Tradition, craft, commerce, boom times, love and unease: Check out my story on Nashville’s Music Row for the NY Times here. Leave a comment. Play “Jolene.”
Photo: A wannabe star playing for country music’s gatekeepers and tastemakers on Music Row, Nashville. [RF]
I was on Southern California NPR affiliate 89.3 KPCC-FM this morning discussing new legislative proposals to liberalize marijuana laws in Mexico on the program “Take Two.” I’ll post the link to the archived audio as it becomes available on their site. For now, here’s the description of the segment from the “Take Two” staff. In my conversation, I emphasized how tough it will be for these efforts to pass given the continuing public opposition to the idea of legalization.
Originally posted at www.latimes.com:
A Mexican Coachella gives new meaning to ‘roots rock’
Mexican rock bands sing in Tzotzil, Zoque and other disappearing languages of native pueblos, part of an effort to save the ancient tongues.
Photo: The members of Yibel Jme’tik Banamil, from left: Delfino Diaz Lopez, Valeriano Gomez, Juan Javier Perez Perez, Mateo Heredia and Pascual Patishtan. They perform in Tzotzil, a language spoken by about 300,000 indigenous Maya in the central highlands of Mexico’s Chiapas state. [RF]
I was on Southern Cailfornia NPR affiliate KPCC FM 89.3 yesterday talking about recent threats and violence directed at Roman Catholic priests in Mexico. Here’s the audio:
Photo: The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City (Wikimedia commons).
I was on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Friday, discussing the case of the teenage killer for the Mexican drug cartels who has served his time in the Mexican penal system, and is now free in the US. Click here to listen.
Cult rock and roll songwriter Jaime Lopez played a solo show at Mexico City’s tiny Foro del Tejedor, in La Roma, last night. It was my first exposure to Lopez, who is best known for his song “Chilanga Banda,” a super-slangy, vaguely hip-hopish, carefully constructed word salad of Mexico City patois that was covered by the famous Cafe Tacuba a few years back. (A couple of attempts to translate the lyrics can be found here.) There are many ways for a non-local to get lost in the Mexican capital. It can happen when you’re listening to what should be the simplest of spoken sentences — a testament to five centuries of Mexicans’ gleeful chopping and screwing of the European tongue they got stuck with. If you aren’t lost trying to follow “Chilanga Banda,” you must be a chilango.
Jaime Lopez is about 60 years old. He’s a grizzled character, with a face that looks like it’s survived a few bar fights and a voice like a cheap lawnmower engine. He wore black cowboy boots and a tight black T-shirt, and played a black guitar adorned with a sticker of a cowboy silhouette. I got the sense last night that he can do almost anything. After acknowledging that he was playing on the anniversary of the death of the famous Southern gringo he called “Santo Elvis,” he ran through a seemingly endless repertoire of rock and roll, trova-style folk songs, cumbias, rancheras, sensitive ballads and angry breakup songs, all the time accompanied only by his guitar.
For all I know, it may have indeed been endless. After four straight hours of playing, Lopez took a gulp of wine and asked the crowd if they wanted five hours more. They roared their assent. I couldn’t stick it out. Wish I could have.
Above, Lopez and the late Mexican actor Eulalio Gonzalez duet on a beautiful Lopez-penned number about the power of boredom and the limits of wanderlust.
Browsing MetaFilter this week, I stumbled on this episode of the public radio show Sound Opinions, in which journalists Josh Norek and Alejandro Franco offer a brief, English-language history of Mexican rock and roll.
Their tour brings us up to about the late 1990s, when Monterrey was at peace, and its middle-class kids were responsible for a varied and fascinating explosion of rock en español .
Where is Mexican music headed these days? Our hosts point to DJ outfits like Nortec Collective and the Mexican Institute of Sound, which mix traditional, regional styles with modern dance music. But under the stultifying gloss of Mexican pop-rock, there are other strange new hybrids hatching.
YouTube clip: Monterrey’s El Gran Silencio plays their “Cumbia Lunera,” from the classic 2000 CD Chuntaros Radio Poder.
This is the Mexican punk musician Juan Cirerol. He calls his songs “anarco-corridos,” and this one, “Eso Es Correcto Señor (Yo Vengo de Mexicali)” is a pure rush of adrenalin, stealing heavily from the first Bob Dylan record (the thieving Bob would surely approve), and borrowing a few bars of Jimmie Rodgers-style yodeling–but with a boozy, ragged sensibility that is pure norteño.
The lyrics are pretty straightforward: “That’s right, sir, I come from Mexicali,” he wails, which explains why he wears cowboy boots and denim, and why he drinks Tecate (the local brew). Life, he tells us, exists for us to enjoy it. So, slurp on that Tecate, and have “un toque push” while you’re at it (the slang is unknown to me, but I’m assuming that “push” isn’t Earl Grey).
Cirerol tells us he is a “Cachanilla,” which is the demonym for the people who live in Mexicali. It is a tip of the hat to the classic regional anthem “Puro Cachanilla” (which you can hear the great Vicente Fernandez do here), and part of a long tradition of geographic hyper-specificity in Mexican pop: Whether in name or in song, musicians here are inclined to tell you exactly where they’re from.
Cirerol’s new album is available for download in its entirety here.
We had been driving around the back roads of Chiapas long enough to consider ourselves friends. At one point he parked the taxi in front of his little house in Tuxtla Chico and introduced me to his wife, who gave me God’s blessing. But now we were winding up into the mountains toward a place called Union Juarez, in search of a thing we would end up not finding.
He was happy. Happy that a gabacho was in his cab, one who was paying him well for his time, happy to be heading up to the mountains, closer to the cool, deep gray of the sky, away from the sick jungle heat of the flats.
We came to a lull in the conversation. Wires were hanging out of the cavity where his tape deck should have been. So he sang Jose Alfredo Jimenez:
Por tu amor,
que tanto quiero,
y tanto extraño
Que me sirvan
otra copa y muchas más
que me sirvan
de una vez
pá todo el año
que me pienso
Si te cuentan
que me vieron
diles que es por ti,
porque yo tendré
el valor de no negarlo
gritaré que por tu amor
me estoy matando
que por tus besos
Para de hoy en adelante
ya el amor no me interesa
cantare por todo el mundo,
y mi tristeza
que de este
ya no voy a levantarme
que yo no lo quisiera
voy a morirme de amor