Colors & Notes

Rancho Aparte

Para leer este artículo en español, clic aquí: Rancho Aparte

One of the musical groups invited to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which is part of the celebration of Colombia at the Expedia Cultural Exchange, is Rancho Aparte.


Directly from the Department of Chocó, Rancho Aparte represents the sounds of the Colombian Pacific, such as abozaos, polkas, rebulú, contradances, and jugas through its music. They are the most recognized band of Chirimía, a rhythm that uses brass instruments and rescues the roots and soul of a region where joy is present despite daily difficulties. “The Chirimía has a combination of instruments of European origin with native instruments; it is an ancient musical format to which the voice and lyrics and other instruments were added over time,” says Dino Manuelle, Rancho Aparte’s vocalist.

The group’s energy has made them stand out in Colombia, and they have conquered audiences on stages such as the WOMEX Festival in Budapest and the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. They have been the favorites of the Colombian Pacific music festival, the Petronio Alvarez in Cali, Colombia, where they performed an exciting brass band exchange with the renowned Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans.

For Manuelle, the experience of playing with the Hot 8 Brass Band was a great idea. “We connected, and three groups played a Chirimía song together. The energy was tremendous, and we didn’t want to leave the stage,” he said, adding that the similarity between New Orleans brass and the Chirimía is in the percussion and wind instruments, in that it is very urban and street music.

Their performance at Jazz Fest will bring them their first in the United States. They hope to discover more New Orleans rhythms, connect with other bands from around the world who will be present at the festival, and, of course, be ready to make the audience enjoy themselves. “At Rancho Aparte, we do not spare a single drop of sweat. The audience will jump, sing, and get to know the music of our population and our country. They will feel everything from emotion to reflection with the lyrics of our songs,’ says Manuelle.


Don’t miss Rancho Aparte’s performances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. You can discover more about this band through their soc

Jazz Fest Celebrates Colombia

To read this article in Spanish, click Jazz Fest Celebra a Colombia

Jazz Fest’s 2024 Expedia Cultural Exchange explores Colombia’s vibrant musical and cultural legacy. It marks the largest exchange in the festival’s history, with nearly 200 Colombian artists participating.

Notable Colombian representatives include Bomba Estéreo on April 27, ChocQuibTown’s Goyo with an exceptional performance alongside local band ÌFÉ on April 28, and the iconic Grupo Niche closing the festival on May 5.

Enjoy the Chirimía rhythm with Rancho Apart and the traditional marimba with Agrupación Changó the first weekend. Kombilesa Mi will perform on April 27 and 28, mixing traditional Afro-Caribbean rhythms with rap in Spanish and Palenquero, the language of Palenque, the first town of free blacks in America.

The second weekend brings the winners from the prestigious Petronio Álvarez Festival, Matachindé, and the marimba fusion group Bejuco. The Caribbean fusion arrives with the Creole Group from San Andrés on May 3 and 4.

Don’t miss cumbia, salsa, joropo, and champeta, with performances like salsa clash  from Cali's Jacobo Vélez y la Mambanegra. In addition, the joropo of Cimarrón and the indigenous music with the Millo flute of Joaquín Pérez y su Herencia Ancestral with the rhythms of the Barranquilla Carnival on the first weekend; Lucio Feuillet will represent the city of Pasto’s Black and White Carnival on the second weekend.

The cultural exchange area will showcase Colombian crafts, including backpacks, baskets, jewelry, violins, marimbas, and more, from more than 18 artisans.

We must remember the Colombian flavors! Café Carmo of New Orleans, in collaboration with chef José Blanco of Waska, will serve Colombian street delicacies, such as a refreshing ceviche. On May 3, guest chef Francisco Escalona Forth will present recipes from various regions, such as San Andrés crab stew and Cocoloco. Do not miss the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and its celebration of Colombia!

VALE! ULB, A Latin Band Worth It

Para español, clic aquí >>VALE! ULB, una banda latina que vale la pena

By Axel 'Lola' Rosa

Everyone can agree that music is a universal language that allows us to connect with others even if we don’t speak the same. VALE! ULB, a bilingual Miami-based multicultural Latin band with a New Orleans native as their producer, brings a similar vibe of connection through a mix of personalities, cultures, and sounds.

