For top Latin(o) musical talent, will Tennessee trump Coachella?
On paper, it's one of the year's most impressive festival lineups of alternative Latin American and Latino bands: Los Amigos Invisibles from Venezuela; Mexican electronica wizards Bostich and Fussible of Nortec Collective, and the one-man digital arsenal known as Mexican Institute of Sound; and Colombian funk-rockers Aterciopelados and electro-tropicalistas Bomba Estéreo.
Try Manchester, Tenn. It'll all be happening in the Latino Alternativo Tent at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, an 8-year-old, four- or five-day annual gathering of the indie faithful in the green fields of the Mid-Atlantic. Created and staged by Superfly Productions and AC Entertainment, Bonnaroo (named for a N'Awlins portmanteau construction, popularized by Dr. John) is held on a 700-acre farm 60 miles southeast of Nashville.
This year's Latino showcase follows previous Bonnaroo spotlights on jazz and African music. In a press statement, AC Entertainment honcho Ashley Capps said: "One of the most fun aspects of programming Bonnaroo is getting creative with our speciality venues.... It's gratifying to know that we're turning on so many kids to something they most likely won't hear or see anywhere else."
Probably no one is happier about Bonnaroo's Latin presence than Tomas Cookman, the savvy founder-owner of North Hollywood-based Cookman International/Nacional Records, and his colleague Amy Blackman-Romero, who were approached by Capps to curate the acts. In a phone interview Wednesday, Cookman said that he and Blackman-Romero hadn't planned to fill the lineup with their own recording artists.
But it wasn't hard for them to sell Capps on a group of performers that collectively represent a cross-section of alt-Latino sounds, and whose ranks include multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy nominees and winners.
"We looked across the board," Cookman said, "and we kept coming back to the artists that we manage here in this office."
Cookman added that he had sent Capps a "nice, big CARE package of music" by Cookman/Nacional bands to let him hear for himself.
Increasingly, Cookman said, booking agencies are bringing Latin American and Latino musical talent to festivals outside the traditional Spanish-speaking meccas of Texas, California, Florida, New York and Chicago.
Road trip anyone?
-- Reed Johnson
Photo: Aterciopelados, waving "hi" to Tennessee. Courtesy of Cookman International / Nacional Records