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Tagged with “los angeles” (15)

  1. The Frame | Audio: LA band Quetzal revisits its musical roots in Mexico | 89.3 KPCC

    For more than 20 years, the Grammy Award-winning L.A. band, Quetzal, has incorporated the music and instruments of Mexico’s son jarocho style into its sound. For its next album, the band wanted to revisit the source of this music, so the members recently traveled to Veracruz to immerse themselves in that world.

    The first stop was on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon at the home of musicians Tacho Utrera and Wendy Cao-Romero. They live in a coffee region, 10 minutes south of Xalapa, the capital of the Gulf state of Veracruz. 

    Following tradition, the musicians opened with the song that marks the beginning of the jam session, "El Siquisirí." Cao-Romero welcomed the guests with verses that name-checked Sandino, the 10-year old son of musician Quetzal Flores and singer Martha Gonzalez, leaders of the band.

    Cao-Romero said the two families have kept a deep friendship and musical connection for many years and have collaborated on various projects:

    “For us, it’s very important that they continue to be interested in our music, because they’re so well-known and they’re a window into the world, as Chicanos and as American musicians.”

    On Monday afternoon, the band visited Ramón Gutiérrez at his studio-workshop. He plays the five-string guitar-like instrument called the requinto, and he leads the renowned group Son de Madera.

    Ramón Gutierrez, center, is an instrument maker and leader of the band Grupo Mono Blanco.

    Betto Arcos

    Flores said the trip to Veracruz had a specific purpose: to immerse the band in the son jarocho environment, and chronicle their time with the music community. Flores said they will bring back the field recordings and create soundscapes that will serve as the foundation for the band’s compositions:

    “We’re going to compose to these sounds, to these interactions, the voices that you hear of people having conversations, the playing together, the children interacting — all these things are part of the social fabric of who we are and this relationship that we have with the jarocho community.”

    Gutiérrez says in the more than 35 years he’s been playing son jarocho, he’s never seen a rock band with the ability to absorb and distill this music like Quetzal:

    “I think it’s the only group I’ve seen on stage, playing jaranas and having a very exciting mix of today’s music. It sounds like rock, but you see Martha playing jarana and Quetzal [playing] requinto with pedals.”

    On Tuesday afternoon, Quetzal visited a cultural center dedicated to the teaching of son jarocho in the port city of Veracruz. The center was founded in 2001 by Gilberto Gutiérrez, leader of Grupo Mono Blanco, the group that led the son jarocho music and dance renaissance in the early 1980s. Gutiérrez says Quetzal follows in the footsteps of the great Chicano artists, Lalo Guerrero and Los Lobos:

    “It’s admirable how they’ve become interested in Mexican culture. It would have been just as easy to disregard it, like many others have done. On the contrary, they have reaffirmed themselves as part of this culture and it’s clearly reflected in the music they make.”

    On Wednesday, the band headed three hours south of Veracruz and arrived at El Hato, where in the early 1980s Grupo Mono Blanco jump-started the fandango tradition. Fandango is a celebration of music and dance and is the most significant aspect of son jarocho. Quetzal singer Martha Gonzalez said this visit was enriched by the presence of her son, Sandino:

    Sandino Gonzalez Flores, the 10-year-old son of Quetzal Flores and Martha Gonzalez, is already an accomplished musician.

    Betto Arcos

    “It’s really special to see my son here, playing in the same space, to know that there’s more than one generation and that he likes [the music]. Mainly, it’s the fact that he really enjoys it. We don’t make him play. He takes pride in his instrument and, any chance he can, he learns from the big dogs.”

    Quetzal Flores said their connection to son jarocho goes well beyond a visit to the source of this musical culture. It’s also about re-establishing relationships with the community, like the musician and instrument-maker, Ramón Gutierrez:

    “Sandino has a requinto from Ramón. So we have all these instruments that also have these voices of these people, extensions of their voices. It’s important for us to not just to have an instrument, but know who made it, and the stories behind them and these incredible histories that we connect to in so many ways, and that have created a sense of home in multiple places — for them and for us.”

    Flores said this exchange, built on friendship and a strong musical connection, has created a spirit of reciprocity for both communities — in Veracruz and Los Angeles.

