Colors & Notes

Los Cenzontles

Los Cenzontles

By Jorge Fuentes

Click aqui para español- >Los Cenzontles

If music reflects the soul of a people, then the band Los Cenzontles is one of the clearest representations of Mexican identity in the U.S. Eugene Rodriguez is the director; he began the band as part of an artist-in-residence program he was working on in Richmond and San Pablo, California, north of San Francisco, where his family has lived for three generations.

“We started to share traditional music and dance with the kids and teens in the area,” Rodriguez said, and made it clear that having good results was important. “We were in a tough neighborhood at the time, and we began to see a huge influx of Mexican immigrants,” he said, so he founded Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy to promote traditional Mexican music, and in this way “the cultural work was helpful.”

The band became the focal point for the rest of the work carried out by the academy, which keeps a strong sense of community. The other members of the band began as students at the academy. They share their work with the rest of the world online, where they feature a collection of hundreds of videos of their performances.

Even though they don’t tour much outside of San Pablo, they have recorded 29 albums and bring a lot of musicians as guests, and have also collaborated with artists such as Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt, Taj Mahal, and The Cheftains.

This month, they are the artists in residence at Preservation Hall here in New Orleans. “I’m excited about New Orleans,” said Rodriguez. “It’s really a special opportunity for us. We want to maintain our links to Mexican traditions through music, so that people realize that we are all connected. We love to share the beauty, the pride and the quality of our music, and we want people to understand the historic and current connections that bring us together; that is important to us,” he said.

Caroling in Jackson Square

Caroling in Jackson Square

By Jorge Fuentes

Click aqui para español- >Villancicos en Jackson Square

One of the brightest traditions for the Christmas holidays in New Orleans turns the French Quarter into a huge choir of people who get together to sing the songs of the season illuminated by thousands of candles.

It works like this: The crowds start showing up on the evening of the event at Jackson Square, usually about 10 days before Christmas, and wait for the gates to open. Once there, each person is provided with a free candle and a songbook and after a brief ceremony on a stage in front of the cathedral, the music starts. You do have to be there early ready to wait in line since the singing begins right on time, and the whole thing is over within the hour.

“Imagine a sea of people you just see candles,” said Sandra Dartus, a member of the group that organizes the event. “It’s such a wonderful feeling, a sea of humanity and all these candles, singing and smiling together,” she said.

Patio Planters of The Vieux Carré is the official name of the 350 volunteers who work all year round to raise the funds that cover the cost of the candles, the songbooks, and all of the expenses for security and the logistics that allow from 8 to 10 thousand people each year get together in peace, and this has happened continuously since 1946.

In one of those occasions, with bad weather threatening, the Archbishop at the time offered to host the singing at the cathedral to shelter the crowd and that has been the rain plan for a few times already.

This year, Caroling in Jackson Square is taking place on Sunday, December 16 at 7 pm.

Photo credit Vieuxcarreplanters

The World of Alexey Marti

The World of Alexey Marti

Click aqui para español- >El Mundo de Alexey Marti

The presence of Alexey Marti is impressive. He has a thunderous voice, he is a robust man with a guarded but kind smile, a sincere handshake, and a pleasant and entertaining conversation.

He arrived in New Orleans 10 years ago from Havana with the music of Cuba in his arms. Alexey is a percussionist and composer, and currently in high demand in the city.

He started playing the conga drums when he was a child within his family environment, sharing with his uncles, but he plays any percussion instrument placed in front of him.

He knows in depth the African traditions that are passed from person to person on the island. "I'm self-taught," he says. "I studied with Oscar Valdez, ex-vocalist and percussionist of Irakere." As if that training wasn’t enough, part of his education came by witnessing the rehearsals of the members of the renowned Afro-Cuban fusion band, and to rehearse by himself 10 or 12 hours per day. "The virtuoso becomes," he says with great confidence adding the saying "to eat fish you have to get wet."

Marti further studied in the jazz program at the University of New Orleans (UNO). At the close of this edition, he is putting the final touches to his second album, entitled "Mundo."

When asked about the focus of his new work, Alexey says that "it is an album of reuniting with the spirits. This work is more accessible, more folkloric, and it shows how many different things can be done with the root of music," he explains.

