December 19, 2003

MACUILXOCHITL: Five Flower”, the Aztec god of music and dance

Quetzal Chooses Its Own Path to Success

By Francisco H. Ciriza

It’s an age-old lopsided battle. Art versus business conjures up images and memories of talented individuals with marketable talent that inevitably become virtually enslaved and indentured indefinitely to the cooperate machine that is the entertainment industry.

Quetzal Flores and his group of Los Angeles-based musicians have decided to no longer participate in the dynamic that all too often leaves artists empty-handed.

“Artists are not allowed to work with dignity. We want to play on our own terms,” says Flores this week from northern California as his band, also named Quetzal, prepared for a series of west coast concert appearances opening for their compadres, Ozomatli. This tour, in support of Quetzal’s album, Work Songs (Vanguard Records, 2003), has, according to Flores, left the group in debt to their record company. “We’ve recorded two records and toured and we’re in debt,” added Flores. It is a situation that has exhausted his desire to any longer take part in the music industry, at least in the traditional manner.

This is not nearly the end of the group nor is there any reason to believe they will now be difficult to access. They will remain as high profile as ever. “We’re still going to record records to be able to sustain ourselves, to pay our rent. It’s easier for us to detach ourselves, but we’re not going away. We’re still going to be in everybody’s face,” said Flores.

“We’re starting to develop different ideas. We believe there are possibilities in creating a community based, accessible network and forum for art accessible to a whole bunch of people,” continued Flores. “One of the things we’re doing is we’re writing a stage production with a ballet folklorico group based around the philosophy of fandango.” Fandango is the artistic expression/philosophy that originated in the communities surrounding and including the city of Veracruz, Mexico.

It seems fitting that Quetzal, a group that systematically functions on breaking norms, looks to stretch the boundaries of a traditional art form. “We’re looking to facilitate the transition out of traditional role of ballet folklorico.” Together with their partners, Danza Flori-canto, also from the Los Angeles area, the ambitious project will debut in summer of 2004 with two performances at Los Angeles’ Ford Theater.

In the meantime, the group holds no grudges against the system or the players that have stacked the odds against them. “We don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us. That’s not the point. For us, this is the dignified way we see fit. We’re not willing to do work without dignity,” concludes Flores.

The band will fulfill its contractual commitments. Quetzal will play two shows this weekend, December 19 and 20, in Solana Beach at the Belly Up Tavern with Ozomatli. Showtime for both nights is 9:15 p.m.; tickets are priced at $20.

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