by Francisco H. Ciriza
As the irritatingly trendy wave of Latin pop music hysteria dies its quiet timely death, a much more true example of cutting edge Latino creativity has emerged with the help of an unlikely proponent. New York publicist Josh Norek has compiled and released a collection of perhaps the most intriguing and potentially explosive contemporary Latin alternative music ever in the form of a CD entitled, `Escena Alterlatina'.
With the support of Miles Copeland's Ark21 Records and distribution from Universal Music Group, `Escena Alterlatina' looks to provide U.S. listeners a serving of newer, lesser-known international as well as national acts. But more impressive is Norek's goal to win over Anglo audiences.
"Who needs more groups like Creed, Godsmack, Staind, etc? Latin alternative acts incorporate the music of their heritage with Anglo influences to create something totally new and different. As a `gringo' myself, I can attest to the belief that Latin alternative is by far the most creative genre in rock today," says Norek from his east coast office.
While Norek's name may be unfamiliar to Latin music fans, many will surely recognize the names of those in the business with whom he has been associated. Molotov, Julieta Venegas, Jaguares, and Puya are but a few of the artists he has worked diligently with securing them media attention and radio airplay.
Most notably, however, he is the co-founder of the Latin Alternative Music Conference, a yearly summer affair in New York City consisting of press conferences,panel discussions, club shows, workshops, and full-scale festival concerts. This year's L.A.M.C. includes Latin music pioneer Manu Chao who will be unveiling his newest CD as well as serving as one of the event's headline performers.
It is due to his ties to the Latin alternative music scene, that music business veteran Miles Copeland tapped Norek to spearhead this campaign.
Norek recalls," Miles was aware of all the work I had done as a crossover publicist and as co-founder of the L.A.M.C. I had access to a lot of very good, cutting-edge music from up-and-coming bands. So it wasn't very hard for me to give him music that I thought would work well for such a compilation. Miles basically wanted me to create an album of the best `new' Latin-alternative acts - this is why I did not include veterans like Cafe Tacuba or Fabulosos Cadillacs. We wanted to expose a lot of great U.S. bands like Orixa, Delinquent Habits, Los Mocosos, etc), as well as brilliant new international acts like Julieta Venegas, Arbol, and Kinky."
Proof of Norek's credibility, knowledge, and honest hard work, can be seen in the fact that `Escena Alterlatina' became the first and only compilation of Latin rock EVER to enter the Billboard Latin 50 Albums sales chart. "It even beat Mana, Shakira, and the Gypsy Kings in the first week of April. It's been a steady seller, and I have realistic goals - we want to sell 10,000 copies in the USA. This may not sound like a lot of records to someone at a major Anglo record company, but it is a big number in the world of Latin rock - especially when you're trying to introduce this music to a new audience," says Norek of the disc that can be purchased such major chains as Tower, Borders, Wherehouse, Ritmo Latino, and the Virgin Superstore.
With all of the innovative thinking and unique approach, there's still one more detail that will again catch fans by surprise. "`Escena Alterlatina' comes with a money-back guarantee," says Norek, "this refund comes from me directly - if someone doesn't like the album, they can email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will honestly issue them a refund!"
So with the flavors of the month dripping into obscurity, it is a new breed of talented artists, much less flamboyant and hungry for dollars that seeks to reach the ears of listeners both south and north of the border. `Escena Alterlatina' boasts artists from the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and more. If others can find the beauty, vitality, and relevance of our music, so should we.