The 14 singles that comprise Mundo include compositions influenced by genres such as ballad, samba, bossa nova, and salsa, as well as traditional African, Haitian and Cuban rhythms.

"Anthropology plays a very important role for the musician," he emphasizes. The making of the album also reflects its cosmopolitan aspect, since it was recorded in New Orleans, Miami, New York, Havana, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Spain. The album is being published this November.

When saying goodbye, Alexey tells us that he has another album to come. It will be a salsa one this time, coming in January of next year, which clearly shows that he is a prolific creator. "A piece becomes universal when it can be played in different genres and cultures," he concludes by adding "and when it produces the same feeling in different people," Marti concludes.

Media

Commemorating

Commemorating

By Jorge Fuentes

Click aqui para español->Conmemorando

In view of the U.S. celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we ran a sort of poll with several local artists to find their answer to a single question.  For the chosen interviews, we used as criteria that the interviews came from professional artists who were not born in this country but who have strong roots in the local community.

Here is the question:  

As a Hispanic living in the U.S., what does October 12 mean to you personally, and in general, what does the celebration of Hispanic heritage mean?

 

Roberto Carrillo. Mexico.  Musician, teacher, and activist. 

In Mexico, it is quite traditional, we grow up hearing the history versions, that we were discovered, that we should be grateful. As I grew up, I realized that I could not celebrate a genocide. How horrible to celebrate our own conquest!  We’re presented with it as if they came to share their culture with us and it became a tradition, it’s like Thanksgiving, we really don’t know what it’s about. I really have mixed feelings because we’re talking about a crime that we used to celebrate with the family during your childhood, and it shouldn’t be celebrated, it’s like celebrating the day Hitler came to power, except the Spaniards were indeed successful.  But here in the U.S., I think it is important, I support the celebration of Hispanic heritage, I have to support everything that gives us a presence, since we have otherwise been erased, dismissed, deported.  We are creating an organization to promote Mexican culture here in the city, and I am going to bring everything I can to support our culture, that is how we’ll protect our roots.

 

 

María José Salmerón. Spain. Choreographer and dancer. 

My mother is Nicaraguan and my father is from the Middle East. I was born in Barcelona, where I lived until I was five, and then I lived in Nicaragua until I was twelve, and I’ve been living in New Orleans ever since.  I think of myself as a Spanish New Orleanian, like a New Orleans transplant. October 12 was always very present, because it signals the time when the Spaniards came to “discover.”  Starting in 1760, our city’s culture changed with the formal rule of the Spanish crown, which influenced our identity, New Orleans wouldn’t be what it is if during those 40 years the Spaniards hadn’t governed here.  We wouldn’t be the same if we were only one race/ethnicity, here we see the mixture of people from Africa, from the Caribbean, from the Mediterranean.  The first record of the word tango, for example, comes from when Gov. Miro used it to refer to the African music that was heard around the city. Here we see an explosion of cultures where everyone can express their identity.  We are all united because we were part of the contribution to who we are today.  October 12 signals the beginning of this country, and the beginning of New Orleans, which is the most special city there is, and that is why I am organizing a social aid and pleasure club, to represent all the facets of Hispanic culture in the city.

 

Hernan Caro. Colombia. Sculptor and visual arts 

My immediate reaction is full of mixed feelings.  When I was in school, it was like a headache, because in Cartagena there were a lot of abuses, history is very clear, the Spaniards forced themselves, they abused the indigenous community. When I was in Colombia, I saw it with a lot of resentment.  Now, I feel it is my duty (to protect) our language, we have to protect it, and I promote Hispanic culture with pride now, Spanish (language) is not appreciated as it should be, and I hope the chance (to represent it properly) iis not wasted.

 

 

José Torres-Tama. Ecuador.  Artist, writer, and activist. 

It’s undeniable that our Latin American people are going through a time of brutal persecution here in the U.S. now.  This makes me think about what it really means to celebrate our Latin heritage, when our people are filling up detention centers, because Latin immigrants are now classified as terrorists for simply trying to escape political persecution.  I don’t see this month’s celebration as a party but as an opportunity to use our voices to rebuke a system that is oppressing our immigrants.  I have no patience for people without conscience, and if we remain quiet before this hypocritical system we’re furthering a new way of supporting colonization. We shouldn’t celebrate Christopher Columbus on October 12 because he began the genocide against our indigenous people.  My next book will talk about the crude reality of being an immigrant.

