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Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon

¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Los Hijos de Hernández y más)

lalomoralaurita

lalo-moraThis week in the “norteño legend covers the Great Ranchera Songbook” department, we find Lalo Mora, formerly of the ’70s duo Lalo y Lupe and the ’80s band Los Invasores de Nuevo León. Mora’s been making solo music on labels big and small for a while now, and on his latest, Un Millón de Primaveras (Mora), he’s hired a banda to help him dig through some classics. The horn charts are decent and Mora’s grizzled voice settles into the tunes with effortless authority, but you’ve probably heard these songs done better elsewhere. NorteñoBlog directs you to Joan Sebastian‘s country-with-horns take on the title track, which he wrote; and to Vicente Fernández‘s trembling and magisterial version of “El Ultimo en la Fila,” which Sebastian also wrote. Lest you think the entire Great Ranchera Songbook sprang from Joan Sebastian’s tear-stained pen, Mora also sings “Cartas Marcadas” and some other decidedly non-Sebastian tunes. The album’s technically accomplished, but I never need to hear it again: NO VALE LA PENA.

leonardo-aguilarLeonardo Aguilar has lucked into some decidedly less accomplished banda charts on his debut album Gallo Fino (Machin) — if you wanna hear clarinets cloy hard, check out this single from a couple years ago. No matter: I like Aguilar’s album better than Lalo Mora’s. Continue reading “¡Indies a Go Go! (starring Los Hijos de Hernández y más)”

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100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015

calibre 50 mejor

The hyper-abundant compilation album is one of the more bewildering aspects of the Regional Mexican music industry. There are a LOT of them — witness this Allmusic list of more than 50 Conjunto Primavera comps since 1995, released on eight different record labels. Lately some music-writer friends and acquaintances have observed a dearth of compilation albums in recent years, given listeners’ ability to cherrypick their own songs on streaming sites. NorteñoBlog does not dispute this observation; I’ll only add that the compilation market in Regional Mexican is still going strong. This year saw four new Primavera comps, on two different labels. Who’s buying these things? Don’t they already own all these songs?

Without answering these questions, NorteñoBlog presents this list of 100 single- (or, in the case of Sony’s Frente a Frente series, double-) artist comps released on CD in 2015. It doesn’t include multi-artist comps like Fonovisa’s annual Radio Éxitos: Discos Del Año series. This list is incomplete; I’m pretty sure I could find more by scouring the catalogs of indie labels Select-O-Hits and D&O.

Some items of interest: Continue reading “100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015”

“Go Tejano Day”: What’s In a Name?

go tejano day

[Note: This article has been edited to reflect NorteñoBlog’s belated realization that HLSR is in fact a non-profit, using its proceeds for full college scholarships. Outside accusations of discrimination remain.]

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo sounds like a county fair on steroids and gamma rays, an orgy of horses, country music, and mad cowboys deep frying everything that’s not nailed down. I’m frankly jealous we don’t have one up in Chicago. But there’s trouble in Bayou City, and there has been for the past eight years, specifically surrounding the rodeo’s annual “Go Tejano Day” event:

Go Tejano Day is one of the biggest days at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo but it didn’t stop protestors from rallying outside of NRG Park.

Tejano supporters protested Sunday afternoon saying officials here have chosen musical acts in the Norteno and Banda genre and have not stayed true to Tejano music and culture.

Indeed, yesterday’s Go Tejano Day crowd broke the rodeo’s alltime record for attendance: 75,357 people paid to enjoy the music of Arrolladora and La Maquinaria Norteña, one banda and one norteño group, both of whom NorteñoBlog has been known to enjoy. Neither group has anything to do with Tejano music. To repeat, that’s the biggest ever paid attendance at any day of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which otherwise features first-tier country artists and a couple top-40 pop stars. (Dierks Bentley’s playing tonight; tomorrow’s Ariana Grande.) The second most attended day in history? 2012’s Go Tejano Day, which featured Julión Álvarez and Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon, one banda one norteño, neither of them Tejano.

