Conjunto Los Pinkys wants you to be part of Saturday music video shoot

Javier Cruz, left, and Isidro Samilpa of Conjunto Los Pinky’s perform at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Plaza Saltillo District on Wednesday June 28, 2017. Scores of people attended the ceremony to mark the official beginning of construction on the 10-acre mixed use development next to the Plaza Saltillo MetroRail Station. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Want to be in a music video? Austin Music Hall of Famers Conjunto Los Pinkys will be shooting a video for their single “Mira Luisa” at 4 p.m. on Feb. 10 at Slow Pokes Brisket Shack in Manchaca, Texas, and fans are invited to participate.

“We love our fans and it’s very important to us that you be there to be a part of this special project,” the band wrote on its Facebook page. “We don’t want a music video that’s all about us. It’s important to include you, our family — the dancers and listeners that have been a part of our 25 year experience!”

RELATED: Read Cultura en Austin blog for more cultural art happenings 

Conjunto Los Pinkys has new residencies in 2018. Follow the squeezebox-heavy grooves to Cisco’s Restaurant and Bakery every first Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. On the second Saturday of every month, check them out at Slow Pokes Brisket Shack during the restaurant’s monthly hot rod night with conjunto music from 6-9 p.m. Head to Little Mexico Restaurant on South First Street every third Sunday from 2-6 p.m. and to Sam’s Town Point every last Sunday of the month from 3 p.m.-6 p.m.

Ensuring that this Texas-based music tradition continues to flourish has been the mission of various arts groups across the state, including Austin’s Rancho Alegre Radio, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting both conjunto and Tejano music. Don’t miss Rancho Alegre Radio’s afternoon conjunto dance parties every first Sunday of the month at One-2-One Bar on South Lamar. While the tardeadas are on hiatus in February, mark your calendar for the next show on March 4.

‘Chavela,’ doc highlights tequila-drinking, rebel music icon

Legendary musical icon Chavela Vargas. Photo ©Maj Lindström

The raw passion and profound suffering that came through in the songs she sang could easily cleanse the soul. Those who attended the performances of Mexican music legend Chavela Vargas often described her concerts like a therapy session. So it’s no wonder that the documentary “Chavela” chronicling her life has the same power as she once did.

Vargas, a world renowned, Grammy-winning icon, tore down barriers for women in the late 1940s with her gut-wrenching ranchera music. By the 1950s, she was a staple in Mexico City’s bohemian club scene romancing the likes of Frida Kahlo. Vargas challenged the mainstream by wearing pants instead of dresses and refused to change the pronouns in songs intended for men to woo women.

“Chavela,” which screens at the AFS Cinema through Dec. 28, brings to life never-before-seen footage shot by co-director Catherine Gund in the 1990s. “For me, Chavela’s life is not a cautionary tale, but rather, a rich subterranean dimension of our own living,” Gund wrote in her director’s statement. “She is not a role model, but a muse. Not only an elder, but a frame for our contemporary desires.”

Chavela spent more than a decade outside of the limelight as she struggled with a drinking addiction, then had a remarkable comeback late in life. Renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who helped relaunch her career, is also featured in the moving documentary.

Don’t miss the opportunity to watch the film. Cine Las Americas members receive $2 off admission of tickets purchased at the AFS box office. On Jan. 2, the film will be available on DVD and digital. To pre-order, visit

The documentary “Chavela” highlights the life of iconoclastic, game-changing artist Chavela Vargas. Photo ©Ysunza

Lesly Reynaga goes from ‘Mariachi Girl’ to pop-rock artist

Photo contributed by Lemonade Photography

Rising Austin-based artist Lesly Reynaga gained recognition in the Live Music Capital of the World as a featured soloist of the University of Texas Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlán. Her skills were also showcased in the 2012 ZACH Theatre/Teatro Vivo musical “Mariachi Girl.” Now, Reynaga’s bilingual pop-rock grooves represent a new phase of her musical career.

The singer-songwriter on Nov. 2 debuted her five-song EP “Fool’s Paradise,” with a Day of the Dead album release party at 11 p.m at Barracuda (611 E. Seventh St.). The EP, which is available on Spotify, includes original songs as well as a cover of “Spanish Words” by Austin musician Charlie Sexton.