 

 

José Fermín Ceballos. Dominican Republic. Musician, composer and singer.

Christopher Columbus first landed on the island of Hispaniola, and since then, the Dominican Republic celebrates the colonization, there’s reenactments in the schools, lectures, and memorials in cultural centers where historical points are reaffirmed.  That is how they teach it at school, a manipulated history, not only in the Dominican Republic but in all of our countries.  I have a lot of problems with that, I have a different opinion, I have basic reasons to disagree and I also know the facts. Many of the details presented as facts are refuted by the records, nothing fits, it is the history of abuse and the taking advantage of the indigenous people by the Spaniards. But October 12 here means the recognition of Latinos in the United States, it is the biggest party where I have the duty to celebrate and remember, a time that all Latinos should use to reflect on the power that we have, whether in politics, culture, cuisine, the arts; we must think about the power we already have, and that it is a month in which we must represent the best we can offer.

 

Photo credit: Facebook

A Blast from the Past

A Blast from the Past

Jose and Jorge Colon from The Almas Band, formerly Almas Gemelas, were visiting town in September.  They’re pictured here with drummer, Gabriel Velasco, on Frenchmen Street.  You can download their latest album, “Funk Defender” at www.almasband.com

Musica Latina

Musica Latina

Por Jorge Fuentes

Click aqui para español->Musica Latina

The record store Música Latina is on its 43rd year of operation in the City of New Orleans and it is probably the oldest Hispanic-owned business that has remained opened and still operates in the city.

The owners of Música Latina are Juan Suarez and Yolanda Estrada. Their store has always been on Magazine Street, although in different locations. Of how his business took off, Suarez said, “I ran into a friend while I was in Los Angeles who gave me a large amount of records and told me ‘here you go, you can sell these’”. Suarez also added, “I told my sister and my sister-in-law to help me and they began to make some phone calls”.

The news about the availability of music in Spanish in the city had such a huge impact among the Spanish-speaking community that all the records immediately sold out. The store officially opened its doors in July 1969 at 2035 Magazine Street, only a few steps from the Happy Hour movie theatre.

Mrs. Estrada, who already knew the Suarez family, began working with them soon after they opened. During its climax, the record store was the main entertainment reference for the local community. The first musical event Música Latina sponsored took place in December 1972 when musicians Los Chavales de España performed at the Rivergate, the most prominent venue at the time, located at the foot of Canal Street, where Harrah’s Casino is currently located.

Música Latina also organized children’s parties during King’s Day. They were so big that the owner of the neighboring theatre began helping by aiding in organizing the party and by showing free movies in Spanish. After the 1976 earthquake in Guatemala, the owners of Música Latina mobilized a network using a shortwave radio transmission with WMJR radio station.

Suddenly, there was a line of people waiting to make a phone call to their relatives that stretched beyond the small radio station studio. After a short recess following a fire, Música Latina opened its door again at 4226 Magazine Street where they remained for a long time.

Música Latina has kept an enviable national and international clientele, even before the advent of the Internet, with fans of all music genres that came from all over the United States, and even in other countries like Germany and France. The owner of a French radio network would travel to the store yearly to buy dozens of records.

When asked about her biggest satisfaction with the record store, Mrs. Estrada responded, “knowing so many people and listening to so much music. It is not just a business, it is a great family”.

Música Latina is  still operating and has been relocated to
1522 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504)299-4227
(behind Nola Mix Records)

Mofongo

By Jorge Fuentes

Click aqui para español->Mofongo

If you are craving new live performances of Latin music in our city, just order Mofongo!

Mofongo is the most recent project of Spanish singer, Corina Hernandez. Corina visited New Orleans for the first time during her honeymoon a few years ago. Since then, her visits have been more frequent, and her stays lasted a bit longer. Her longest stay resulted in her permanent residence in New Orleans when she, together with her husband, also a musician, decided to move into the city.

Their decision was presumably an easy one. After living in different parts of Europe, Brazil, and New York, Corina discovered a musical gem, stating “I have never been in a place that appreciates music as a part of life so much like here”.

