Do Ya Got the Rhythm in Ya?

What works in the Land of 1000 Dances

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: January 15, 2007

Do Ya Got the Rhythm in Ya?

Life in the Land of 1000 Dances...I am ever so blessed to be a lifelong resident, and member of Aztlan in good standing....and I KNOW I'm in good company.

The people, the places, the sounds, the lights, the aromas, the colors, the culture & diversity of my people, the arts, the music, and of course...the dancing!

Nothing like it anywhere else, as I've been privileged to have traveled half way around the World in my lifetime of a little over a half century, and have met enough people from all over the World to know that L.A. & Chicano Music enthrall the unenthralled when the time is right.

From East L.A. to New York, from Europe to Asia, and most recently, from the Middle East, I know people are rockin' out to my music, and they're letting me know that they're catching the action on www.eastLArevue.com , and www.chicanoexpress.com , and www.latinola.com, where we serve up a buffet of homestyle Chicano music & news, all you can hear & read about.

But...what makes one eligible for inclusion in my world, I am asked every week?

I receive music from all over the Country & different parts of the World every month, and some wonder why some gets recognized by me and some doesn't.

I can't really call it, because if something hits me just right, and I like it, I don't need to convince myself that I will enjoy it again & again.

(I mean, who else likes cold refried beans on white bread with mayonaisse, right?)

It's getting other people to appreciate what I see, and appreciating what other people have taught me to see that makes the difference. An artist friend once told me "If you can't see the many shades of grey that there are...you'll never notice how expansive black & white can be, and you'll miss how colorful the World really is".

Gloria Estefan says in her Christmas song "Christmas through your eyes" (which is dedicated to the innocence of childhood): "I see the rain...you see the rainbow...". That has always struck me as a significant statement of how life narrows our vision as we get older, yet, art & youth helps keep it expanded.

MESSAGE: Keep your eyes & mind open, what you see is what you get, and what you get should be your money's worth if it's worth getting and keeping...know what I mean?

So, in answer to the many inquiries, let me give a little insight into what makes Frankie Firme sit up and take notice:

BANDS ~ I have been around performing bands ever since I can remember getting out of the house and going somewhere. My first exposure was to bands in parades in East L.A. on Whittier Boulevard & on Brooklyn Avenue in the early 1960's. They marched, they stepped, and they played, and, if you were lucky enough to catch the Black High School Bands & Drill Teams from Schools like Jefferson, Washington, Manual Arts, or Compton High, THEY PERFORMED! I always remember that. I was enthralled!

When I went overseas while serving in the military, bands in Japan, the Phillipines, Hawaii, Korea, Hong Kong, Samoa, and Viet Nam took American rock & roll to another level in their efforts to entertain U.S. Troops as they strived to entertain, and they boogied & played...and they did well.

Today, when I think of bands, I think of high powered performers like JAMES BROWN & his band, TIERRA, MALO, WAR, LESLIE PAULA, SUSIE HANSEN, SATISFACTION, TOWER OF POWER, DOWN WITH 3, SOTO, ACE, and most recently, PEPE MARQUEZ, where everybody's moving, everybody's having fun, everybody's performing!(How many of you are old enough to remember the emergence of K.C. & The Sunshine Band, circa 1975?)

I have seen or worked with some bands where one or two members just stand there playing, like they'e fighting diarrhea if they dare move, while the rest of the band is jamming. Some appear like they just had bad dental work as they don't smile, don't engage the audience, and act like they're being punished by being on stage, and can't wait to get off.

THAT, I wouldn't pay to see, and probably would not work with again. It only takes one to screw it up for everybody. If they're not having a good time playing their music, why should I by paying & dancing & partying to it? They're not doing me or the audience a favor by being there...so they shouldn't waste their time scratching their heads wondering why they're not getting a lot of gigs, right?

One of the best guitar players I ever heard was a teenaged prodigy Chinese kid from Monterey Park who could do Hendrix/Stevie Ray Vaughn/Eddie Van Halen in a heartbeat, and really, really, good! Only problem is that he just stood there, not moving, looking at his guitar the whole time. From a distance, he was exciting to hear, up close he was...boring. Sorry to say I couldn't help him when his friends asked. I have the CD's...