A talented group of Grammy-Award-winning musicians and artists make up VALE! ULB. Val Vargas is the band leader who brings her exceptional vocals and experience, having worked with artists like Alexander Pires and Christian Yaipen. On percussion, Anier Alonso has extensive expertise in numerous musical genres, including Yoruba, Abakuá, and Tajona. Emiliano Torres, the Musical Director, is a trumpeter who has recorded, played, and toured with various artists, including Ricky Martin. Alberto Torres, a.k.a. Friki, handles the guitar and strings for the band. His credits include Yoli Mayor and Gente de Zona. The band’s producer and bass player is Darius Harrison, a.k.a. Deezle, whose credits include Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne.

The acronym ULB in the band’s name stands for United Latin Band. “It comes from different cultures. I’m Colombian, and my Dad is Peruvian. Aniar is Cuban, Deezle is from New Orleans, and Emi (Emiliano) is from Argentina.” The first part of the band’s name, VALE!, has a double meaning. According to Deezle, it’s a wordplay from the lead singer’s nickname, Vale, and the saying used in diverse Latin American countries to denote agreement. “It’s like ‘VALE! Uniting Cultures’ like ‘GET IT!, ‘DO IT!’” says Deezle, adding that the exclamation point adds to the expressive feeling.

Deezle grew up playing the saxophone, training in classical music, and playing in the orchestra and jazz bands in high school. “All those elements combined made me respect the variations and differences in life and culture,” Deezle said, adding he loved Oye Como Va by Santana when he first heard it. “I never heard anything like that ‘cause it was all funk, R&B, Motown, and Disco back then.” Deezle didn’t know how to identify the sound he was hearing, but it resonated with him. After earning a Grammy for his work with Lil Wayne on the Carter III and extensive credits as a music producer, engineer, and songwriter, Deezle kept gravitating to Latin music. “That’s what I like, is good stuff, it don’t matter what the genre is. In Hip-Hop, you didn’t have that mixing of cultures like that early on. Even though a lot of cats were Puerto Rican, they weren’t mixing Spanish or English in pop songs.”

Now that he resides in Miami, he can explore his passion for Latin music with VALE! ULB. The band formed nearly four years ago in 2019, playing sounds that stand out from other bands and genres because of the unique way they create music. “We’d say take a piece of Black Eyed Peas, take a piece of No Doubt, take a piece of Santana, take a piece of Stevie Wonder and pour some Gumbo on it and that’s us,” says Deezle. Batá drummer Anier Alonso agrees: “We take the essence of different influences. For example, pop, Latin rap, trap in English, ballads in Spanish, jazz, and salsa. Mixing all that creates an atypical sound because we are all different but from the same Latin Origins.”

Last November, their performance at Chickie Wah Wah was a real treat for the dancers that night. VALE! ULB got the crowd going with original tracks like Bailes Chicos and Hey Mama, leaving fans asking for an encore! The band happily played their newest single, Sube El Nivel, which you can find on YouTube. To listen to their music and stay in the loop on future show dates and original content, visit www.valeulb.com or follow them on Instagram @valeulb.

We look forward to having them back in Deezle’s hometown many more times!

Project Ella Aids Artists in the Music Business

Para artículo en español clic aquí:El Proyecto Ella ayuda a los músicos de Nueva Orleans

By Axel Lola Rosa

Louisiana has birthed and contributed to many genres of music over the years, such as Jazz, Zydeco, and Bounce, to name a few. Just like any other business, the music business has a legal department. For the independent artist, who is usually a one-person show, no pun intended, they typically don’t have a legal team. That’s where The Ella Project comes in. The Ella Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Ashlye Keaton & Gene Meneray that provides direct pro bono legal intellectual property and entertainment law assistance.

Keaton practices intellectual property and entertainment law and is an adjunct at Tulane University. She has received numerous accolades, including New Orleans City Business Leadership in Law and OffBeat Magazine’s Best Music Attorney. Meneray is a Native New Orleanian, Tulane University Alumni, and held the Director of Artist Services title at the Arts Council of New Orleans for over a decade. 