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2017/11/15/60238/l-a-band-quetzal-revisits-its-musical-roots-in-mex/

    —Huffduffed by grankabeza

  2. Take Two® | Oaxacan traditions live on in LA through music schools | 89.3 KPCC

    Los Angeles is home to the largest number of immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The LA Oaxacan community has a rich musical culture, supported in part by a tradition of schools that promote music education through brass bands. 

    Two years ago, Esteban Zúñiga had to stop teaching music in his garage. His neighbors kept calling the police and he was repeatedly fined. He went to court, and the judge dismissed the fines. But to stay out of trouble, he decided to save money from his landscaping job to soundproof the garage.

    “It’s a lot, it’s a lot of investment. Why? Because it’s community work. It’s for our culture. I prefer my community or the descendants learning their culture, instead of being in the streets or getting hypnotized by the technology that we have," he said.

    Tonight, in that soundproof garage, complete with air conditioning and a bathroom, Zúñiga teaches a group of fifteen students, ranging in ages eight to sixteen. Saúl Martinez is one of Zúñiga’s students. He’s eight years old and plays soprano saxophone.

    Saúl Martinez (right) plays the saxophone.

    Norma Policarpo is Saúl’s mother. She’s been bringing her son to Zúñiga’s music school for the past ten months. She says Saul puts a lot of effort into it, learns more every day and is persistent. She’s seen his progress, that’s why she keeps bringing him — that, and the fact that her son is learning Oaxacan customs, and keeping its traditions alive.

    Esteban Zuñiga and other teachers like him are replicating a tradition from Oaxaca called “Escoleta": A music school based in a village.

    “Each village has one. The most important thing is, once they have an Escoleta, it’s music for everybody in their hometown, basically free, so they can keep passing the musical tradition," said Zuñiga.

    That musical tradition is focused on the brass band, usually made up of twenty to thirty-five instruments — trumpets, trombones, sousaphones, along with clarinets, saxophones, and two drums. Here in Los Angeles, there are more than a dozen Oaxacan brass bands, and each has its own Escoleta.

    Zuñiga is preparing his students for a new brass band he’s forming. They’ve been practicing for six months. Once he’s worked with them for about a year, he says they’ll be ready to play in public.

    Two miles from Zuñiga’s garage, there’s a storefront on Pico Blvd. Maqueos Music Academy is home to a thirty-piece brass band and a large dance troupe. They’re rehearsing for a traditional music and dance festival called Guelaguetza.

    Students practice their instruments at the Maqueos Music Academy.

    Estanislao Maqueos was director of his hometown’s municipal brass band. He moved to LA in 2000. After a few years working odd jobs and gaining the respect of the local Oaxacan community, he established his music school. Since then, he’s helped form several brass bands.

    “It’s difficult for the children because they were born here and it’s another culture," Maqueos says. "We’re imposing our children to play our music and it’s hard, but after so much persistence, they do learn to love our Oaxacan music, they dance to it, and they make it their own.”

    Maqueos says the goal is to help their children find their identity: “Even though they were born in this country, their roots are in Oaxaca, the roots of their parents are there, and part of their identity is this music.”

    Oaxacan brass bands play at all kinds of private and public events — from religious processions to dance festivals. Tonight, at the home of Maqueos Music Academy, there’s a party celebrating a baptism.

    19-year-old Yulisa Maqueos directs the Maqueos Music Academy band.

    Nineteen year-old Yulisa Maqueos is directing the band. She plays clarinet and is the daughter of Maestro Maqueos. She says her father has built an impressive body of work.

    “As immigrants, we come here with nothing and we work hard, and seeing how someone from the pueblo can actually succeed in any other way that a citizen could do it… I think it just gives me a feeling of hope that everything is possible.”

    There are people who call Maqueos Music school “the hotbed” of brass bands in Los Angeles. In seventeen years, Maqueos has taught music to more than five hundred students. Still, he says he has bigger dreams: “I want to have a big band with strings, a complete symphonic orchestra.”

