Catch New York’s Radio Jarocho perform in Austin

Radio Jarocho of New York is among the wave of young artists embracing traditional son jarocho music and making it their own. Photo contributed by Mar Joya

At a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric keeps growing and debates over asylum seekers and border walls heat up, it might seem impossible to find solutions. But there’s one thing that does make it possible for traditions and culture to flow without barriers or restrictions — music.

In recent years, son jarocho, the folk music that originated generations ago in Mexico’s Veracruz region with African and indigenous influences, has been embraced by U.S.-based bands from coast to coast. Most Americans first heard son jarocho without realizing it with Ritchie Valens’ rock ‘n’ roll cover of the son jarocho song “La Bamba.”

Today, contemporary bands draw upon the traditional folk music to create a sound influenced by unique bicultural experiences. Bands such as Las Cafeteras from Los Angeles and Austin’s own Son Armado(currently on hiatus) have allowed a new generation of listeners to make the music their own. On July 7, Radio Jarocho of New York, another influential son jarocho-inspired group, will perform at 8 p.m. at Central Presbyterian Church.

MORE MUSIC NEWS: Singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa releases new music after nearly dying

Radio Jarocho offers a modern take on the genre, often fusing son jarocho with jazz, rock or flamenco. For their latest album “Rios de Norte y Sur,” Radio Jarocho teamed up with highly-regarded son jarocho musician Zenén Zeferino of Veracruz, who comes from a legendary son jarocho family. Zeferino’s family cattle ranch was often the place where neighboring musicians would gather after working in the fields to sing, play and dance.

But perhaps the heart of the music comes from Mexico City native turned New Yorker Julia del Palacio, who dances on a wooden platform called a tarima. When dancing, her body turns into a percussive instrument fueling the band’s beat.

The powerful pairing does more than create a moving live experience, the music builds bridges between Veracruz and New York; Mexico and the United States our past and present.

For more information, visit radiojarocho.com. Tickets cost $10.

Tejano music legend Jimmy Gonzalez dies

Tejano music legend and Grammy award-winner Jimmy Gonzalez died Wednesday. He was 67.

Jimmy Gonzalez y Grupo Mazz was scheduled to perform as headliners this weekend in Aransas Pass. The Brownsville native was admitted to a San Antonio hospital early Wednesday morning following a brief illness when he died, according to a news release from record label Freddie Records. Earlier this year KXTN-Radio reported Gonzalez was taken to the emergency room following breathing issues.

Gonzalez co-founded the legendary Grupo Mazz in 1978. The trailblazing Tejano band group rose to stardom and garnered numerous accolades and hit songs including “Estúpido Romántico.” Gonzalez played various musical roles over the years including producer, guitarist, vocalist and frontman.

More: Dancing into Tejano music history

In the late 1990s, Gonzalez formed Jimmy Gonzalez y Grupo Mazz and joined Freddie Records. His latest album “Porque Todavía Te Quiero” released in April. Gonzalez won a record six consecutive Latin Grammys for Best Tejano Album.

“The legacy of Jimmy Gonzalez will continue to live forever through his unforgettable music, his incredible artistry,” Freddie Records said in a news release, “and his many contributions to the Tejano music industry.”

Cumbia music festival kicks off in Austin on Saturday

Colombian American artist Kiko Villamizar brings a music festival exploring the folkloric roots of cumbia to Austin on June 9.

There’s nothing like cumbia to bring both elders and youth together. On June 9, the Wepa Cumbia Roots Festival returns to Austin with top musicians including Grammy award-winning folk masters Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto of Colombia.

What began as an inaugural festival last year has now expanded to several Texas cities with international stops in countries such as Spain and Germany. Featured Austin artists include Kiko Villamizar, who released his second album “Aguas Frias” in 2017, and Colombian funk band Superfónicos.

RELATED: Summer Music Guide

The festival, which starts at 2 p.m. and wraps up at 11:30 p.m., offers Austinites a unique chance to understand the layers of cumbia and the genre’s original instrumentation such as the gaita, the indigenous flute of Colombia. Don’t miss the chance to see why modern cumbia has risen in recent years and found its way to a new generation of listeners.

Advance tickets cost $23.16. Festivalgoers at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard on 1106 E. 11th St. will also enjoy an art market by Las Ofrendas. Visit wepafestival.com for more information.

MORE: Check out other Austin cultural art events

7 Cinco de Mayo shows to catch in Austin

Los Super Seven performs during SXSW in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, March 15, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Infuse your Cinco de Mayo celebrations with some local live music.