Since their relocation, Corina and her husband, Coyote Anderson, a guitarist and composer, have devoted their craft to performing exclusively live.

First, they created the duo The Co and Co Traveling Show, with the intention of refining their musical abilities in a style that dates back to the earliest decades of the 1900s. In their duo, Corina plays u-bass and sings, while Coyote plays the guitar and a suitcase-made drum. 

Their latest project focuses on the salsa genre. Corina said, “[we] wanted to contribute; we noticed how Latin music is well-received here”. She also added that there are eight members in the band and that Mofongo plays themes from Hector Lavoe, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Ruben Blades, and Celia Cruz, among others.

“I grew up surrounded by this music and I always dreamed of having this kind of band”, says Corina. Anderson plays the base and composes for the band. He notes that “[it] is an ongoing challenge because we keep ourselves very busy, but we are musically fulfilled”.

Mofongo Latin Band started booking regular gigs on Frenchmen Street and the dancing crowds have followed. Dancers prefer to dance to live music as opposed to pre-recorded music, so Mofongo draws large crowds.

And why the name “Mofongo”? Corina explains that this namesake Puerto Rican food staple represents a mixture of flavors, which fits the principle of New Orleans’s culture.  But the ultimate reason may very well be revealed when she says, “I think [it] is so much fun to say it out loud: MOFONGO!”

It is tradition for musicians to have a catchy word or phrase to yell as they are playing their music. A famous example of this is demonstrated by the legendary Celia Cruz in the salsa scene from the popular movie Celia Cruz - Azúcar! Corina honors that tradition with her musical talent and affirms there is no better way to do this than by choosing “a word that means something delicious”.

To find updates on where to find Mofongo’s live performances, you can follow Mofongo Latin Band on Facebook.

Media

Zopli2

Zopli2

By Jorge Fuentes

Click para español - Las Coincidencias

I suppose coincidences do not exist. The duo Zopli2 [so-plee-dohs] visits New Orleans from Spain after a layover in New York on their route to Mexico. Clara Gallardo and Joaquín Sánchez, the artists in the duo, began playing the clarinet at the age of 8.

Both have a passion for the flute and wind instruments in general, and they also share a passion for folkloric music from all over the world. Though they were both born in Malaga, they only met in December last year, when Clara returned to the city after culminating her studies at the conservatory in Holland. Right after they met, Joaquín and Clara began intense work sessions, practicing for 12 hours per day to get ready for their first performance in the city of Granada in January. A person from the audience at that first show approached them to tell them she was also a professional musician, and that she knew the perfect place where they could go and play their improvised pieces in New Orleans, where she lived. This is how the duo ended up with a booked performance at the Sidebar Nola, just before Jazz Fest. Joaquín is a recognized multi-instrumentalist. Among his many projects, he plays in the band Vibra-Tó, an ensemble dedicated to making music with hollow recycled materials.

Referring to the fact that improvisation in their pieces fits perfectly with the improvisation that characterizes jazz--our folkloric music. Joaquín assures “it’s a challenge improvising in a duo" as they need "to accompany and fill the gaps" while it is only the two of them creating all the sounds. Usually, they get most of the attention when performing a piece where they play one flute together!

It was no coincidence that we got to enjoy the talent of Zopli2 at the SideBar Nola in our musical city around the Jazz Fest, a time that brings us amazing music from all over the world.

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Publisher's Note

It’s 2019!

This is the first time we start a calendar year, and here at VIVA NOLA Magazine, we are so excited about what's coming in 2019. We are fully energized to take on the new year, especially because of new partnerships that are taking place.

Partnering with New Orleans institutions is a big deal for us because they are a testament of how the community in general has embraced our bilingual content, and how we are achieving our mission of connecting communities and crossing over markets. We begin this year planning a special event for late Spring that I think New Orleans residents will absolutely enjoy. I cannot wait to share the details as everything starts taking shape.

With that being said, there are many things that come up between publications, so I highly encourage you to connect with us via social media to stay in the know and find out what we are doing first. We are on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as @vivanolamag, and on Instagram you can find us as @viva_nola. Our main goal for the year is to share and connect more with our audience. We will continue to work hard to become essential to our amazing community.

For now, let the King Cake season and the Mardi Gras countdown begin!

Looking forward to a fun 2019,

AnaMaria