According to backstage.com, hiring an entertainment lawyer can range from 5% of one’s talent fee to hourly rates starting at $300. Keaton and Meneray’s work began almost 20 years ago with a partnership of the Arts Council of New Orleans, Tipitina’s Foundation, and Tulane Law School. It had provided services to over 3,000 clients by 2016. “We’ve been doing the work since about 2004, and then we set it up as an independent nonprofit in 2016,” said Meneray. Keaton came out of Law School practicing entertainment law at a local firm with clients with needs, but those clients could not afford the services. “What if we set up a program to get someone else to pay for it?” And the Ella Project was conceived. 

Aside from providing legal advice, the ELLA Project offers various programming and workshops. One of those workshops is Crescendo. When she was an Ella Project student volunteer, attorney Bri Whetstone realized a different need amongst clients. “It was great when the musicians would come to us with questions and problems… but what if there was a way we could go ahead and teach them about certain red flags in the music industry?”. 

With Whetstone instructing, the Ella Project started offering simple workshops. Soon after, Whetstone met Lou Hill. Hill’s knowledge and teachings caught Whetstone’s attention, “I was blown away by how he talked about the practical side…‘This is how you get money. These are the things you should be doing.’ So I wanted to combine that experience with the law.” That’s how Crescendo came to be. Hill is a music entrepreneur, songwriter, and musician with Waterseed, a New Orleans Future Funk band. “I was asked to speak at Crescendo and met these guys (Meneray and Whetstone) because I was already familiar with Ella.” The following year, Hill joined Crescendo as an instructor. “My effort in New Orleans is figuring out how to get musicians in a place where their art financially supports them.” 

The Ella Project offers direct one-on-one services and programs in English. Still, it does not limit its services to English speakers. “We have brought in translators before…I have a rolodex of translators. We can have somebody come there (Ella Project Offices) and translate for legal appointments. That’s not a problem,” said Meneray about the need for non-English speaking musicians. This year’s seven-week Crescendo workshops occur every Tuesday, from 5 PM - 7 PM, at the New Orleans Jazz Museum beginning September 26th. For more information about the Ella Project, to make an appointment or a donation, visit www.ellanola.org or call 504-250-0429. 

Music Series Honors Mexican Artist Enrique Alférez


Para el artículo en español, clic aquí: Tardes con Enrique

Enrique Alférez moved to New Orleans in 1929 and stayed and worked in the city for almost 70 years. The Zacatecas-born artist left a significant mark. Sculptures, fountains, monuments, and more of his creations are exhibited throughout different parts of town, like on the facade of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport and its fountain, Charity Hospital, the Poydras art corridor, and numerous pieces in NOMA, bridges, fountains and the Botanical Garden in City Park, among others places.

The Helis Foundation cherishes his essential legacy, preserving his art, publishing a book about his life, and supporting Evenings with Enrique, a series created in 2016 that honors his name and highlights Latin American art and music in New Orleans.

Evenings with Enrique provides Louisiana residents with a chance to enjoy the works of Enrique Alférez while walking through the Botanical Garden and enjoy music from local Latin bands, free of charge on Wednesdays in April and October.

Food and drinks are available, and the gift shop also offers Enrique Alférez: Sculptor, a book by Katie Bowler Young about the artist’s life.

For the full music lineup, visit thehelisfoundation.org.


Allan Cubas: Urban & Latin Beats from the 504

Para español clic Allan Cubas: Ritmo Latino y Urbano del 504

By AnaMaría Bech

Being part of the Young Money label, “It’s a dream come true” for Allan Cubas, a New Orleans-born Honduran artist whose recognition is growing in the urban music community.

Cubas recognizes the importance of showing up and the fortune of being in the right place at the right time. The way things happen in New Orleans, a friend of a friend told him he could be a good fit for Lil Wayne and Mack Maine’s music label Young Money, which has looking to sign new talent. “Petie called me randomly one night and told me, I feel like you could be a good addition, with the way the Spanish game is growing.”