The holiday commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862 when a scrappy Mexican army defeated Napoleon III’s powerful French troops. Although now a minor holiday in Mexico, Americans over the decades have embraced its cultural significance. Some scholars believe had Mexicans not won that battle that the French could have backed the Confederacy in America’s Civil War, perhaps resulting in a very different United States.

Texans can take pride in knowing that the Mexican forces were led by Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a native Texan born in present day Goliad.

RELATED: Cinco de Mayo through Civil War lens

Check out a sampling of shows honoring the holiday:

Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival with Flaco Jimenez: The annual free celebration of accordion-driven music runs May 4-6 at various locations including Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater, Stubb’s Graceland Grocery in Oak Hill, and One-2-One Bar. On Cinco de Mayo, the fest will attempt to set an official Guinness World Record for the number of accordionists playing the polka “Viva Seguin” at the same time. The family-friendly festival, which will feature more than 20 different bands from across Texas, will be headlined by legendary musician Flaco Jimenez. More info: ranchoalegretexas.com.

Cinco de Mayo with Tequila Rock Revolution & Boca Abajo at One-2-One Bar: When metal meets mariachi, you get Tequila Rock Revolution. The music salutes mariachi roots and infuses it with modern metal and electronica. The result makes for a must-see show that features a 10-piece supergroup donning Mexican sugar skull face paint. Join them as they celebrate their latest single release. Rockers Boca Abajo round out the bill. Showtime starts at 10:30 p.m. More info: one2onebar.com

Tacos & Tequila with Grupo Fantasma at Belmont: Latin funk masters Grupo Fantasma will lead the Cinco de Mayo bash that’ll have a special margarita menu and free tacos. Doors open at 7 p.m and tickets cost $25 in advance $35 at the door. More info: tacosandtequilaatx.com

KELLY WEST / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Bidi Bidi Banda to perform Cinco de Mayo at Mohawk. 

Bidi Bidi Banda, Tiarra Girls, Este Vato at Mohawk outdoor: Austin’s first all-star Selena tribute band headlines the celebration in honor of the Queen of Tejano music. Teenage alternative rock trio and sisters Tiarra Girls also make up the lineup along with the eight-piece Latin fusion outfit Este Vato. Tickets range from $15-20. Doors open at 8 p.m. More info: eventbrite.com/q/mohawk/events/33132

Cinco de Mayo 2018 at Fiesta Gardens: The 26th annual free accordion festival features food booths and acts such as Johnny Degollado y Su Conjunto, Los Pinkys and Ruben Garza. Lawnchairs permitted. More info: cincodemayoaustin.com

La Voz Latina at Cactus Cafe: Local artists will honor Latin American female singers with a special tribute concert at 7 p.m. at the Cactus Cafe. Leti Garza, Stephanie Bergara, Suzanna Choffel, Ley Line and Vanessa Lively are among the featured performers. Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door. More info: cactuscafe.org,

Cinco de Mayo Cumbia Night with El Tule, Plan Sonidero, DJ Megabass at Hotel Vegas: After receiving a city proclamation declaring April 26 “El Tule” Day, the music veterans who have been making our hips shake for the past 15 years will be leading the party. Cumbia masters Plan Sonidero and DJ Megabass are also among the high-energy lineup. More info: texashotelvegas.com

 

Here’s your chance to catch Little Joe y La Familia for free

Tejano music icon Little Joe Hernandez will perform at the Pan Americana Festival 2018. (Photo credit: Jorge Flores)

It’s not every day that you can check out a musical living legend for free, but tonight Little Joe y La Familia will headline the Pan Americana Festival at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River St.).

Saturday’s concert, which starts at 5 p.m., will wrap up four days of free Tejano music at the cultural center presented by the Mexican American Experience Wednesday and Thursday and the Pan Americana Festival Friday and Saturday during South by Southwest week.

RELATED: How Austin women helped make a classic Little Joe album cover

Before Little Joe y La Familia hits the stage, festivalgoers can also catch Tejano music giant David Marez, past Tejano Idol winner Ashley Borrero and former Los Texas Wranglers vocalist Nikki Lopez.

Aside from free admission, the Pan Americana Festival offers free parking at Fiesta Gardens.  Shuttles for attendees will run to and from the MACC from 5 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. when the concert ends.

SXSW News: Latina artist Gina Chavez led flash mob dance party on Sixth Street

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SXSW showcase highlights Puerto Rican artists affected by Hurricane María

Andrea Cruz performs during SXSW in Austin, Texas, on Friday, March 16, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Andrea Cruz‘ debut album “Tejido de Laurel” released in September 2017 – just two days after Hurricane María devastated the island. Instead of the concerts and promotional events that follow a record launch, Cruz found herself instead distributing food and water to affected families across Puerto Rico.

