MACUILXOCHITL: Five Flower”, the Aztec god of music and dance
By Francisco H. Ciriza
Once again we saw Latino music continue to receive considerable levels of attention from a wide range of sources. With seemingly parallel levels of respectability it was also unfortunate that we also saw cases where we may have never looked as silly. Case in point, the Latino Grammy Awards. What a disappointment. Enough said. Quite conversely, however, The MTV Latin Awards by far outclassed any and every music award show, ever, with it’s opening alone. If you were lucky enough to have witnessed the progression of artists who contributed their part of the fantastic medley of both classic and poignant Latino Alternative and rock anthems, you understand the awesome display of talent and class that brought this writer to full applause, yelling, and even tears…in my family room at home. I’ll admit it, I even cheered for Ricky Martin. The guy has real guts to have taken part in the thing and to have been as brash as he was. His participation brought me a newfound respect for him. The guy even has some talent. Hats off to him.
The year brought more of the same typical off hand of attention from the Grammy’s. Superficial, perhaps even demeaning. While I am an admirer, correction, a fan of Maná, it was a slap in our collective face by awarding the group for their Revolución de Amor disc. I am not denying it’s a nice package, music, cover art, concept…etc., but for this work of art to receive recognition as the best in its class is a farce. The act itself reduces the art that exists within the genre. It attempts to dismiss all that is relevant by merely looking our way and throwing this bone to pacify and tame our hunger.
Once again, however, there was a bright spot. Bacilos. For this group to receive recognition is more than a just act. It is a true acknowledgment of a fresh approach, a unique perspective and expression of which the Latino music scene could use more. Congratulations to the group and to the body that chose to recognize the musical genius that has kept many of us dancing and singing throughout the year.
There is much to look forward to, it seems. We have seen a good number of both new and familiar acts come to the forefront of the scene. The breadth of new artists is what lately seems most impressive. Natalia Lafourcade is an amazing ball of fire. How do so much emotion, talent, and savvy end up in such a small and young lady? Juanes continues to ride his tidal wave of momentum as does Alejandro Sanz, two males I’d much rather see become our poster boys rather than Enrique or Luismi. PLEASE!
El Tri made some noise this year, as did a reunited Fobia. Along with Jagaures who continue to pack arenas, clubs, theaters, what have you in whichever country they choose to appear, seem to linger on as do our abuelos and visabuelos do, making sure we never forget from where we came as well as to remind they’re still strong and tough enough to whip some tail. Un gran saludo y abrazo to Alex Lora and Saul Hernández and and their respective bands, may you keep giving your gifts of music and experience to us listeners and especially to your younger counterparts, for they may not know what they do. And who can forget Café Tacuba? They went from near extinction to rocking the rocks off of downtown San Diego at Street Scene 2003…IN SPANISH!
Lastly, for this little corner we like to call the Kiva. We made good on our promise to include coverage of music by artists who speak that other language some folks like to fancy the ‘official’ language of this state. The halls of Macuilxochitl echoed with some wonderful six-string work from the good, old-fashioned, bubble gum, power-pop ‘We’re an American Band’ outfit, Cheap Trick, and from a true original, sixties godfather of psychedelic folk rock, Arthur Lee. He may sound vain at times, but he really was ahead of his time and he did play a big part in Jim Morrison’s musical upbringing, if not his early career. If you were lucky enough to have caught Love with Arthur Lee at Street Scene 2003 you know exactly why Lee can say he was responsible for the hippie movement that made its way up the state to San Francisco in that time forever to be known as the Summer of Love. We also shared space with San Diego’s own Steve Poltz, a true gentleman and scholar. A man of many words (and ideas), but even more songs. Poltz is an artist willing to make his music by himself and to bring it to listeners in the same way, without the huge and tangled mess that is the music industry. He is a man dedicated to his music, his friends and family, and to an open mindedness that I wished to God every person in this world of ours had even just a fraction of.
This year, look for the Kiva take on the role of historian and teacher, as we will be featuring artists that broke ground and formed the real roots of the rock en Español movement. Such pioneers as Violeta Parra, Inti-Illimani, and Los Jaivas will be just a few of those included.
May 2004 be a year in which listeners pay more attention to what is real and true art, in either Spanish or English…or both.