Is Your Noise Better Than Mine?

All Latino music is not the same, and nobody is to blame

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: April 12, 2003

Is Your Noise Better Than Mine?

Alright, I know a lot of you have seen the advertisements and calendar listings. Many of you have tuned in, but not all of you like the music called "Oldies but Goodies."

Reasons vary in the hundreds with the most common ones in L.A. are that it's "Cholo" or "Homeboy" music, or "it's too mellow." In New York, "If it's not DooWop, it's not real oldies."

The term "Oldies" has been abused, manipulated, identified out of context, ridiculed, pirated to other genres and is now being systematically removed from, and taken out of the reach of, younger generations as a unique artform.

Imagine what the world would be like if the 400 years ago the English had told their children, "Don't listen to Mozart, he's just a Austrian punk." Classical music is a multimillion dollar world wide industry today.

As a lifelong, low-ridin', educated, Chicano de Califas y Aztlan, the term "Oldies" has a very special meaning to me to tens of thousands of other people. Yeah, I'm one of those Chicanos that remembers the hurt look and embarassment on their mother's and father's faces after being ridiculed for their accents by white people at supermarkets and other public places, which resulted in them vowing never to let their children suffer this indignation, so their children were never taught Spanish.

The same Chicano that remembers his brethren in Mexico being totally ignorant and disrespectful of the sacrifice an entire generation made to save their children pain, snickering at our attempts to speak the mother language, instead of welcoming us back into the fold. Hours of debate are not neccessary: The point here is that we developed musical tastes in English, and those tastes endure. Nothing wrong with that.

Something that has always irritated the hell out of me -- an English-speaking, college educated, Viet Nam Vet, professionally employed, streets of the barrio-surviving kind of guy that can still kick your ass if you're a fool -- is that anything commercially "Latino" somehow always has to be culturally stereotypical Mexican, South American, Afro-Cuban or Carribean, and everybody has to have a Spanish accent, or talk in a hip-hop/eubonic/Spanglish twang. (I hate it when someone says "ah-ite?"...I don't talk like that, and neither do a lot of people I know.).

Hearing blaring banda music at the car wash is really getting dead. Some ranchera station taking ownership of "La Raza" in their billboards doesn't go over well with everybody. Some middle -ged vato rockin' out on an accordian in a 1970's fringe suit and a cowboy hat makes me spit beer out my nose when I laugh.

Thing is, all this is relative and accepted as "Mexican," successfully marketed to a Spanish-speaking Mexican audience. As a Chicano growing up in East L.A. in the early 60's, I remember when the word "Mexican" was spit out like a bad word by white cops and teachers.

Being called a "TJ" were fightin' words.

Which leads me back to the Oldies....they were in English. It really tripped white people out when Chicanos started putting record players and color bars in their low-riding ranflas, and jammed Rock n Roll/ R & B at top volume while cruising down the street in proud defiance of established norms expected of "Mexican immigrants." Envious people started putting a negative conotation to the word "Chicano," and "Oldies" unfairly became synonomous with Latino street gangs.

Before pyro shows, dance ensembles, cleavage and gyrating hips, lip syncing in concert, and electronically enhanced piped music and voices, music was performed and recorded live. This meant that no matter what you looked liked or who you slept with, you had to have talent to make good music that entertained people, and no amount of bass sound could hide that fact.

DooWop, group harmony, real R & B (rhythym and blues), Soul, Funk and Latin Soul from the 50s, 60s and early pre-disco 70s represent a wonderful kaleidoscope of talent and developed sound by young Latino and Black artists hitherto underexposed. The music may be old, but it's good!

One only has to catch a live show by heavy hitters like Tierra or Nuestro, or have been privy to Thee Midniters reunion concert at the Hollywood House of Blues last February to agree that "All that is Mexican is not Mariachi." The oldies will never die.


For some reason, the term "Oldies" escape the vision and definition of art in many music listeners, to the point of seeming decadent.

I remember passing out flyers to my show on Olvera Street in L.A. a couple of months ago, when some young (maybe 30) Latino gave one back to me saying, "Sorry, homes. I was in the joint....these tunes bring back bad memories". Later on that day, a young, attractive, 20ish couple gave one back saying "Sorry, we're regular Mexicans."

Where the hell they were coming from I don't know

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme is the host & executive producer of "The 2nd Time Around Show", the most listened to Oldies show on the World Wide Web, live, every Thursday at 6:00pm, on http://www.KCLAFM.com
website : http://www.frankiefirme.50megs.com

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