Category: Latino Culture

Adanowsky and the art of bedroom folk

“When I am not in love with someone, I am lost,” Adan Jodorowsky said as he lounged back in his chair, his black shirt open slightly as he looked to the sky, his eyes covered by dark sunglasses. The French singer is on a journey, but his destination is unknown. He’s looking for a sense of home, for love, and an audience to share the heart-gripping, swooning folk ballads of his dreamy band Adanowsky. The lonesome troubadour, the searching artist, the boyish troublemaker; Adan Jodorowsky is them all.

On Tuesday, Adanowsky’s album "Amador" debuts in the U.S. It’s a velvety affair infused with creaky barroom pianos, gentle guitar strums and Jodorowsky’s smoky, Gainsbourg-like croons that waft along like a cigar plume. The intimate album, sung in Spanish and English, explores the character of “the lover,” who is not unlike Jodorowsky himself.

"Amador" is music for rainy mornings with a French press brewing in the kitchen. It’s music for the last couple on the floor, slow-dancing after the bar has cleared and the chairs are stacked. It’s an exploration of the art of being alone, loveless and always searching.

For Jodorowsky, music and art have been his longest love affair. “Without art, I die,” Jodorowsky said, sitting in the backyard of an estate in the Los Feliz hills. “I don’t do it because I want to do it, or it’s something fun. No. I really need it in my life or I get depressed.”

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Live: Calle 13 shows off a large Latin American tent

The evolving duo Calle 13 embraces a diverse musical world at the House of Blues in Anaheim.

Live: Calle 13 shows off a large Latin American tent

The dream of a unified Latin America has been an obsession of conquerors and revolutionaries from Hernán Cortés to Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez.

Politically, the idea is a minefield. But musically it's becoming more of a propulsive reality, as the white-hot Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 made clear in its Thursday night show at the House of Blues Anaheim.

At next month's Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, Calle 13 will be up for 10 trophies, including album of the year and song of the year — a record number of nominations for any one group or artist at the annual ceremony.

What makes the feat impressive is that Calle 13 has prospered not by rephrasing formulas but by consistently pushing its music beyond the sexually bragadocious hip-hop and superbly savage reggaeton beats that defined its original sound and the group's early image as a sort of Puerto Rican Beastie Boys.

Calle 13 now embraces a pan-hemispheric approach that comfortably enfolds cumbia rhythms, Cuban syncopation, fiery ska horns and the folkloric tints of obscure regional instruments like the Mexican quijada (a donkey's jawbone) and the Argentine bombo legüero drum.

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Mariachi El Bronx: A cross-border love affair

What happens when a hard-core band decides to pick up traditional mariachi instruments and charro suits? The Bronx did just that in 2009, to the astonishment of fans and critics. Call it sweetly ruminative music with a bit of edge.

Mariachi El Bronx

Mixing punk rock with mariachi music might sound like a quixotic mission.

Unless, that is, you've ever stumbled upon a troupe of Guadalajara horn players closing down a bar after one too many tequilas. Or you've heard Mariachi El Bronx.

Mariachi El Bronx, which is opening for the Foo Fighters on Thursday at the Forum, is the charro-suited alter ego of the Bronx, one of L.A.'s most formidable hard-core punk bands. Smashing into existence in 2002, the Bronx became known for its raw lyrics and apocalyptic instrumentals on such snarling anthems as "White Guilt" (about a coke-addled prostitute) and "False Alarm."

Then in 2009, to the astonishment and (mostly) approval of fans and critics, the band spun off a side project, Mariachi El Bronx, which is exactly what it sounds like: a mariachi band that performs both traditional and new tunes, in English, with horns, strings and outfits.

Some of the songs on the band's recently released second album, such as "48 Roses," combine the melodic pathos of Mexican regional music with the aggressive energy and self-lacerating wit of punk.

Lead singer Matt Caughthran, who normally sounds like he's about to smash a bottle over your head (or his), sounds on the lovely lament "Map of the World" like any confused lover howling at the Jalisco moon. And "Everything Dies" is as sweetly ruminative a bolero as any melancholy young poet might hope to pen.

