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2009

From a Bark to a Warble: Systema Solar and Julión Álvarez Hear Voices

SystemaSolar_TN_C2

systema solarFrom time to time, NorteñoBlog enjoys wandering down to the next continent. Today we visit Colombia, where electrocumbias ricochet across every town square and people should keep their little pig-tailed babies away from the red ants, for heaven’s sake. On the back of the CD Systema Solar (Nacional), the new compilation by the band Systema Solar, we read the following:

“Systema Solar is a musico-visual collective based on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Its members are…”

And then it goes on to list the members — without mentioning which member sounds uncannily like Lil Jon. Now, I’m no music publicist, but it seems to me if one of your bandmates has an on-point Lil Jon bark that he’s comfortable trotting out in song after song, that particular musical characteristic should appear first in your bio. “Before we tell you anything else, there’s a dude in this band who sounds like Lil Jon. We feel we owe humanity this information, so that you do not skip over this CD and regret it the rest of your life. Yadda yadda musical-visual collective…”

But whatever. Systema Solar have plenty else going for them. Though the SXSW veterans sometimes play around with one narrowly defined groove, as in “Oye,” they are equally expert at cramming a bunch of disparate elements atop rocking beats and making it work. “Quien Es El Patrón?” blends spaghetti Western guitars, horns, and — because they are not Calexico, thank goodness — absolutely massive drums and turntable scratches. A crazy panoply of voices ricochets across the town square, ants devour babies, and everyone has a fine time. VALE LA PENA and Pick to Click and all that.

Continue reading “From a Bark to a Warble: Systema Solar and Julión Álvarez Hear Voices”

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Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño

amos 2008

After first appearing at the 2014 EMP Pop Conference in Seattle, this article ran last spring at Maura Magazine; I reprint it here with their kind permission.

————————————–
amos 1996Here’s the story of a band from Modesto,
A small city east of San Francisco.
Led by the brothers Guajardo,
They’re known to the world as Los Amos.

amos 2001They got started back in the mid-’90s
Playing los narcocorridos,
And over the course of a decade,
Los Amos altered their appearance

amos 2006From flashy-shirted, big-hatted cowboys
To black-suited, no-hatted tough guys,
Los Amos’ transformation was dramatic,
And their music changed right along with them.

This transition was shaped by two forces:
The demands of their well-structured business,
But also their repeated incantations
Of one magic word from the Bay…

HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY

But before we get hyphy, we need to answer this question: Why were some guys in Modesto, California, playing corridos—Mexican story songs about the drug trade—for a living in the first place? The answer lies with two names, corridistas you’ve probably heard of, immigrants to los Estados Unidos, legends in their field.
Continue reading “Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño”

Los Cuates de Sinaloa: Una Cartilla

cuates breaking bad

Inspired by one of top commenter Manuel’s karaoke jams, here’s a short history of Breaking Bad‘s favorite corridistas, the band Allmusic calls “as gritty and dramatic as one of their songs”: LOS CUATES DE SINALOA. But first, the karaoke jam in question, 2010´s “El Alamo,” a jaunty and repetitive take on a little three-note motive.

The song features accordion, not always a given with Los Cuates, who started out with just two guitarists and a bassist. Well, technically they started with just two guitarists…

1998: Two 14-year-old guitar-playing cousins from Sinaloa, Nano y Gabriel Berrelleza, cross the border from Mexico into Arizona. After living homeless and busking for a couple months, one day they show up at a Phoenix nightclub owned by musician José Juan Segura. Segura tells Billboard,

Continue reading “Los Cuates de Sinaloa: Una Cartilla”

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