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2017/06/30/57630/oaxacan-traditions-live-on-in-la-through-music-sch/

    —Huffduffed by grankabeza

  3. Take Two® | A musician in LA tries to keep ‘Son Jarocho’ alive | 89.3 KPCC

    If you’ve ever heard "La Bamba," then you’ve heard Son Jarocho. The Mexican folk music style has been popular in the L.A. area for many decades. In the late 1950s, Ritchie Valens helped to bring a spotlight to it. And in the ’70s and ’80s, Los Lobos continued to popularize the sound.  

    César Castro is a contemporary ‘Son Jarocho’ musician who lives in L.A. but comes from the place where the music was born - Veracruz. Castro is a 21st-century renaissance man of Son Jarocho in Los Angeles. Since he arrived from Veracruz, 12 years ago, he’s become a bandleader, an instrument maker, a teacher, and a few other things. But at the center of Castro’s work is the music he plays.

    Son Jarocho’s best-known anthem is “La Bamba.” While he plays this tune, Castro demonstrates the genre’s two main instruments: the Requinto - a small four-string lead guitar - and the Jarana, a small, eight-string guitar. Castro says this music opened a whole new world to him when he first heard it:

    “When I was thirteen, I had no music background. What I heard was happiness, harmony. But I couldn’t put that in words. I just felt good to walk in that little space, watching people about my age, doing something and I was like, wait, what’s that, curiosity. And finally, when I was able to throw a chord in the Jarana, it was amazing.

    Something similar happened to East L.A. guitarist Chuy Sandoval when he first heard this music, eight years ago:

    “When I heard Son Jarocho, and most importantly what hit me first was the lyrics, the verses. When I heard what these people were singing about. They were saying words and phrases that I had heard my Mom use at home. I had an emotional response to it. And not only that but it’s so much fun to play!”

    Sandoval is one of the four members of Cambalache, a Son Jarocho band led by Cesar Castro. Their new album is called “Constelación de Sonidos - Constellation of Sounds." The tunes are traditional Son Jarocho. But they’re played on something more familiar to Los Angeles—electric guitars. Sandoval says every song in the album is a traditional Son Jarocho: 

    “But we’re playing them with the sounds that ‘Us’, when I say ‘Us’ I mean the Chicanos that are in the band, the sounds that the Chicanos grew-up with. So, there’s going to be a lot of electric guitar, a lot of rock and roll influence, oldies influence in there, but throwing it in there with Sones Jarochos.”

    Cesar Castro and Chuy Sandoval play their instruments. Betto Arcos

    Rafael Figueroa is a researcher from Veracruz who writes about the music and culture of Son Jarocho. He says it’s easy to see why it’s become so popular in the L.A. area. Figueroa says ‘Son Jarocho’ is an alternative to Mariachi and it’s an easily accessible style of traditional Mexican music:

    “You can adapt it to your own needs, you can play with it, you can add some things, you can add people. It’s flexible enough to accommodate almost any taste, you can play it slow, you can play it fast, you can participate even if you’re not really an accomplished musician, you can participate in Son Jarocho somehow.” 

    A big part of participating in Son Jarocho is the celebration of music and dance called Fandango. This is a gathering where musicians play their instruments and sing, while dancers take turns on a wood platform called Tarima. Castro says the Fandango is an engaging ritual:

    “So it’s easy to start participating and you can do it with percussion which can be an easy-in, let’s say that way with a simple pattern and you’re already participating. And then when you feel that, when you feel welcome to a new community then you want to be part of it right, you want to come back, music makes you feel good then you want to keep practicing it.”

    Cesar Castro, a contemporary ‘Son Jarocho’ musician who lives in L.A. Betto Arcos

    Cesar Castro’s band Cambalache will be doing a special concert on June 3rd at the Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo. It will be his opportunity to honor some of the musicians from Veracruz that have helped him along the way - and a chance for many local musicians to honor a teacher who continues to spread the word about Son Jarocho to anyone who will listen.

    To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2017/06/01/57143/a-musician-in-la-tries-to-keep-son-jarocho-alive/

    —Huffduffed by grankabeza

  4. The Frame | Lila Downs adds a political touch to the traditional bolero | 89.3 KPCC

    Mexican-American singer Lila Downs became well-known after she appeared in Julie Taymor’s “Frida” in 2002, and her performance of a song from that film on the Academy Awards. 