Some things I can't stand in a live band is somebody standing on stage trying to look like they're some kind of bad ass, or wearing a baseball hat & sunglasses at night, dressed like they just finished mowing their backyard or working in a field. Another thing is to constantly "warm up & sound check" while the DJ still has the dance floor & audience's attention. I remember doing a club gig where I had the dance floor full of Gente dancing romantically to a slow jam, and the band's drummer & keyboard player "warmed up" throughout the whole song, then decided to start playing a fast song between themselves before they were introduced before the song ended, which realy pissed a lot of people off, and they got booed. No matter how good they might of been that night, after that, some in the audience enjoyed booing & heckling them to play the slow jam they had interrupted. They couldn't, and the club NEVER had them back again. (the pendejos still wonder why!)

DRESS THE PART, LOOK THE PART, RESPECT YOUR AUDIENCE, PERFORM.....and people will come & pay to see you, again & again.

I can sit in my car with the stereo on for free...who wants to pay to see someone who looks like a homeless street person? NOT ME!! ~regardless of talent~ DRESS TO IMPRESS!~ Be worth the price of the ticket, or drown in the sea of mediocrity.

SINGERS ~ In my part of Aztlan, there are singers, and there are good singers who entertain, and there are some who shouldn't quit their day job or drop out of college to pursue a vocation as a singer. Again, one should have talent, strive to have some stage presence, be prepared to respect & engage the audience by looking into our eyes, and have some fun in getting people to boogie & party...and LOOK like you're having a good time doing it. THAT's entertainment!

Don't get me wrong...Gothic, Heavy Metal, and Alternative music singers (actualy screamers), folk singers in the Bob Dylan-John Denver-Joan Baez mode, opera singers, church singers, and folk singers from Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia need not apply here...we're talking Chicano Rock & Roll, Funk, Oldies, Disco, Tex~Mex, Latin Soul, & TOP 40....the kind of stuff you dance & party to, and don't hear in China...yet!

Singing lyrics one can understand, with your eyes open, and accompanied by a good band that has quality sound equipment at a speed that doesn't rival an aerobics class, is a plus.

Smiling helps. Joking and bantering is entertaining, BUT AFTER the first couple of songs. I remember working with a band where the band & I whipped up the crowd, got them on the edge of the dance floor, I introduced the band to a loud ovation...and then, the lead singer starts babbling on unneccessarily, killing the moment & mood, boring people to hit the bar or take a smoke break until the band "warmed up".

After you've been introduced, SHUT UP & PLAY!!!

Singing somebody else's song is known as a cover, which is not bad, as long as you add your own touch to it, making it memorably yours. One of the best examples I can think of is when SATISFACTION's Eileen Benavides did Etta James' "At last", bringing the house down with a vocal roll at the end of the song that Etta NEVER did...and people still talk about it, a year after she's left the band.

And you don't have to be movie star gorgeous...but acting like you are while on stage makes you look that way...as long as you don't take yourself that serious once you come off stage.

RECORDED MUSIC FOR SAMPLING ~ As I said earlier, I get music from all over from artists wanting airplay and assistance with exposure. My grand daughters on a kareoke machine have given me better quality recordings than some of the stuff I get. A few hints:

Don't record in a garage that echoes (with dogs barking and the clothes dryer humming in the background), if you expect to get taken seriously.

Recording your gig on a boom box while jammin' at a back yard bar-b-que...NOT!

Sending in a karaoke tape with commercial, pre-recorded music ...keep it!

Sending music recorded on cheap equipment, like a small tape player, or over the phone...please, stop it!!!

The only way you'll be taken serious is recording at a professional recording studio, with profesional audio people directing you. IT MATTERS! There's just no other alternative, no matter what the local "pro" (who never made it) tells you. Never assume somebody will "get it" like you do.

...and lastly, never, NEVER:

Perform, record, or try to make a business contact in the music world while intoxicated. That is a true sign of disrespect in the music world...no matter how cool you think you are!

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme broadcasts daily on www.eastLArevue.com and www.chicanoexpress.comrne-mail: Firmemusica@hotmail.com

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