not bringing my camcorder!

The 600 or so gente who braved the warm L.A. afternoon were treated to an assemblage and performance that may never repeat itself. The show ended with the ever-popular Midniter's anthem "That's All". Larry Rendon and Bobby Loya both gave up "Wow Category" solos, and Charlie Mu?oz's excellent vocals ended the performance with another standing ovation.

Afterwards, there was a brief informal reception were the artists mingled with the crowd and signed autographs on CDs & posters, and a second preview of the movie followed. I met so many artists, authors, producers, promoters, and fans from my beloved Chicano Oldies world that I can't begin to remember everyone's name! Everybody seemed to have a good time and voiced their support of the movie, and their enjoyment of some of the best music in the world. I join their cause and encourage you all to do the same.

Classical music has survived over 400 years, why not so with Chicano Classical Rock n Roll? Help support the completion of this important historical projec.

Music stands as one of the most artistic achievements of civilization and the modern world. I am so glad I live in the Land of 1000 dances. I'm also glad I went to Griffith Park on Sunday.

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme spins the finest cruising Oldies but Goodies on the world wide web , live, every Thursday at 6:00 pm, L.A. time, on http://www.kclafm.com. frankiefirme@MiGente.com and frankiefirme.50megs.com

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