It wasn’t exactly how she imagined her first record launch. Her aunt lost her home and Cruz’ medicinal plant garden was wiped out. “It looked like winter because the trees were bare as if they had caught fire,” Cruz says. “But we’re a resilient island.”

Cruz is among the Puerto Rican artists performing at South by Southwest’s first Sounds from Puerto Rico showcase Friday at Speakeasy, which starts at 8 p.m and ends at 2 a.m. The showcase will also be a benefit fundraiser for World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by Chef José Andrés that has provided more than 2.6 million meals in Puerto Rico.

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Like Cruz, the other artists in the showcase experienced the impact of the hurricane in some way. At Speakeasy Kabaret, tucked behind the main venue stage, artist supporters will perform as well during the benefit showcase.

For Cruz, music is part of the healing process. So she took her guitar with her to the different towns where she was helping distribute basic needs and played songs for affected families whenever she could. Sometimes that meant performing in people’s front porch or in community relief stations like basketball courts.

“Everyone thinks of food and water in emergencies,” she says. “But I had crying mothers thanking me for bringing music (to them in the hurricane’s aftermath). People also need to heal spiritually and mentally.”

Among the themes that “Tejido de Laurel,” touches on are healing and nature, which now seems serendipitous. Without electricity, many of Puerto Rico’s music venues like bars and restaurants were shut down, leaving musicians out of work.

SXSW 2018: Rúben Blades sets record straight about life, career

“There’s no solid music industry in Puerto Rico, so you have to do it yourself,” Cruz says. That DIY attitude has been felt even more after the hurricane. Musicians in Puerto Rico are now creating innovative approaches to booking shows from launching house concerts to aligning with global companies that offer rotating concerts that don’t depend on any one venue.

Cruz says that ingenuity helps keeps musicians pushing forward despite lack of resources. About a month after the hurricane hit, Cruz and some of her friends sat in a bar with finicky Internet powered by generators and applied to SXSW.

“It was the last day to apply,” she says. “We thought ‘let’s try and see what happens.'”

Voto Latino announces surprise for ‘Dreamers’ at SXSW Dream Out Loud concert

With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, tied up in the court system and a murky outlook for a legislative fix, the lives of more than 120,000 young immigrants in Texas hangs in limbo.

Los Lobos performs during SXSW’s Dream Out Loud concert in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, March 15, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Since President Donald Trump cancelled DACA in September, it’s been a tumultuous time for an estimated 800,000 youths across the country. Often called “Dreamers,” these young immigrants were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and have work permits that protect them from deportation.

RELATED: Life in limbo for DACA recipients

At South by Southwest on Thursday, the nonprofit organization Voto Latino brought together activist musicians for a free “Dream Out Loud” concert at the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake hosted by actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama. Voto Latino announced at the concert that law firm King & Spalding will provide free legal counsel and cover filing fees for those facing deportation. They encouraged DACA recipients and people with temporary protected status to text DREAM to 73179 for more information.

Legendary accordionist Flaco Jimenez joins Los Super Seven during SXSW in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, March 15, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The evening dedicated to Dreamers featured performers including Mexican electro-corrido band Centavrvs, Colombian DJ collective El Freaky, Tex-Mex greats Los Super Seven featuring artists such as Flaco Jimenez, Rick Treviño, Steve Berlin and Max Baca. Legendary musicians Los Lobos, minus David Hidalgo, headlined the show.

SXSW 2018: Rubén Blades ‘sets record straight’ about  life, career

Panamanian artist Ruben Blades applauds a speaker’s message about the importance of Dreamers during SXSW in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, March 15, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Latin American icon Rúben Blades stood alongside a group of DACA recipients who took the stage and shared their stories.

For 21-year-old student Berenice Gonzalez, who majors in biology at Texas A&M International University, the uncertainty over DACA’s future means having to be ready for anything. She lost a semester at school during a period when her DACA permit expired and she couldn’t renew.

Dreamers hold up a banner in between music sets during SXSW in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, March 15, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Gonzalez said she began saving money at the time in order to move to Nuevo Laredo, where she says she doesn’t know anyone or have any relatives. “At first it was scary,” she said on Thursday. “Now I just try to prepare as much as possible for whatever may come.”

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SXSW 2018: Gina Chavez leads flash mob dance party on Sixth Street

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Austin-based singer-songwriter Gina Chavez led a flash mob dance party on the corner of Sixth Street and Red River during South by Southwest in honor of her upcoming single, “Let it Out.”

Chavez released video dance tutorials earlier this week so that fans could learn her moves and join the festivities, which were recorded for the “Let it Out” music video.