“Everyone goes through different stages in life that make you question your choices, and “Fool’s Paradise” is my take on facing such a challenge through my own individual experience,” Reynaga said. “I hope that my songs are able to convey the idea that to every moment of obscurity there is also light, and that no single individual is ever alone in the struggle of finding one’s self-identity. ”

“Fool’s Paradise” was produced by musician, composer and producer Michael Ramos at his Brown Recluse Studio. Ramos, of Charanga Cakewalk fame, has toured and recorded with artists such as Paul Simon and Shawn Colvin. In 2014, he teamed up with award-winning musician Gina Chavez for her Latin folk-pop album “Up.rooted.”

Following her album release, Reynaga – who is also the editor of TODO Austin – plans to perform in New York City.

RELATED: Check out Cultura blog for more cultural art events 

Selena to receive Hollywood Walk of Fame Star on Nov. 3

On the heels of a popular Google Doodle this week honoring Selena Quintanilla Pérez, the pop culture icon will now posthumously receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Nov. 3.

“Before there was JLo, Shakira or Beyoncé, there was a transformative female artist called Selena,” said Otto Padron, president of Meruelo Media and sponsor of the tribute, in a statement. “Selena is one of the most influential music icons of the 20th century. Her music, style and smile are timeless and now her star will grace (Hollywood, Calif.) forever.”

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce last summer selected to honor Selena in its recording category along with other performers including John Legend, Clarence Avant, Ice Cube, a posthumous honor for Jerry Goldsmith, Hall & Oates, *NSYNC and New Edition.

Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman

RELATED: SELENA’S LEGACY LIVES ON

On Selena’s Facebook fan page, music lovers expressed a similar sentiment that the honor was long overdue. “A dream come true,” wrote fan Hadeer Sinawe. “She deserved this even before her death.”

RELATED: SELENA INFLUENCED STYLE, BEAUTY

Texas native Eva Longoria will join Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to proclaim Nov. 3 as official “Selena” Day in Los Angeles.

On March 31, 1995, Selena’s former fan club president Yolanda Saldivar fatally shot Selena at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi. But for many fans of the Tejano superstar, who was on the brink of crossing over to the English-language music market, Selena’s legacy lives on.

MORE LATINO CULTURAL ARTS: CULTURA EN AUSTIN

In honor of her Walk of Fame honor, check out our playlist of Selena songs:

On tour in land of Genghis Khan, musician Gina Chavez has Houston in her heart

In 2015, the Gina Chavez Trio (a small but mighty version of her full band) became one of 10 acts across the United States selected as cultural ambassadors as part of the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program.
The Gina Chavez Trio — which includes musicians Michael Romero and Sammy Foster — joined an elite group of musicians who aim to connect cultures through the power of music. Since then, Gina Chavez has traveled around the world performing, teaching and learning about different cultures and musical traditions.
This time, Chavez takes us along on her journey. Through her guest blogs, we’ll peek into her travel diary to see what life is like in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. –Nancy Flores, Cultura en Austin columnist
Photos contributed by Kirsten Michener

BY GINA CHAVEZ

I’m sitting beneath the maple trees in the ancient city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and my heart is torn. I’ve been on sensory overload from the tour of a lifetime in Central Asia while my beloved Texas is hurting in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the passing of music angel Margaret Moser. Our internet access has been very limited, but the band and I all have Houston in our hearts as we represent the United States in the Stans. We know you are hurting and we can’t wait to get back and join the recovery efforts. We love you, Texas!

Where to begin? There was Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, with the horse meat that looked like cole slaw, the Hast Imam library where we saw the oldest version of the Koran in the world, rehearsing in Ambassador Spratlen’s basement, and sharing the stage with famous Uzbek singer Farraukh Zokirov. And then there was Samarkand.

We stepped off the train in Samarkand — ancient land of Genghis Khan and the Silk Road — to the booms and blares of Uzbek doira drums and karnay horns, on-the-spot TV interviews, dozens of volunteers grabbing our gear, young women in traditional clothing offering bread, salt, fruit and nuts. Everyone is here for Sharq Taronalari, an international music festival featuring 250 musicians from 58 countries! But it feels like something out of Harry Potter– see, we stepped off platform 9 3/4 into an alternative universe where high school summer camp meets the musical Olympics.