    Over the course of her career, she has always engaged in political issues. Last September, during the U.S. presidential campaign, Downs wrote a song called “The Demagogue." It was her critique of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. After the song was released as a single and "nothing came of it," Downs says she was both depressed and angry:

    "Sometimes being explicit isn’t very useful. That’s what I felt when we wrote “The Demagogue.’"

    Downs then wrote a song called “Envidia” — “Envy,” which she performs with Argentine rocker Andrés Calamaro on her new album, “Salón Lágrimas y Deseo (Salón, Tears and Desire”).

    After getting angry because people hate us, because we’re racially inferior to them, well, you know what I think of you? I think you’re envious of me. That’s what you are. You may be white, but you know what! You don’t know how to dance! Hahahaha! And I’m being very confrontational about that in this song and I really do think it’s about envy.

    It’s in the aftermath of the U.S. election that Downs decided to make an album focused on romantic songs called boleros. These are ballads that are considered standards and are very popular in every Spanish-speaking country. 

    But Down’s boleros are not love songs. She says her collection is related to the way people are feeling today in Mexico, where she lives. She says the messages in the songs are political and universal in a profound way. 

    The bolero called "La Mentira" (The Lie) speaks about the relationship between a politician and a person who helped elect him:

    At the end, it says, Well, no problem, you can just leave and pretend like we have no relationship here, because this promise that we have is based on a lie, right? And it says, You can just go, because God is not involved in this decision.

    Downs says at the center of the violence in Mexico, is the loss of basic moral values:

    People don’t have a conscience and have no sense of what’s right or wrong. Of course, not everyone. What I mean is that the violence has gotten stronger and stronger, the presence of the violence in this country. And it starts to make you wonder whether we’re going to be able to live our lives the way we have been living them. It’s really scary.

    In the ballad called “Seguiré mi viaje" (I will continue my trip), Downs says it’s the voice of an immigrant who travels back-and-forth between Mexico and the United States:

    The lyrics say, Oh, so now you think you’re superior, you’re above me and I’m beneath you? But you know what? I don’t care, I’m going to continue on my trip, which I love, because seguiré mi viaje is a very hippie kind of [term] — Your trip, you’re going to continue your trip. And what I feel is that it’s the paisanos you know, coming back and being strong and saying, I’m going to continue my trip, no matter what.

    Despite the backlash against immigrants in the U.S., Downs is hopeful. Her new album opens with a song called “Urge.” The voice of the immigrant makes a plea:

    “With my heartbreak, I’m just kind of rolling around like a rolling stone, I really just need somebody to listen to my failures and my successes.”

    Downs says now is a great opportunity to show who the immigrants from Latin America are. After all, they’re just like others who came here before, in search of a better life.

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2017/05/31/57113/lila-downs-adds-a-political-touch-to-the-tradition/

    —Huffduffed by grankabeza

  5. The Frame | Timothy Olyphant might just be the luckiest guy in Hollywood | 89.3 KPCC

    When I went to New York, I had no acting experience at all. I’d never done a high school play. Nothing. It was a hunch. I took a class after college. I needed some electives so I took an acting class. I had so much fun. I was already an art major and was thinking of getting a masters in painting. They were both absurd choices. I moved to New York and started taking acting classes. I’m struggling, I’m taking classes and I’m waiting tables and bartending. That was already exciting. I’m like, Look — I’m that guy! I’m a cliché! Growing up in Modesto, I never thought I’d be that guy, so this was already pretty fun.

    You always hear that only two percent make it [in acting]. So you start talking to all the people you’re waiting tables with and bartending with and asking them what they’re doing. Most of them you’ve thought to yourself, That’s not going to work! Your plan is not a good one! It’s the story that everybody likes to tell — that people are discovered. that these magical things happen. First of all, the story is often not really true. And two, if you think they were trying to become professional basketball players, no one would say, I used to play a lot. I haven’t been playing lately, but I have an uncle who knows the guy who’s an assistant trainer for the Celtics and he said, there’s a chance… I believe that applies, that metaphor.