All that makes sense for a group whose two biggest influences are Los Lobos and Black Flag, according to Joby J. Ford, who plays guitar in the punk band and the Mexican five-string vihuela and the accordion in the eight-member mariachi ensemble.

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Latin Grammy Awards will honor Shakira for humanitarian works

It's hardly surprising that Shakira is up for three trophies at November's Latin Grammy Awards ceremony in Las Vegas. The Colombian pop superstar already is a seven-time Latin Grammy winner, and she's also taken home two Grammys  as well.

But even if Shakira leaves the Mandelay Bay Convention Center empty-handed on Nov. 10, her efforts won't go unrewarded. On the eve of the Latin Grammys, Shakira will receive the Latin Recording Academy's Person of the Year award, underscoring her reputation as a kind of Latina equivalent of U2 frontman Bono in philanthropic do-gooding.

Shakira was only 18 when she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation, a charity that funds schools for Colombia's many underserved and impoverished children. She also serves as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, focusing primarily on educational issues and advocacy.

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Review: Los Van Van at the Conga Room

Los Van Van Urgent memo to the Department of Homeland Security: Los Van Van, the brilliant Cuban dance band that tore up the Conga Room on Thursday night, poses a clear and present danger to the U.S. capitalist system.

Not because the ensemble and its roughly 70-year-old leader, Juan Formell, represent any actual threat that would justify the absurd delays the group has endured in trying to obtain U.S. travel visas over the past few months.

No, the real menace is that anyone witnessing Los Van Van perform live, as they've been doing since the late 1960s, will be swept up in a sweaty rhythmic euphoria, potentially causing them to miss work the next day and thereby undermining the free-market way of life.

On Thursday night, not even Kennedy-era red tape, and a somewhat gnarly sound mix that occasionally smothered the band's charanga-style string and keyboard players, could prevent Los Van Van from working its spell.

A floor-jamming crowd of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Angelenos of all flavors came together for a show of comradely, eroticized musicianship, triggering a giant dance party that roared on late into the night. Some of those present may be dancing still.

Los Van Van's longevity derives from Formell's relentless and cunning innovations as a composer and orchestral arranger. Over successive decades, he has painted drum machines and synthesizers into a dance-scape that gives pride of place to its brass section and jangling piano, thereby fashioning a funkier, hook-laden version of traditional Cuban son that Formell has dubbed songo.

Seventeen members strong in Thursday's L.A. incarnation, the band strung together extended versions of about a dozen of its hits, leading off with “Chapeando” and a smoking rendition of “Me Mantengo,” fronted by a charismatic quartet of singers: Mayito (Mario Rivera), El Lele (Abdel Rasalps), Yeni (Yenisel Valdes) and Roberton (Roberto Hernandez Acea).

Although their lyrical dexterity would make any listener assume the singers are improvising, much of the wordplay and scatting is as tightly scripted as the band's meticulous instrumentation. Formell, a relaxed and benign onstage presence, is a ruthless comandante when it comes to maintaining aesthetic discipline and somehow making it feel totally loose and organic — the essence of Cuba's musical genius.

Elder statesman Formell also lent his voice as backup to the proceedings, but mostly he focused on conducting the players, a superb group that included Roberto Carlos on piano and trombonists Alvaro Collado, Hugo Morejon and Edmundo Pina.

Here's hoping that Formell and his compatriots find their next U.S. tour less impeded by political posturing. Pleasure, joy and sensuality do not a foreign policy make, but they could be a great warm-up.


Los Van Van postpones Conga Room gig in August

Los Van Van's visit signals thaw in U.S.-Cuba cultural relations

Los Van Van floors it from start to finish

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Roberto Hernandez Acea, a.k.a. Roberton of the band Los Van Van, performs at the Conga Room. Credit: Eddie Sakaki / The Conga Room

Calle 13 dominates Latin Grammys nominations

The Puerto Rican duo receive a record 10 nominations from the Latin Recording Academy.


To Latin music aficionados, the key question for this year's 12th Latin Grammys wasn't whether the Puerto Rican urban/hip-hop duo Calle 13 would receive any nominations.