Our hotel is a non-stop live music jam infused with every language and sound you can imagine and lots more you’ve never heard of: Japanese Taiko drums, Nepalese sitar, accordions of all sizes, Turkish flute, the Brittany talabard (reed instrument), Ukrainian harp-like bandura, the komuz (three-stringed lute) from Kyrgyzstan, Iranian hammer dulcimer, frame drums from all over. It’s wild (and very loud outside my window at 3 a.m. every night)!

RELATED: Inside Gina Chavez’ Kazakhstan tour diary

In the morning, we eat together in the dining hall, then hop off the bus for a field trip to some ancient wonder — great astronomer Ulugh Beg’s 15th century observatory, Shah-i-Zinda mausoleums dating back to the 11th century — always accompanied by at least one police escort and multiple student guides. We’re gonna miss skipping every red light as we drive through town.

Our first show was the definition of a “throw-and-go” at a run-down Soviet-era park with the most hodgepodge sound equipment and me battling an impending sickness. Our second show, however, was the most majestic “stage” we have ever played. Ever. Our rhythms and voices soared throughout the Registan — three towering stone madrasahs (schools) that were the city center of 14th and 15th century Samarkand where philosophy, math and astronomy were taught and the silk trade flourished. The intricate geometric patterns, like tapestries on each stone facade, seemed to dance in the colored lights while the crowd went wild for our cover of “Nazar Nazar,” a Persian song made popular by Uzbek pop star Sardor Rahimxon.

Little did we know, that song would launch us into stardom throughout the region. By morning light festival volunteers, shop owners, museum staff, and tourists on the street stop us for photos, while crowds pour into our shows to see the Americans singing in Uzbek! Video views have climbed to 72,000 on Facebook and the story is circulating in major Uzbek newspapers and on Russian TV networks. Wha?!

We usually try to cover a song when we’re in a new country, but we’ve never seen a reaction like this. The Uzbek people are so proud of their culture — their textiles, history, dance, music — and they genuinely love when you try to speak even a word of Uzbek, so I think they’re shocked that we covered one of their songs. The opening line, “Samarqanding gyo’zali” (the beauty of Samarkand) pulls the women to their feet, their arms out wide, gold teeth flashing the biggest smiles. It’s a beautiful sight.

Even more beautiful was playing games and singing with kids among the trees at a nearby orphanage. Uzbekistan doesn’t allow them to be adopted outside of the country, so most of these kids are here for good, especially the teenagers. The kids were shy at first, but once we started “Nazar Nazar,” the girls lead the charge, singing their favorite songs for us, including “Jingle Bells.” We all screamed for “Musqaymok” (ice cream) and got everyone dancing the Hokey Pokey! Never gets old, that one.

Two days later, our musical Olympic village was invited to join the President of Uzbekistan for the official Opening Ceremony of the festival (oddly three days after we performed). That’s when our international summer camp turned into a Central Asian Disney World on steroids…

MORE: Check out the Cultura en Austin blog for more cultural arts coverage 

Tour Diary: Austin musician Gina Chavez in Kazakhstan

In 2015, the Gina Chavez Trio (a small but mighty version of her full band) became one of 10 acts across the United States selected as cultural ambassadors as part of the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program.
The Gina Chavez Trio — which includes musicians Michael Romero and Sammy Foster — joined an elite group of musicians who aim to connect cultures through the power of music. Since then, Gina Chavez has traveled around the world performing, teaching and learning about different cultures and musical traditions.
This time, Chavez takes us along on her journey. Through her guest blogs, we’ll peek into her travel diary to see what life is like in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. –Nancy Flores, Cultura en Austin columnist
Austin-based singer-songwriter Gina Chavez and her trio were selected as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. State Department. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

BY GINA CHAVEZ

It’s 6:14 a.m. in Astana, Kazakhstan, on our final day here. I’m watching the sun slowly dust the cityscape in crimson and gold; the Khazret Sultan Mosque – the second largest in Central Asia – stands at attention. There are so many huge buildings here! And at night this place lights up like a subdued Las Vegas, each building with its own light show.

