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.

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.

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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.

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Teatro Vivo presents free play for teens inspired by true story

 

Teatro Vivo presents “Sangre de un Ángel,” a play by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, directed by Si Mon’ Emmett, and presented at the Oswaldo A.B. Cantu Panamerican Recreation Center. Photo contributed by Teatro Vivo

When East Austinite Adam L. Chapa Sr. was shot in his driveway in 1998 by a teen gang member, his family’s life forever changed. But Teatro Vivo’s latest production “Sangre de un Ángel” (Blood of an Angel) now aims to encourage young adults with Chapa’s story.

The play by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce of “Mariachi Girl” is directed by Chapa’s cousin Si Mon’ Emmett. The free performances June 1-3 at 8 p.m. with an additional 4 p.m. performance June 2 will be at the Hillside Theatre at the A.B. Cantu Pan American Recreation Center (2100 E. Third St, Austin, Texas), near Chapa’s home.

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Sangre de un Ángel tells the story of a rebellious teenager who seeks the approval of his troubled friends. But when his auto mechanics teacher gives him the opportunity to rebuild a classic 1957 Chevy, he’s encouraged to go back to school. Just as he’s looking forward to a hopeful future, trouble follows him home.

“Teenagers, teenagers of color most importantly, don’t often see themselves represented in professional theater in a way where we can see the multiple elements of their lives influencing their decisions,” Emmett says. “Their stories are important.”

For more information, visit teatrovivo.org.

Where to Celebrate Selena’s birthday in Austin

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

While not all of us snagged a limited-edition reusable Selena tote bag at H-E-B last month (sniff), we can still celebrate pop culture icon Selena Quintanilla Pérez at April birthday celebrations in her honor across Austin.

The Tejano superstar — who was on the brink of crossing over to the English-language music market before she died in 1995 — would have turned 47 on April 16. Selena’s legacy lives on as new generations learn about her life, career and achievements. In the past couple of years, Selena has received numerous posthumous awards such as a spot on the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Here are some Austin events where you can honor Selena’s memory:

April 14: Son de Rey Selena tribute concert from 9-11:30 p.m. at Sahara Lounge (1413 Webberville Road)

April 15: Selena Drag Brunch from noon to 3 p.m. at Micheladas Cafe y Cantina (333 E. Second St.)

April 15: Bidi Bidi Brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at El Chilito (2219 Manor Road) with dance contest, look-alike contest and singing competition. There will also be a taco-themed photo booth plus art for sale.

April 16: Alamo Drafthouse “Selena” movie party and screening at 7 p.m. at South Lamar and Village locations, 7:20 p.m. at Lakeline location. Arrive early for a pre-show featuring Selena music videos and rare interviews with the late star. Props and a lyric sheet to sing along with her music will be provided.

April 16: Selena-themed painting class from 7-9 p.m. at Painting with a Twist (6705 US-290 #501) with door prizes, games and Tejano music playing during the two-hour class. Reserve your spot online. Class costs $35 per person.

April 17: TuezGayz annual Selena tribute party at Barbarella (615 Red River St.). Doors open at 10 p.m. and small hourly dance tributes will happen at 11 p.m., midnight, 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.

April 18: Selena Trivia night hosted by Get it Gals from 8-10 p.m. at Hole in the Wall (2538 Guadalupe St.)

If you feel like a road trip, head to Selena’s hometown of Corpus Christi for Fiesta de la Flor, the annual two-day music festival that celebrates the life and legacy of the Queen of Tejano. Headliners include The Mavericks and Los Palominos April 13 and Becky G and Elida Reyna April 14. A fireworks finale tribute to Selena wraps up the festival.

Where to celebrate César Chávez Day in Austin

Cesar Chavez on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol on Labor Day 1966. Photo contributed by Phil Oakley

Civil rights activist César Chávez was no stranger to Austin. In 1966, he arrived to lend his support to agricultural workers who marched from the Rio Grande Valley to the Texas Capitol seeking a pay raise from about 40 to 60 cents an hour to $1.25.

