May 27, 2005

Corridos Remix: Our history celebrated and mixed

By: Luis Alonso Pérez

“Yo soy el corrido” said the song that began a festive voyage through the people’s ballads, the ones that tell the stories and legends of brave men and women, remembered by poor and oppressed men who had no other way of telling their stories than through their songs and guitars.

But in this occasion the corridos are remembered, remixed and brought to life, in a spectacle full of energy that combines music, theatre, opera and comedy. Written and directed by Kinan and Luis Valdez, the legendary founder of the Teatro Campesino Company, with more than forty years of theatrical experience and director credits in movies like Zoot Suit and La Bamba.

The story begins the same way most good family moments do: with a chest full of memories. Only in this case the chest belongs to Dr. Eduardo Gallo (Luis Valdez) a university professor and researcher, or better said, collector of corrido recordings and lyrics. His collection contained priceless material put together throughout a lifetime.

But El Maestro –as he was commonly called– was an aging man, looking to pass on his collection to his recently found granddaughter Jenny (Yvette Gonzales-Nacer) who ignored the importance and richness of her inheritance, so she mocked it and looked down on it, until her grandfather made her change her mind when he showed and explained the great corrido jewels, and the great diversity of styles it includes.

Luis Valdez and Yvette Gonzales-Nacer star in “Corridos Remix.”

One by one, the corridos where presented. A talented cast recreated the great histories behind the ballads, at the same time they were interpreted, remixed and transformed live by a band lead by Fred Lanuza.

Every corrido, a popular story of victories and defeats; love and heartbreaks; faith and suffering; great lives and tragic deaths. The stories of slaves, lovers, heroes, the poor and the oppressed. Histories that will never make it to history books. Mexican, American, Asian, African, Portuguese and French corridos. Some separate, some together, all remixed.

Just like the state of California, diversity of styles is what makes the play extraordinary. From the pre-Mexican revolution corridos like Modesta Ayala, to the new classics Contrabando y Traición, La Tumba Falsa and La Banda del Carro Rojo.

Many types of corridos where included in the show, like blues, with The Ballad of John Henry, the Bob Dylan folk classic Rainy Day Woman, and rock, with Carry That Weight form the Beatles. Other ballad styles where interpreted, like the Chinese immigrant song The Appeal of John Chinaman and the former African slaves with The Devil Came Down to Georgia, with the desire of exploring cultural mixes. For Luis Valdez “the ballad is a universal expression around the world”.

According to Valdez “the creative challenge was finding the dramatic thread that ties this musical journey into a cohesive theatrical experience. From the Tigres del Norte to the Beatles, the imagery and emotional punch of the ballad continues to evolve, reflecting the passions and ideas of contemporary lovers, heroes and outraged humanity

Yo soy el corrido, we’re all el corrido, no matter the place, language or color. As long as passion, pain, injustice or love exists, all of those who have been forgotten will have a voice.

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