I’m afraid to admit that until a few days ago, I knew nothing about the ninth largest landlocked country in the world, a nation of 18 million people with the strongest economy in Central Asia (thank you, oil). (And no, I haven’t seen Borat. Though that hasn’t kept us from quoting it the last four days! Silly Americans…)

RELATED: Gina Chavez Latin American Tour

The people here have truly been amazing. Our first show was honestly the most energetic audience I think we’ve ever had. Really! There on the lawn of the majestic Rixos hotel, hundreds packed in as close to stage as possible, eyes bright, phones in hand. They love Latin music here! (I swear we’ve heard “Despacito” at least 30 times in the last three days.) Hips flew, shouts rang out, and eager phones recorded every note. The night was fire!

At first I didn’t know what to think of the people here. In a nation of 131 nationalities, the people of Kazakhstan are diverse and still trying to define their post-Soviet identity. Perhaps it’s a Russian holdover, but they’re often not ones to acknowledge a stranger. If you smile at them, suspicion sometimes bounces back. Thankfully, our embassy handler (not her official title), Zhanna, warned me that despite the stoic looks, Kazakhs have a “different” sense of personal space. After the show, we were quickly surrounded by ecstatic fans grabbing our hands and pulling our shoulders close to pose like the best of friends in selfies!

MORE: 10 Things Gina Chavez Band Learned in Jordan

The next days were a flurry of interviews, jams, wonderful meals (they love their meat and bread here), and time with Ambassador George Krol, who graciously invited us to his ornate Kazakhstani yurt to taste deer-blood infused vodka and mare’s milk (what?!). Later, we crossed town to hang with 30 children at a center for low-income families. The kids were awesome, playing games with us, screaming “morozinoyeh” (“ice cream”) to one of our songs, and then performed traditional dombra music for us!

Contributed by Gina Chavez

We were invited to perform on the massive stage at Baiterek Square, where the impressive torch-like symbol of Astana stands 97 meters tall, and then closed out our time in Kazakhstan at EXPO, the modern-day World’s Fair. It was like going to Disney! The architecture alone was astounding at every turn. We performed one last time at the USA Pavilion, attempting to representing all of the Americas with our music before catching a plane to Uzbekistan.

Contributed by Gina Chavez

I am constantly humbled to know we have been invited to share our music across the world, and aware of the privilege we have as Americans to do so. From the moment we arrived, it hit me that the people of Central Asia are not even on the radar for most of us in the States. Their features are truly a link between Europe and Asia, they speak Russian (among other languages), practice Islam, use Arabic scales in music, gave us some of the most stunning textiles the world, and yet, they are often not even on our radar.

Thank you, Kazakhstan, for allowing us to come, learn and meet you. Thank you for opening your arms to us, to learn and grow and dance together! We hope to someday return to your passionate audiences!

Now onto learning about the people and beauty of Uzbekistan…

Niñas Arriba benefit concert Aug. 5 to feature Gina Chavez, Roger Blevins of Mingo Fishtrap, Patrice Pike and Wayne Sutton

JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

When Xiomara Cordova walked across the Stateside at the Paramount stage in her cap and gown last summer, a roar erupted from the crowd at the benefit concert that helps raise money for the college fund Niñas Arriba (Girls Rising). Cordova was the first graduate of the program founded by Austin musician Gina Chavez and her partner Jodi Granado, and the show last year included a symbolic walk up to the stage for the graduate to celebrate her achievement.

Niñas Arriba offers scholarships to young women in El Salvador, where Chavez and Granado spent about eight months as volunteers in the gang-dominated suburb of Soyapango in 2009.

MORE: Check out Latino cultural art news on Cultura en Austin

The annual benefit concert brings together performers and music fans to raise money for women who are seeking a better future. This year’s summer concert, which will also feature a silent auction with items such as Kendra Scott jewelry, returns to the Stateside on Aug. 5 featuring music by Patrice Pike and Wayne Sutton, who are the founders of the band Sister 7, Roger Blevins of Mingo Fishtrap and, of course, Chavez, who will headline the show.

Chavez will debut a new song called “Heaven Knows” and perform new renditions of old favorites. Expect a few surprise cover songs as well.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets, which range from $25-$65, are available at austintheatre.org.

 

 

Rancho Alegre Radio launches Tejano, Conjunto weekly music series at One-2-One Bar

Conjunto Puro Corazón will be featured in the latest Rancho Alegre Radio and Austin Vida weekly music series.