Chávez met the marchers, who stayed at St. Edward’s University overnight, at the campus and joined them for what became a historic march — one that’s often credited with giving rise to the state’s Chicano movement.

On Chávez’ birthday March 31, celebrations across the country will honor his life and legacy. In Austin, don’t miss a free screening of the critically-acclaimed documentary “Dolores” at 7 p.m. March 29 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

The documentary, directed by Peter Bratt, tells the story of Dolores Huerta, whom the filmmaker describes as “among the most important yet least-known activists in American history.” Huerta co-founded the first farmworkers union with Chávez — all while raising her 11 children.

Stick around after the film for what’s sure to be an insightful conversation with some of Austin’s prominent community leaders including Lilia Rosas, caretaker of Resistencia Bookstore, and award-winning poet Ire’ne Lara Silva.

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On March 31, Austinites can also join the annual “Sí Se Puede” family-friendly march, which will feature speakers, music and dancers. This year’s theme centers around helping renters and homeowners of color remain in their homes as well as the continued fight for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to stay in the country.

Marchers will assemble at 10 a.m. at Terrazas library on 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St. and head to the A.B. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center, where the community will gather from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. For more information, call march organizers People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources at 512-401-3311.

3 Women who rocked SXSW 2018

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

Andrea Cruz: She’s only recently released her debut album “Tejido de Laurel,” but already Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Andrea Cruz is a rising artist to watch. At her performance during SXSW’s first Sounds of Puerto Rico showcase, she poured everything into each song creating some goosebump-inducing moments as she took audiences on an emotional musical journey.

Gato Preto: As one half of the German-based Afrofuturistic electronic duo Gato Preto, MC Gata Misteriosa lights up the stage with a super-charged live performance and infectious dance moves. She grew up in Portugal and has roots in Mozambique. Her showmanship, style and high energy makes her on-stage presence hard to beat.

Kayla Briët performs at the Global Local showcase at Speakeasy.

Kayla Briët: At 21, the uber-talented Kayla Briët, of California, is the ultimate one woman band. In her unique performances, she sings as well as plays the keyboard, guitar and traditional Chinese instrument called a guzheng zither. Oh, and she does all this while live looping. Often during the performance, she’ll have one hand playing the guzheng zither and the other playing her keyboard at the same time. Kayla’s talents extend beyond music. She’s also a filmmaker and virtual reality artist whose inspired by her Prairie Band Potawatomi/Neshnabe, Chinese, and Dutch-Indonesian roots.

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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.

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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.

MORE SXSW: 3 global bands that’ll keep your heart pumping

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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.

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“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.'”

SXSW 2018: 3 global bands that’ll get your heart pumping

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Bohemian Betyars: Hungarian folk-punk rockers are representing their country for the first time at the festival. This dynamic six-piece outfit injects audiences with adrenaline as soon as they hit the stage and maintain their super-charged performance throughout their set. You’ll burn some serious calories at one of their shows. Catch them again at 1 a.m. Friday at Palm Door on Sabine.

Hungary’s Bohemian Betyars debut at SXSW.

La Banda Morisca: There’s nothing like walking into a showcase not knowing what to expect and immediately being blown away. That was the case for me at the Russian House’s Sounds of the World showcase on Wednesday night, where flamenco dancer Juan Tomas de la Molia electrified the venue with his rhythmic gymnastics-like moves accompanied by Spain’s blend of Andalusian rock. Their fusion of old world sounds with a unique modern style had festivalgoers getting a cardio workout.

La Banda Morisca of Spain performed at SXSW. Photos by Nancy Flores

Mokoomba: You have no choice but to dance when this Zimbabwe-based group performs their innovative mix of traditional Tonga and pan-African music with hints of rap, ska and Afro-Cuban music. Their infectious good vibes have long-lasting effects.