January 17, 2003

MACUILXOCHITL: “Five Flower”, The Aztec god of music and dance.

Latin Alternative Music 2002: A Perspective

By Francisco H. Ciriza

Latinos can be proud of their brethren in the music business. Many artists took meaningful chances to prove to the rest of the music business and world of listeners that Xtina (Christina Aguilera), Ricki, Enrique, and Shakira do not represent all that is popular Latin music. While some artists have been content to “crossover” by what many consider questionable means such as singing nonsense lyrics in English or even attempting to “look” more Anglo, others have chosen to explore perhaps more in-depth and meaningful avenues to open ears and minds to the Latino experience.

Cuban/American rap/hip-hop outfit, Orishas,grabbed the attention of both music listeners and industry insiders with the release of their amazing CD, Emigrante.


The disc is a fine example of fresh blends of cultures, languages, sounds, and genres, that can be referred to as truly unprecedented.

Newer groups such as Circo, Voz de Mano, and Volovan continue the diligent footwork necessary to improve their craft. They’re making music, touring (playing anywhere they can), and just doing whatever necessary to get their music heard. So far, it’s already paid off for Circo as they’ve been signed by a major label that plans on re-releasing their debut CD, No Todo Lo Que Es Pop Es Bueno, as well as provide tour support for the band this year.

Jumbo and La Gusana Ciega also continue the battle/struggle. Each group will be once again making themselves heard this year with new CD releases and tours.

Local rockeros, Emaue, seem to epitomize the hard work that goes into getting recognition. They promote themselves, book their own shows and have released their own CD’s. I last saw the guys passing out flyers at a local concert venue after a major Latino act’s concert let out. They’ll be working on a new CD this year, as well.

The most interesting moves, however, came from those major players in the scene. Mexico’s Maná and Jaguares each played a major role in defining what should truly be considered and honest “crossover”. The term “crossover” refers to artists seeking to literally crossing over to being listened to and hopefully appreciated by audiences other than those who are already inclined to buying their CD’s and concert tickets.

Guadalajara pop rock group, Maná,  has been on tour since the August 2002 release of their latest CD, Revolución de Amor, which while not a musical awakening by any means, it is definitely a catchy summation of their talents and tendencies as a music group. Still, the band, continues to impress not only in record and concert ticket sales across the country, but also in terms of promoting  and supporting efforts to promote women’s rights and Latino college and university students. While some may question their decision to accept big corporate sponsors, it is difficult to ignore their work in cause to support the above mentioned as well as the environment with their philanthropic organization, La Selva Negra.

Taking it up even a few more notches, Jaguares boosted themselves in terms of being legends, trend setters, and true path finders, first, by appearing on the Conan O’Brien Show last March and then by playing four very special concerts in southern California last year. Three shows had the band sharing the stage and audiences with Englishman, Morrissey, formerly of the 80’s band, the Smiths. It was incredible to see fans cheering for both and both sets of artists demonstrating mutual respect by being ultra-positive about each other in the press and in person. While Morrissey chat site participants initially questioned why their beloved prince of melodrama would ever fathom the idea of opening the concerts for what some called an “unknown” Mexican rock band, the tone of many eventually transitioned into a much more positive one perhaps proving Saul Hernandez’s idea of merely exposing music fans to something new and different may have actually worked.The Mexico City bands’ fourth show demonstrated to all of us just exactly to what great heights Latino rock has reached over recent years. This time, Jaguares teamed up with the pride of east L.A., Los Lobos, to literally rock the Santa Barbara Bowl for what some witnesses have deemed the best show of 2002. In addition to all of the above, the band even managed to squeeze in the recording and release of a fabulous acoustic CD, El Primer Instinto, followed by a string of unforgettable live shows throughout the U.S., Spain, and Mexico.

Regardless of the manner in which Latino artists chose to approach their careers and this business of “crossing over”, 2002 provided a firm foundation for the rest of us to continue this re-conquest, as many like to refer to it. I, myself, purchased many copies of Latino artists CD’s and gave them to my Anglo friends I knew would appreciate the quality of music contained within and at the same time be open minded, if not intelligent, enough to actually appreciate the language difference. It was a small gesture, but it seemed to work. They liked what they heard. Next time I’ll bring a few of those same friends along to see and hear a Latino band the U.N.S. has actually allowed into the country...getting in isn’t always as easy as it seems, apparently...just ask the guys in Volovan.

Latinos continue to make strides forward in the entertainment business. We now have our own grammys...which may or may not be a good thing. I tend to believe it will be a greater day when any non-Anglo does anything worthy of notice and praise and nobody notices the color of her/his skin nor the language which she/he speaks.

In the spirit of change and the continuation of broadening our horizons, Macuilxochitl’s Kiva will, in the future, periodically include mention of artists and events that may fall out of our typically “Latino” scope alongside our coverage of the latest in Latino Alternative and Pop Music and Entertainment. It is our hope that we too can cross those borders and allow ourselves to appreciate the work of other artists as well as our own.

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