After breaking significant musical barriers this spring by launching a two-day conjunto music festival in downtown Austin, Rancho Alegre Radio continues its mission to make the roots music accessible to all audiences.

The nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to promoting and preserving Tejano and Conjunto music, has teamed up with Latin music promoters Austin Vida to launch a weekly Sunday music series at the One-2-One Bar on South Lamar Boulevard. On July 23, music lovers can check out Conjunto Puro Corazón, a San Antonio-based group featuring at least six accordionists. The tardeada (afternoon or early evening social) kicks off at 6 p.m.

“(The series is) a perfect fit for us and for fans of these pure Texas music genres,” said Rancho Alegre Radio’s Piper LeMoine. The nonprofit recently won a WeWork Creator Award, which honored innovators, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations and individuals creating inspiring work with an $18,000 grant. The award will allow the organization “to continue growing and advocating for this pure Texas music,” LeMoine said.

Cover for the Sunday tardeada show will be $5. To learn about upcoming Sunday performances, visit ranchoalegreradio.org.

MORE CULTURAL ARTS: Check out the Cultura en Austin blog 

‘Selena’ summer movie screening, plus ‘Anything for Selenas’ happy hour

Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman

Summertime in Austin means movie lovers can enjoy the annual Summer Classic Film Series at the Paramount Theatre, which will bring films such as “The Graduate” and “Singin in the Rain.” But this year the beloved series, which has been running for 42 years and goes through Sept. 2, will also honor two iconic musicians – Loretta Lynn and Selena Quintanilla.

REMEMBERING SELENA: The pop culture icon’s legacy

On June 20-21, fans of both women can catch a double feature of the 1997 movie “Selena” as well as the 1980 film “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Before the screenings on June 20, Selena fans will be treated to a special “Anything for Selenas” happy hour from 6-7 p.m. featuring live music by Austin-based Selena cover band Bidi Bidi Banda. Fans are encouraged to wear bustiers, which Selena wears in the movie much to her father’s dismay. “Selena” begins at 7 p.m., followed by “Coal Miner’s Daughter” at 9:25 p.m. General admission tickets cost $12. On June 21, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” will screen at 7 p.m. followed by a 9:25 p.m. screening of “Selena.”

RELATED: How Selena influenced style, beauty

More than 20 years after her death, Selena’s legacy lives on. Last fall, MAC Cosmetics released a limited-edition Selena makeup collection. The pop culture icon also received numerous posthumous awards recently including a Madame Tussauds wax figure,  a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a spot on the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. Each year, a two-day music festival called Fiesta de la Flor celebrates the life of Selena in her hometown of Corpus Christi. Selena fans can already save the dates for next year’s festival, which will be on April 13-14.

Check out the rest of the Summer Classic Film Series movie schedule by visiting austintheatre.org.

 

 

Jenny and the Mexicats release new album, make Texas stops on U.S. tour

Jenny and the Mexicats perform at the Continental Club June 8. 

Jenny and the Mexicats return to Austin on June 8 with a midnight performance at the Continental Club.

Since the release of their self-titled album in 2012, the multicultural band has continued to gain buzz in the Latin alternative music scene for their bilingual global grooves that transcend borders. The group, which meshes everything from flamenco to rockabilly, recently released their third album “Mar Abierto” and have been touring across the U.S. and Mexico.

RELATED: Jenny and the Mexicats debut at SXSW

Jenny and the Mexicats, which is made up of English, Mexican and Spanish musicians, made their Austin debut at South by Southwest in 2016. At the time, vocalist and trumpet player Jenny Ball told Austin360 that “within the band we have so many musical influences, so it really doesn’t sound like anything else.” Ball has experience performing jazz and classical music, and has been a trumpet player since she was 7 years old. “I actually wanted to learn how to play the trombone when I was a little girl, but my arm’s weren’t long enough,” she joked.

As a trumpet player who also fronts the band, the British musician has been blazing a trail for female artists. She has said she feels a sense of “girl power” whenever she sees other female trumpet players take the stage.

Tickets for the 21 and up show cost $10 at the door. Jenny and the Mexicats will also perform in Dallas on June 9.