Indeed, you have to go back to 2007 to find an actual Tejano act playing Go Tejano Day. (It was crossover country star Emilio.) Not coincidentally, that was also the last year the event didn’t spark protests. In 2008 the concert planners broke with tradition. For the first time since Go Tejano Day started in 1990, its headliners weren’t Tejano bands — instead they were Duelo, Texans playing norteño, and Los Horoscopos de Durango, playing Chicago duranguense. 71,165 people still showed up, but so did some protesters:

“The bands that are inside are representing Mexico,” said one protester, Steve Rodriguez, 54. “That’s not representing Tejanos.”

The rodeo’s excuse has always been reasonable, as you’d expect from a gigantic moneymaking corporation. If you’re a Tejano music fan, maybe it’s infuriatingly reasonable. Go Tejano Day was never meant to refer to Tejano music; rather, it was a play on the “Go Texan” slogan and designed to appeal to Houston’s large-and-growing Hispanic population, and the nineties just happened to be when Tejano music was on the rise. As we saw around Grammy time, back in 1996, when the Grammys were busily neglecting norteño music, the Tejano music industry marshaled its clout to create the “Best Mexican-American/Tejano” category, which La Mafia promptly won. Since then, though, Tejano has grown less and less popular. As Tejano fan Ramiro Burr pointed out in 2008, “When it comes time to booking the bands, the Houston Rodeo folks are doing what commercial radio and record labels do — they go for what brings in the largest crowds.” Since Go Tejano Day started featuring norteño and banda acts, the event has consistently broken attendance records for the rodeo’s organizers. Can you blame them?

Well, maybe.

The thing is, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, to whom I’ll start referring as the more nefarious-sounding HLSR, has also done that big-corporation thing of changing the terms of the debate. The HLSR has accomplished this with diabolical ease. (MWA-jajaja!) The 2008 protests weren’t only about which bands would play the main stage; they made other demands:

1. Award greater number of scholarships to Hispanics. Only a few
scholarships are awarded to Hispanics.

2. Need Hispanic representation at the Executive Committee Level of the
rodeo’s governing group. Currently, Hispanics do not have
representation.

3. Retain event title as “Go Tejano Day”, while building greater
awareness of Tejano music & culture.

4. Expand role of “Go Tejano Committee” in the entertainment selection
process. The Go Tejano Committee has no role in selecting bands to
perform.

5. Pay parity for Tejano music artists. Tejano artists are paid much
much less than the other non-Hispanic artists. Yet, the Tejano artists
have broken numerous attendance records.

6. Increase Hispanic themed days/events at the Houston Rodeo.

Indeed, in 2008, “Several black lawmakers, including State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, joined the Tejano cause…, saying blacks, too, should play a bigger role in the show.”

But:

Rodeo officials counter that about one-third of scholarships already go to Hispanic students. And while there are no blacks or Hispanics on the rodeo’s highest volunteer committee [it’s called The Executive Committee, MWAjajaja], that’s because membership is based on years of service and financial contributions.

I can’t speak to the scholarship numbers. But that second point is a classic method of refusing to integrate your organization while still seeming cool with the idea of integration. The idea goes, “They, the people whose money we’re taking in record-setting amounts, can’t help us plan the specific means of taking their money because they’ve never done it before. But seriously, we’re concerned.” Well, if nothing changes, nothing changes. Here, feast your eyes on the pasty faces of the current 2015 Executive Committee! The rodeo does have a black Vice President and some Latino-sounding names on the Board of Directors, which isn’t nothing. But it also isn’t integration. And if you’re serious about representing your clientele, it won’t take you eight years to integrate your Executive Committee, sure as you don’t wanna touch your shoe soles after visiting the livestock show.

(Um, I would like to pre-emptively apologize to Chris Richardson or any other members of the Executive Committee who might, in fact, be Hispanic. Set me straight!)

