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.

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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.

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

 

La Santa Cecilia to perform at Flamingo Cantina on April 2

La Santa Cecilia will perform in Austin on April 2.
Grammy award-winning band La Santa Cecilia from Los Angeles will perform in Austin on April 2.

They’re no strangers to Austin. Over the years we’ve seen Los Angeles-based band La Santa Cecilia make hips shake everywhere from Pachanga Fest to South by Southwest with their bilingual, hybrid Latin grooves.

Don’t miss the chance to catch these rising stars at 9 p.m. on April 2 at the Flamingo Cantina.

Since I last chatted with the band two years ago, La Santa Cecilia has experienced a meteoric rise. Not only are they helping shape a unique bicultural sound with their fusion of rock, folk and pop with Pan-Latin rhythms, but they’re Grammy winners now. Through their music, they’ve also helped put an international spotlight on issues like immigration reform.

The band’s 2013 album “Treinta Días” (30 Days), which included a collaboration with Elvis Costello, led them to their first career Grammy. La Santa Cecilia’s recently released album “Buenaventura” brings together other high-profile collaborators like Argentine rock legend Fito Páez.

Austin-based Selena tribute band “Bidi Bidi Banda,” alongside DJ Vanessa La Bestia, will open the Flamingo Cantina show. Online tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and are available at flamingocantina.com.