The question was: How many?

The answer, 10, is a record number for the Latin Recording Academy, and includes nods to Calle 13 in the principal categories of album of the year for “Entren Los Que Quieran,” a nomination they share with Edgar Abraham and Rafa Arcaute, among others, and record of the year, for their genre-crossing disc “Latinoamérica.”

The nominations were announced Wednesday at the Avalon Hollywood, with the awards to be handed out Nov. 10 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Photos: A look at the top 2011 Latin Grammy nominees

For record of the year, the other nominees besides “Latinoamérica” are “Tan Sólo Tú” by Franco De Vita with Alejandra Guzmán; “Gritar” by Luis Fonsi; “Golpes En El Corazón” by Los Tigres Del Norte; and “Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tú” by Ricky Martin featuring Natalia Jiménez.

The best new artist category draws from young artists throughout the Latin-speaking world: Pablo Alborán (Spain), Max Capote (Uruguay/Argentina), Paula Fernandes (Brazil), Il Volo (Italy) and Sie7e (Puerto Rico) will compete for the trophy.

As in previous years, the nominations balanced many familiar names such as Ricky Martin, Los Tigres, Shakira and Enrique Iglesias with lesser-known, minor-label (or label-less) talents. Among the surprises was the popular L.A. club band La Santa Cecilia receiving a nomination for best tropical song for their tune “La Negra.”

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Nominations for Latin Grammys announced; Calle 13 gets 10

Residente of Calle 13
The nominees for the 12th Latin Grammys were announced this morning in Los Angeles, and Calle 13 leads the charge with a record 10 nominations. The ceremony, which is scheduled to take place on Nov. 10 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, highlights the best music recorded in Spanish or Portuguese. 

This year's album of the year nominees are: Alex, Jorge Y Lena for "Alex, Jorge Y Lena"; Calle 13 for "Entren Los Que Quieran"; Franco De Vita for "En Primera Fila"; Enrique Iglesias for "Euphoria"; and Shakira for "Sale El Sol."

Photos: A look at the top 2011 Latin Grammy nominees 

For record of the year, the nods go to: "Latinoamérica" by Calle 13; "Tan Sólo Tú" by Franco De Vita with Alejandra Guzmán; "Gritar" by Luis Fonsi; "Golpes En El Corazón" by Los Tigres Del Norte; and "Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tú" by Ricky Martin featuring Natalia Jiménez. 

The best new artist category draws from young artists from all over the Latin-speaking world: Pablo Alborán (Spain), Max Capote (Uruguay/Argentina), Paula Fernandes (Brazil), Il Volo (Italy) and Sie7e (Puerto Rico) will compete for the trophy.

A full list of the nominations will arrive shortly.  


Latin Grammys 2010: Mexican rock act Camila has a winning night

Latin Grammys 2010: Red carpet arrivals

Latin Grammys 2010 announced: Camila and Alejandra Sanz among top contenders

-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Rene Perez (Residente) of Calle 13 performs at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2009. Credit: EPA

'Latin Alternative' on KCSN gives Latino music a new accent

Ernesto Lechner, Josh Norek   Latino and Latin American music audiences in L.A. have no trouble finding chart-topping artists such as Shakira, Pitbull or Mana on their radio dial. But there are far fewer places to tune in to the likes of more alternative acts such as Café Tacuba, Zoe, Ximena Sarinana, Ozomatli and Aterciopelados.

Now there's at least one more: "The Latin Alternative," the 2-week-old program of cutting-edge Spanish-accented music, from neo-funk to cumbia-laced electronica, airing on Cal State Northridge's radio station KCSN-FM (88.5) on Thursday nights from 9 to 10 p.m. The station bills the new program as the first nationally syndicated public radio show that focuses on Latin alternative music but is hosted in English.

The show, which now airs on 16 public radio stations across the country, is co-hosted by Josh Norek, a co-founder of the Latin Alternative Music Conference and frontman of the group Hip Hop Hoodíos, and Ernesto Lechner, author of the book "Rock en Español: The Latin Alternative Rock Explosion," and a journalist who contributes to the Los Angeles Times.

