A Year of Music in Review

LatinoLA blessed with quality concerts, CDs

By Abelardo de la Pe?a Jr.
Published on LatinoLA: December 31, 2002

A Year of Music in Review

I must confess: As cool a job it is to be editor of LatinoLA, I really don't get out that much. Yes, I either input or edit all of the events that get posted online (3,555 so far this year), so I know of all the choice happenings that are going on in the center of the Latino universe where we happen to live: Southern California

Of course, if I had my way, I would be out on the streets and in clubs, galleries, theatres, and other venues at least seven times a week (since that seems to be the limit).

But with real work (you know, the kind where you get paid) taking eight to 10 hours a day, along with spending time with my family and then squeezing in some quality LatinoLA time in between, it doesn't leave much for going out.

Now, don't start feeling sorry for me now, because despite the lack of time, if there is something I really, really want to see or listen to or experience, I manage to make it happen. And though I've missed more than than my share, I've more than made up for it in quality.

So right now let me briefly describe some of my personal highlights of the past year in the area of music, beginning with the most recent concert I attended: Cafe Tacuba at the Hollywood Palladium.

This fall the quartet from Mexico City released their first recording in a while, a four-song EP called "Valle Calampa," where they interpreted the work of a band from Chile. It was done with the same respect and care as a previous album they'd released, "Avalanche de Exitos," an entire CD worth of covers from various Latin American bands and individuals. Coincidently, about the same time, my wife Linda, who works at the central library, brought home a copy of Cafe Tacuba's "Re", released almost 10 years ago, that somehow escaped my CD player. Also, with my birthday money I bought another one of their CDs, "Reves/Soy." So needless to say, I was pumped for the late November show and was treated rather well by Veronica and Jennifer at Elemental Music.

Suffice it to say that after enjoying the show from the balcony of the Palladium, Linda and I ran down to the main floor where we joined the swirling, sweaty madness of boys and girls as they jumped and swayed and banged each other up to one great song after another. The members of Cafe Tacuba had us in hypnotic spell as they blasted many of their many recognizable songs, including the confusingly entertaining "Chilanga Banda" and the norte?o "La Ingrata."

The set ranged from moody acoustic ballads to atmospheric new wave to full raging punk. The instrumentation was first rate and blissfully loud. Beautiful harmonies backed the somewhat grating voice of the singer, who wore an absurd knit cap that resembled a rooster (or maybe a Thanksgiving turkey?). He kicked and posed and looked you in the eye as he sang, always with a sincere smile on his face.

We got caught, perhaps intentionally, in one of many slam fests as rockeros and rockeras swirled in circular, muscular motion. In the mayhem, Linda lost a necklace she had just bought, but we left smiling nonetheless. No doubt someone found it who really needed it, just like we really needed to see and hear Cafe Tacuba that night. Can't wait for the new full length CD, coming out in 2003.

Another great night of music took place the month before at the Mayan in downtown LA, when Ruben Blades took the stage to perform selections from his latest: "Mundo." "Mundo" is a musical journey of that takes listeners from the interior of Africa to the rolling hills of Ireland, landing in Nueva York by way of Cuba, with stops in the Mideast for a little exotic flavor.

It features a wide range of humanistic themes, sung with wisdom and assuredness by one of the masters of musica tropical. Backed by a young band out of Costa Rica along with a vocal group from Brazil, Blades made us dance, made us think, made us feel. Classics like "Plastica" and "Pedro Navaja" blended in quite nicely with later songs including "Todos Vuelven" and "Decisiones."

It was the music of Ruben Blades who introduced me to the expanse and
genius of Latino music after I spent years listening almost exclusively to rock n roll, jazz and other idioms (including bluegrass, I'm somewhat embarrased to admit). His genius to both make us think and dance at the same time was apparent that night at the Mayan, as more than 20 musicians crowded the stage in front of many dancing couples twirling to songs which spoke of world unity and understanding. If you have extra Christmas money or a Best Buys gift certificate needing to be cashed in, you won't lose by giving in to the multiple layers of "Mundo".

LatinoLA's own also came through this past year, both on stage and on disk. Quetzal released their second CD "Sing the Real", which leaped from the speakers with a sense of urgency and artistry. An immaculately pristine production, combining indigenous elements with Chicano style, Quetzal's progress was duplicated on stage as well, as they toured with such luminaries as Cubanismo, Los Lobos and even Kid Rock in venues across the U.S.

But it was at their CD release event at Fais Do Do early this summer that Quetzal really let their hometown know that they belong among us, as fans who have followed them since they rose from the streets of East LA shook the house to the rafters with cheers of joy and triumph.

Los Lobos, veteranos of the musical battlefield for nearly 30 years, also released a new CD, "Good Morning, Aztlan". Although it didn't break through any new musical dimensions, it is a surprisingly young-sounding production, incorporating their classic two guitar blast with words that inspire and conspire. A House of Blues engagement this year was a cause for celebration, with members of Quetzal (who opened the show) joining in on several songs.

Finally (to end this article, anyway), one of LatinoLA's untold secrets is that some of the best music to be presented is at the many fundraisers and awards shows that take place throughout the year.

At the second annual Crowning Achievement Awards, which benefits the East Los Angeles Theatre Company, a pickup band composed of Cuban bass legend Cachao, fronted by Andy Garcia on bongos, Justo Almario on saxophone and Ruben Blades on backup vocals (among other master session musicians), played a few Afro-Cuban classics to a small but awed crowd at the Century Club.

Also, at the Unity Festival benefitting Latino victims of the September 11 terrorist attack, Domingo Siete, Ozomatli and others warmed up an East LA street crowded with young hipsters, muchas familias and veteranos, and others who wandered from throughout Southern California for a good cause.

Here also are some CDs that have made their way onto the official LatinoLA CD player that are definitely worth a listen: Los Tigres del Norte "La Reina del Sur", Barrio Latino 3, Maraca's "Tremenda Rumba", Thump Records "Funk Classics 7", and Ollin's independent release.

So, that kind of wraps up this person's year in music, but not before I give thanks to musicians, producers, record labels, publicists, promoters and everyone else who keeps LatinoLA.com in mind.

?Que viva la musica!

About Abelardo de la Pe?a Jr.:
Review your year in music at http://www.latinola.com/submitstory.php

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