Gina Chavez flash mob dance party on Sixth Street.

After she led the choreographed dance, the artist started a conga line to the Flamingo Cantina, where she performed on Wednesday night. The first 40 people who joined her flash mob dance party got to check out the SXSW show for free.

MORE SXSW: See all of Austin360’s SXSW coverage

 

SXSW 2018: Latin American icon Rubén Blades ‘sets record straight’ about his life, career

 

NPR AltLatino host Felix Contreras interviewed Rúben Blades during SXSW. Photo by Nancy Flores

Latin American icon Rúben Blades, who helped revolutionize the New York salsa music movement in the 1970s, has managed to lead a prolific decades-long career while keeping many parts of his life private or under the radar.

Some, for example, might not realize that aside from penning the Latin American classic song “Pedro Navaja,” Blades has also had acting roles in more than 30 films, worked alongside greats such as Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro and now portrays Daniel Salazar in AMC’s “Fear The Walking Dead.” Others might not know that he’s earned two law degrees, created a political party in his native Panama and ran for president of the Central American country.

En español: Se estrena filme sobre Rubén Blades en festival SXSW

That’s why with the South by Southwest premiere of Ruben Blades Is Not My Name,” the documentary about his life, Blades said he hopes to finally set the record straight.

“I wasn’t keen on cameras following me for a documentary,” he said at a featured session on Wednesday afternoon, where he was interviewed by NPR Alt.Latino‘s Felix Contreras. But “when you have more of a past than a future,” you need to share your own story, the 69-year-old star said.

MORE SXSW: See all of Austin360’s SXSW coverage

Blades pushed the salsa music boundaries when he wrote songs about social issues instead of the escapist songs that dominated the genre at the time. “I didn’t write to get famous,” he said. “I wrote to tell meaningful stories.” Even though his songs weren’t commercial and often weren’t played on the radio, people still connected with his music. “Not everything needed to be escape music,” he said. “I wrote because I was upset (at current events) even though it wasn’t considered healthy for a musical career.”

He said Gabriel García Márquez called him a “cronista.” Blades agrees. He said he always thought of himself as a “newspaper man” chronicling life through his songs. He credits his grandmother who taught him how to read at an early age for being a voracious reader. It’s what he said helped him develop his own songwriting and editing style. He also credits law school for learning how to see both sides of a story and writing based on facts. “Never think that the audience doesn’t get it,” he said.

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The ability to relate to his lyrics, he said, has helped new generations embrace his music. In the next chapter of his career, Blades plans to focus on recording music and has several projects in progress such as a son Cubano album, as well as a rock/pop/reggae album. He’s co-written a screenplay with Cuban writer Leonardo Padura and hopes to team up with René Pérez Joglar, also known as Residente for a album about social commentary.

Although his career might have taken a different path, Blades said he’ll keep moving forward.

MACC to host four days of free Tejano music during SXSW

Little Joe y La Familia will headline the Pan Americana Festival at the MACC. Photo contributed by Henry Huey for Round Rock Leader.

You don’t need a badge, wristband or even cash to check out some of Tejano music’s biggest stars like Little Joe y La Familia and AJ Castillo during South by Southwest this year. Just head to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center from March 14-17 for free music with a lakeside view.

For years the Mexican American Experience and Pan Americana Festivals, which take place during the week of South by Southwest but are not part of that festival, have offered music lovers the opportunity to check out diverse Latin music of all kinds. For the first time this year, the two back-to-back festivals are offering four days of Tejano music programming.

Aside from free admission, both festivals offer free parking at Sanchez Elementary, Martin Middle School and Fiesta Gardens. Free shuttles run from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. when the concerts end.

RELATED: How a 1972 concert became part of iconic Tejano music album cover

Tejano music legend Jay Perez will headline the Mexican American Experience, which is presented by the MACC and Crossroads Events, on March 14. Other performers include Grammy-nominated vocalist Stefani Montiel and rising artist Devin Banda.

AJ Castillo is among the headliners at the Mexican American Experience Festival.

Tejano music star A.J. Castillo returns to the Mexican American Experience festival this year to headline the March 15 showcase. Other performers include San Antonio-based group Jaime DeAnda Los Chamacos and Yayo Castillo y Rumores.

At the Pan Americana Festival, musical heavyweights Ricardo Castillon y La Diferenzia headline the March 16 concert. The Jorge Amayo Band, Angie Gonzalez and a mariachi group to be announced will round out the performers that evening.

Tejano music icon Little Joe y La Familia will headline the festivities on March 17. Veteran performer David Marez, past Tejano Idol winner Ashley Borrero and former Los Texas Wranglers vocalist Nikki Lopez will wrap up the festival.