But in 2008, Leroy Shafer, the HLSR’s Chief Operating Officer, saved his fighting words for the musical argument. “The very vast majority of the Hispanic community knows that this is a subterfuge to try to keep a dying music industry alive,” he said of the protest. “They’re not buying into it.” He’s right about that. This 2009 message board thread is a good read, with every other post offering a sound argument about appropriate names for the event (the meaning of Tejano isn’t in question) and which music is worth supporting. But nobody really addresses the power structure like those 2008 protesters, except for a poster named MH, who says, “[W]e will not be able to influence the Tejano Day if we do not start becoming involved in their planning…”

This year’s protests got some extra attention thanks to Oscar de la Rosa of La Mafia, that Grammy-winning Tejano band; de la Rosa went on a profane rant against rodeo organizers during one of his concerts. (La Mafia has played the rodeo in the past.) There was also a change.org petition. But neither addressed the power structure of the HLSR; they just implored Tejano fans to boycott so that the HLSR would schedule some Tejano bands. The HLSR responded in kind: “We put music on our main RODEOHOUSTON stage that attracts fans and sells tickets.” There are bigger fish to fry here. I frankly don’t care who plays Go Tejano Day, but there’s no question Tejano’s appeal has waned for a while. It simply has fewer fans than norteño and banda. Changing the name to “Hispanic Heritage Day” or hiring La Mafia instead of Arrolladora isn’t gonna change who’s in charge of the rodeo or how they make their scholarship money. They’d just make less money if they hired La Mafia.

¡Nuevo! (ft. Patrulla 81, Rosendo Robles)

patrulla 81

Two tiny and somewhat exciting finds this week:

The first, Patrulla 81’s A Tamborazo, aka Puro Tamborazo Duranguense No Chin%$^@%$…, is unrepentant duranguense with a couple ballads thrown in — because when you’re dancing like you’ve got chewing gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe, sometimes you need to take a break. A decade ago, when duranguense was surging and plagues of scorpions stalked Chicago’s streets, I didn’t much keep up with Patrulla. Like genre leaders Grupo Montéz, they always seemed polite and overthought, without the cool synth tuba lines and tambora blasts of their peers in Alacranes Musical. I’m not sure what’s happened to them, but they sound leaner and tougher now, with fewer cheesy synth leads, more assertive vocals, and lots of tambora. Truth in advertising! This probably means my memory’s lousy and I should revisit their older stuff. A Tamborazo came out December 17 on the BMC label, which doesn’t seem to be the same BMC Records that operates a website.

Even better is a self-released single by Rosendo Robles, “Alterado de Corazon,” a banda waltz of furious excitement and possibly sharp brass sections. Possibly tuned sharp, I should say, although the jagged horn rhythms certainly feel like whirling blades of death, the kind of things you’d contort your shoulders trying to avoid in the upper reaches of a video game. Robles is a graduate of the TV talent show Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento (TTMT), and since he apparently burns with white hot charisma I’m not sure why he’s releasing his own music, except Brave New Music Economy etc.
VALE LA PENA

Also out recently:

Juan Gabriel – Mis 40 En Bellas Artes Partes 1 & 2 (Fonovisa)

Various – Lo Mejor de lo Mejor 2014 (Sony), a general “Latin” compilation of interest for its Gerardo Ortiz tokenism — he’s the only regional Mexican performer included, further moving into that Jenni Rivera role. (They’ve both judged on TTMT, too.)

Los Cadetes De Linares & Los Invasores De Nuevo Leon – Mano a Mano (BMC), one of those split CDs that appear frequently in this genre, here confirming that the BMC label does actually exist.

Los Inquietos Del Norte – “No Dudes De Mi”, lachrymose violin balladry from a band that can be much more hyphy, even if they refuse the term. (There’ll be a hyphy thinkpiece up here soon, promise.)

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