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2017/03/06/55447/timothy-olyphant-might-just-be-the-luckiest-guy-in/

    —Huffduffed by grankabeza

  6. The Frame | From Havana to LA: A new musical connection | 89.3 KPCC

    Cuban music has long had a strong connection to the United States, and that includes the days when jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie favored the sounds from the Caribbean island nation. And then the “Buena Vista Social Club” movie and soundtrack provided a huge boost to the Cuban music scene in the late 1990s.

    Today’s generation of Cuban artists is carving a new path. Singer Daymé Arocena is one of those artists. Her new album is called “Cubafonía.” Arocena says the title carries a special meaning: “’Cubafonía’ is the journey of the paradise that is Cuban music.”

    Arocena lives a few blocks from Plaza de la Revolución. As she talks, the sound of the neighborhood comes in thru the open windows of her fifth floor apartment: “I’m just trying to bring alive again those rhythms, that music that made me dance, made me sing, when I was a kid, that gave me the pushing to make music, to write music.”

    This is Arocena’s second album for renowned DJ/producer Gilles Peterson’s London-based label. In 2014, Peterson invited Arocena to take part in his Havana Cultura Mix Project. Then came a record deal and her first album, “Nueva Era,” released in 2015.

    Arocena, who is 25-years-old, says that album was her opening to the world. But now that people know her name: “The next step is to take them into your heart, into your spirits, you have to show them who you are, more than just a name, more than just this person that Gilles Peterson met one day and decided to help. You have to show them, where are you coming from. What is the music that is into your roots, is in your blood.”

    “Cubafonía” is a travelogue of Afro-Cuban music. The album opens with a song dedicated to the Santería spirit called “Eleggua” who represents the beginning and the end. Arocena is a practitioner of the Santeria religion.

    Another song on the album is called “La Rumba Me Llamo Yo” — My Name is Rumba. It’s inspired by a dream where Santería priests read shells and stones to tell Arocena about her life and her future.

    While Arocena’s album is steeped in Cuba, there’s also an L.A. connection. Los Angeles-based Dexter Story was the album’s producer. He’s collaborated with saxophonist Kamasi Washington and Marie Daulne of Zap Mamá, among many others. Peterson recommended him to Arocena. Story says he was impressed by Arocena after listening to the album demos:

    “I was blown away by the progressiveness of the music. I’ve heard a lot of Cuban music. I thought she was actually taking it in a fresh direction. I was just amazed by her well-roundedness. She’s a great singer. In fact she was raised as a choir director. In Cuba, they actually train you on different instruments. She’s an accomplished pianist. On top of that she can arrange horns and strings. I was blown away by her talent."

    Arocena has been to Los Angeles three times. The last time was to record her voice tracks for the new album. She’s found L.A. has a certain affinity with Cuba:

    "I have to say that L.A. is my favorite city in the U.S. L.A. is more chill and you can see the mountains in the background, so I feel it closer to Cuba, and they have the beach. It’s different. It’s deeper, I think.

    Arocena says this album has another purpose: to help people understand what Cuban music is and is not: “When people think Cuban music is just Buena Vista Social Club, when people don’t know that rumba is the beginning of all the rhythms of Cuba, all of that makes me really angry, makes me sad.”

    Daymé Arocena’s “Cubafonía” all adds up to a musical statement from a young singer living in the 21st Century, supported by deep roots that have helped to find her own.

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2017/03/14/55581/from-havana-to-l-a-a-new-musical-connection/

    —Huffduffed by grankabeza

  7. AirTalk | Twitter’s alt-right ban: crack down on hate speech or a step down a slippery slope? | 89.3 KPCC

    Twitter has suspended several accounts belonging to prominent members of the alt-right movement.

    One of the banned accounts belongs to Richard Spencer, who is credited with founding the movement with white nationalist leanings.

    In a video posted two days ago, Spencer criticized Twitter’s actions as a kind of censorship. “It is corporate Stalinism, in a sense that there is a great purge going on and they’re purging people on the basis of their views,” he says in the video.

    The company points to its policy as justification for the suspensions. What do you think of the ban? Would it achieve what Twitter and its supporters intend?