In some ways, the program's arrival is long overdue. Los Angeles is home to the largest Latino population in the United States, and several Spanish-language stations here are among the region's top rated in any format. Southern California also is home to a cosmopolitan cadre of English-speaking listeners who are devotees of progressive Latin music.

But the majority of big local commercial stations hew to playlists that are heavy on pop superstars or else traditional regional ranchera and musica norteña

"We've always believed there's a bigger market" for stations that specialize in contemporary Latin sub-genres, says Norek, who grew up in Albany, N.Y. (where "The Latin Alternative" also airs). "It was not easy being the one Latin alternative fan in upstate New York," says Norek, who now makes his home in Northern California and periodically commutes to L.A. to tape his show with Lechner.

Norek says that part of their program's purpose is to provide context to the music they play for listeners whose first language may not be Spanish. That might mean explaining a song's lyrical wordplay or decoding its references to current events. "Music there is far more politically conscious than most music you’ll hear here," he says.

Sky Daniels, KCSN's program director, says the new program complements other shows recently added at the station, including one hosted by Nic Harcourt, who formerly helmed the mike for KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic."

"We incorporate a lot of new music because as a noncommercial station I certainly don't have the musical pressures that my brethren have," says Daniels, adding that he hopes to gradually incorporate even more Latin music in the station's other programming.

Norek describes his and Lechner's musical tastes as broadly compatible. "When I first met him it was just like a brother from another mother," he says. "We still have differences of opinion at times, but it’s a polite debate."


'Travel Tips for Aztlan' rides cutting-edge of Latin radio

'¡Viva Mexico!' celebrates the many forms of Mexican music

Latino pop-rock is the best of many worlds 

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: "Latin Alternative" co-hosts Ernesto Lechner (left), Josh Norek. Credit: Josh Norek.

Salvador pop heroes will relive Buenas Epocas at Hollywood Park

Salvador pop heroes will relive Buenas Epocas at Hollywood Park


For a generation of Salvadoran Americans who remember the golden age of Salvadoran pop music before the country's brutal civil war of the 1980s and early '90s, the buenas epocas (good times) may roll again this Saturday night. That's when more than half a dozen star frontmen of some of El Salvador's top pop bands of the '60s and '70s will reunite for an 8 p.m. concert at Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood.

Like the early Chicano bands of East L.A., Salvadoran pop and rock musicians were heavily influenced by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Motown and James Brown and began imitating them. At first, most Salvadoran bands cranked out Spanish-language cover versions of hits like "Louie, Louie." Many Salvadorans still regard those versions -- not their English-language counterparts -- as the originals.

Later, swayed by the era's experimental vibes, Salvadoran groups began writing their own songs, combining British Invasion-style pop hooks with salsa and cumbia beats and swoony bolero sentiments. It was Salvador's version of a global pop music boom that was paralleled in places like Brazil, where the Tropicalia movement similarly fused native bossa nova with Anglo-American rock and psychedelic pop.

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David Wax Museum brings Mexican masters' lessons to Wiltern

David wax museum

 David Wax, of the indie-folk-American band David Wax Museum -- which performs at the Wiltern Wednesday night with the Old '97s and Josh Ritter -- finished up his undergraduate career at Harvard University several years ago. But his quest for musical knowledge from both the U.S. and Mexico seems limitless.

A composer, guitarist and jazz pianist, with an obviously deep mental storehouse of native U.S. musical forms from bluegrass to rock, Wax also is a student of Mexican regional music. During and after his Ivy League years, he spent several months in rural Mexico, mastering three of that country's most venerable and challenging folk strains -- son jarocho, son huasteco and son calentano -- as well as instruments like the jarana, an eight-string guitar.

"They’re instruments that you could devote a lifetime of study to," he said in an interview, "but I reached a level of competency with them where I felt comfortable playing the music and felt I could play with other musicians."

Many of those rhythms and instrumental arrangements eventually made their way into David Wax Museum's aptly titled bilingual second album, "Everything Is Saved."

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