Voz De Mano: A Revolution At Hand

The "Voice of the Hand" defines the genesis of the new movement

Published on LatinoLA: December 13, 2001

Voz De Mano: A Revolution At Hand

No Gucci tattoos, nose rings, political posturing or fake sloganeering here, thank you.

This is the revolution of the Anti-trend and it won't be sponsored by Coors.

Jaded with all the industry required rules and clich?s invading the Rock en Espa?ol movement in the U.S., and dismissing it as: "...just as predictable and cliquish as the mainstream." Tony Estrada, Voz De Mano's de facto leader and vocalist who plays a unique brand of street acquired self-taught guitar, keyboards and a bevy of "technological contraband" decided with his friends to write music their way -- with the brutal honesty, energy, and conviction of a group of hungry idealists.

This, according to Estrada, was done while setting out to break down the barriers and rules of the industry's rigid definition of what it defines as "acceptably hip." Or, as Estrada asserts, rebelling against an industry that decides "what a Punk, Electronica or Trip-Hop piece should sound like or even what structures a simple rock song should have, setting up walls based on musical categories, telling us who we are, what to play and how to play it and what's considered cool."

Forming in 1994 the group released an independent EP that raised a few eyebrows but was considered too far-out for the average Rock en Espa?ol listener at that time -- between Depeche Mode and Beck when third rate ska bands and copy cat style performers (read Mana as the Police and Shakira doing Alannis Morrisette) were all the rage for the big bucks.

Later, after a good start with a bit more recording budget and just a hint of compromise, their 1998 release "Ruta Satelite" brought the group a larger following, critical acclaim and a few high profile rock awards but relatively little mainstream recognition form the powers that be.

After some targeted touring, the band then got back to work in creating music that continued to ignore the industry's now even tougher rules for success.

The end result is "Polen," a calculated collection of songs and structured musical landscapes that they categorize as from the either and neither world. Meaning the industry prefers to categorize them and their music as "either" a techno/punk/pop/industrial group or a guitar-oriented Rock en Espanol band when in reality Voz de Mano -- using elements of them all is -- "neither."

They hate being categorized.

Hailing from the biggest barrio outside of Mexico City, It 's their feeling that "...every band in the world wants a piece of L.A.'s action and fame. It's the most important place to be seen and all roads lead here, but at the same time the Rock en Espa?ol establishment totally ignores and disrespects the L.A. groups, so we have to work twice as hard and be totally unique."

It is with this conviction that they mainly support and attend the L.A rock scene's events, hoping with little success "?o find groups that aren't photo copies of each other."

Knowing they'd be considered "outsiders" by the industry in their own city, compounded with the fact that they use a non-traditional instrumental line up but recalling the "do it yourself" revolution of the late 70's British and early 80's Chicano punk movements, they impudently decided not to follow the industry formulas, stating: "We don't care."

"They need people like us to keep from becoming stale and we need to express ourselves, without selling out. Rock & roll was never about conformity with trends to begin with. If it was, there would have never been the Beatles, the Sex Pistols or Kraftwerk."

The other members of the group, which includes, Luis Barbosa (lead guitars), Javier Ceja (bass and keyboards), Jorge Ortiz (Latin percussion, keyboards) and newest member Bobby Amaro (on drums), support this idealistic theory by mixing up fiery traditional Latin rhythms with diverse and contradictory elements such as looped sampling with live feedback, triphop with alterna-metal, and even punk with melody.

Add to this trademark some unpreachy socio-over toned lyrics and themes in both English and Spanish and one can justify the reasoning behind Voz de Mano's continual development and ever revolving door of musicians who've contributed their elements to the band's eventual line up that exists today.

Rejecting the traditional on-your-knees trek to the major labels just to get their CD into the better stores, Voz De Mano decided not to waste their time and signed their own independent label to the upstart DLN International Distribution Company, which should assure easy access to Polen from San Diego to New York.

Although the group is one of the last standing pioneering Rock en Espa?ol groups in LA and indeed the world of Rock en Espa?ol, it has been their philosophy of rejecting the status quo's rules and trends (in order to get a major record deal) that has kept them alive and viable to a new and younger generation of listeners.

Keeping them in the top L.A. echelon with newer similar groups (i.e. Satelite, Cabula) that are now considered rock en Espa?ol's "2nd wave," this new-growing bicultural and bilingual following comes with their own set of ideals, one which rejects the commercialized and "commodified revolution" of MTV and the industry's definition of what is supposed to be rebellious and hip.

Providing another alternative to the stagnating Rock en Espa?ol alternative scene, Voz De Mano likes it that way.

Make no mistake: There is a revolution coming. Turn off your television, turn off your radio, and listen to the Voice of the Hand.

Xiuy Velo could be reached at xiuy61@hotmail.com

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