    Guests:

    Susan Benesch, Director of the nonprofit, Dangerous Speech Project. She is a member of Twitter’s “Trust and Safety Council,” which councils the company on content regulation.

    Mathew Ingram, senior writer at Fortune magazine, who has published a piece on the ban this week

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2016/11/17/53121/twitters-alt-right-ban-crack-down-on-hate-speech-o/

    —Huffduffed by grankabeza

  8. The Frame | The US embargo against Cuba doesn’t stop illicit TV providers | 89.3 KPCC

    It’s a Tuesday evening at Rafael Valdivia’s apartment in Havana. Soon, a delivery man arrives. He pulls out a small hard drive, which Valdivia connects to his computer. He begins to select from a load of digital files: current movies, documentaries, soap operas, video games, cartoons, American TV series with Spanish subtitles. This is how many Cubans get their daily entertainment. 

    “El Paquete Semanal,” or "The Weekly Package," is delivered all over the island through a network of distributors. This delivery man is named Nelson. I ask him where the hard drive is assembled. He says there are several “production houses.” One compiles the movies, another one the video games, another one the soap operas, and so on. Then he adds:

    Apparently, the government has no control over it. So they haven’t been able to get rid of it. Believe me, if they could get rid of it, they would have done it already.

    The package costs the equivalent of $2. Some experts estimate that about six million people enjoy it every week. That’s more than half the population of Cuba. About 75 percent of the content came out just the week prior, on dozens of entertainment channels from around the world.

    NELSON: Peruvian, Chilean, American, Spanish TV — it’s a compilation. They gather soap operas, documentaries, TV shows, news magazines — they create a compendium and then it’s distributed. 

    “El Paquete Semanal,” or "The Weekly Package," contains almost a terabyte of cartoons, soap operas, TV shows and movies from the U.S. and Latin America. Betto Arcos

    Nelson has distributed content for the past three years. He says Cubans consume all sorts of entertainment, like everyone else.

    Cartoons are the most popular. But also soap operas, Discovery Channel programs are also very popular. And, of course, movies — all the new movies that come out, the Hollywood premieres.

    As I sit with Valdivia, he’s browsing through the contents of “El Paquete Semanal” and comes across a very popular show in Cuba.

    The one I like best is “The Voice” — but the American version, not the others. It’s the one that has the highest standards, not just because of the jury, but for the way it’s conceived.

    I ask Nelson, the delivery man, how many gigabytes of content are in the hard drive.

    Almost a terabyte, every week. Of course, in one terabyte you can fit in every kind of taste. 

    The weekly package of programming costs each customer the equivalent of $2. Some experts estimate that about six million Cubans enjoy it every week. Betto Arcos

    Nelson says he visits between 25-30 clients every week. He starts delivery on Tuesday and works all week. On Sunday, he deletes the files from his hard drive. Then, on Monday, he gets the updated version of the package and starts all over again.

    It’s the type of business that takes up a lot of time. People have to copy the contents and it takes 1-2 hours to do it, so I can’t service a lot of people. Plus not everyone has a good computer. I have clients in Old Havana, and in areas where some of the high-level government officials live. 

    Valdivia says whether it provides entertainment or information, the main purpose of the “Weekly Package” is to satisfy the need for content in Cuba.

    Because we’re living in a very visual era, and with the lack of Internet connectivity we have, plus the technological limitations, plus all the external and internal problems, it makes people want to look in the "weekly package" for the things they cannot find on TV or radio in Cuba.

    I also visit with my longtime friend Dago, who’s a regular consumer of the delivery service. He says last year a reporter from Forbes Magazine came to Havana to interview the man behind “El Paquete Semanal.” 

    So, if Forbes Magazine was focused on this guy, this guy [has] gold, real solid gold in his hand. Maybe in a normal country he’s a pirate. But, there is no law [in Cuba]. So there’s no problem.

    It’s no problem now. But everyone knows it will be when the U.S. embargo against Cuba is lifted.

    http://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2016/08/22/51492/the-u-s-embargo-against-cuba-doesn-t-stop-illicit/

    —Huffduffed by grankabeza

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