We Create Music About Our Spaces

The remarkable musical journey of Martha Gonzalez of Quetzal

By Abelardo de la Pe?a Jr.
Published on LatinoLA: June 7, 2002

We Create Music About Our Spaces

On a recent Friday night in an old theatre in El Sereno, there was a homecoming and the place was rocking. Quetzal, the musical collective which has been a leader of the Chicano rock renaissance since the late 90s, returned from a tour opening for ?Cubanismo!, riding a van up and down and across the western US to such far-flung places as Wyoming, Utah, Portland, Arizona, Canada, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Dallas, Austin...ah the many miles.

And now they were in front of family, friends and supporters as part of a community experiment called "East Side Cafe". (Read "Transnational, Crosscultural & Multilingual" at http://latinola.com/story.php?story=306)

The band had just ended their tour in support of their new CD "Sing the Real", a creative and eclectic second effort by the group which, surprisingly to them, has charted and still selling strong. And Martha Gonzalez was glad to be home.

"There were tons of people, it was really well attended, with different age groups in the crowd," said Martha, who shares vocals with her brother Gabriel, taking the lead on most of their songs. "The whole family came to watch the bands. And after living in van with eight people for a month and a half, it was good to be back to El Sereno. We needed that."

Not that she didn't enjoy the reception the band received on the road. "The tour was really positive, very receptive. They came to see ?Cubanismo!, so some people had never heard us. But they really responded," she adds. "The challenge is now to stay focused, in falling in love with the songs that we've been playing over and over, as if it were the first time you play it."

According to Gonzalez, in the six years since Quetzal, led by her husband Quetzal Flores, burst upon the scene, the east side musical landscape has changed. "It's interesting to see how it's going, changing. It's been six or seven years since I first started coming to shows, when I began to become inspired. Now you see all kinds of bands, some led by female performers, giving meaning to the music. It's really positive."

But one thing that hasn't changed is Martha's musical curiousity and willingness and ability to extend her musical participation in other ways. "Quetzal is my family, my home base," she says. "But the whole time I've been playing with groups that are not that visible, playing jarabe, afro-cuban...I'm a lover of all types of different music."

In fact, she has lent her voice to other projects, including a cut on Los Super Seven member Rick Trevi?o's CD from last year, as well as singing lead on fellow eastsiders Slowrider's recent release. And now, she's on the latest recording by the group that really started it all, Los Lobos, singing on their latest release "Good Morning, Aztl?n!"

"They invited me to do something with them...it's an honor to work with them. I'm not going to say 'no!'" she laughed. She sings on a handful of cuts, including "Hearts of Stone" and 'Maria Christina." "I love working with them. It's a different experience than working with my band. I'm used to beating a song to death before I feel confident. But David Hidalgo (Los Lobos guitarist and vocalist) tells me 'sing whatever you want.'"

"I love Los Lobos!"

Looking back on her own remarkable musical journey so far, Martha reflects:

"Me siento... I feel like there's a lot of work to be done. It's really scary to go on the road without a job, the 9 to 5. How do I know that this is going to work? We are making a living, though. Everything I've done before was during late nights and on weekends. That was hard on my family. Right now, it feels positive, We create our work, that's what we've done with Quetzal. Nothing is there for us, we have created our own road. I believe in that. My husband really inspires me, encourages me, makes me believe we could do it. We create music, create spaces...we create music about our spaces."

June 6, 8 pm
Quetzal and Los Lobos
The House of Blues
West Hollywood

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