Those in the music scene have known about Cubas’ dedication and passion for his music and recognize his talent as an American bicultural artist in New Orleans. Cubas’ father is from Honduras, and his mother is a Mississippi native. He grew up in a genuinely bicultural family, which gives him the upper hand in navigating between two languages and the experiences and culture of the Latino and the Anglo worlds. Cubas represents the 504, which happens to be the New Orleans area code and Honduras’s international code.

“I was a music fan for as long as I can remember. I felt like it was an outlet for me to express myself. When I was in Honduras, I would hear different things, but really what hit me was coming to New Orleans at an early age.”


His first musical influence was his father, an avid musician who played and sang a mix of genres of music in Spanish and at church and parties. According to Cubas, his father would have never seen a future in music. “He didn’t pursue it as a dream or career. Coming from a third-world country, I don’t think he saw that as a possibility.”


But Cubas does. He inherited music from his father and the desire to write everything down. His mother taught him to dream big and believe nothing was impossible. He grew up listening to the lyrics from artists such as Roberto Carlos and others his dad used to sing. The New Orleans hip-hop and R&B scenes later influenced him. “I remember going out at the block party and hanging out in bars. Music was always hot”.


The reggaeton phenomenon influenced Cubas and intrigued urban artists and producers in the United States, including Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., who understood the potential of investing in Latin music. Finding out a New Orleans-based urban artist such as Cubas was a match for his label. Cubas’ dedication, work ethic, and focus have gained Lil Wayne’s full support. Meeting Lil Wayne was surreal for Cubas. “When I met Wayne, it was kind of a mutual chemistry from the jump. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana, so Lil Wayne’s always been somebody I admired. He is the greatest rapper of all time.” 

Cubas has always loved writing lyrics. “When I got to middle school towards high school, I started battle rapping. You know, I always enjoyed spoken word poetry after high school.” You won’t catch Cubas without a pencil. He always carries it as a reminder that lyrics and inspiration are everywhere. He recognizes his writing is a gift, knows his strengths, and learns from his losses. And right now, he is learning from the best. He recently returned from touring with Lil Wayne for over two months, where he got a prime opportunity to perform next to his idol in front of big crowds. “Merit got me here, but there are still levels to go,” says Cubas knowing he will prove he can stand on his own.


Before Young Money signed him, he had performed in various places around New Orleans, the United States, Honduras, and Belize. He created original songs and videos with local producers and friends like Abby Urbina, Eric Bardales, Saul Ramos, and Mario Mejia. He has gotten the support of a few local promoters, such as Tito Miranda and the late Tulio Murillo, but he’d like to see more support from local Latinos.

“My music has taken me everywhere because, as a dreamer, I’ve always been chasing this, and I’m going to keep going with it,” Cubas says, and we believe he is certainly going places.

To hear Allan Cubas, check out various platforms and his recent songs, Inseguro, No Pressure, and Sativa, and support him by following him on social media and sharing his music.

Plena Libre: Celebrating Puerto Rico

By AnaMaria Bech

En español>>Plena Libre: Celebrando a Puerto Rico

The city of New Orleans celebrated the music and culture of Puerto Rico within the framework of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage. The beautiful island of enchantment shares similarities with the most Caribbean city in the continental United States. Bringing artists and musicians from Puerto Rico to a festival that celebrates diversity is something special for the organizers of Jazz Fest. Puerto Rican residents in Louisiana felt identified thanks to several shows and cultural displays inside the Puerto Rico pavilion.

For Ingrid Casanova, a Puerto Rican who resides in New Orleans and who visited the Puerto Rico Cultural Exchange Pavilion, it was special to celebrate both of her cultures.

“It feels amazing because New Orleans is so similar in culture…Is a city ​​full of culture and tradition, just like Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is full of music and food, so we are very similar. After [Hurricane] María, I came to live here, but I felt that I was not alone. I feel that New Orleans is part of my life, so I am celebrating this interaction between what is Louisiana and Puerto Rico, which is spectacular.”

One of the guest bands in the Cultural Exchange Pavillion was Plena Libre, which combines the traditional Plena and Bomba rhythms with other Afro-Caribbean styles and jazz to create a contagious dance music that honors the group’s deep sense of the unique indigenous musical traditions while embracing modern sounds. We talked with Víctor Vélez, singer and main percussionist of Plena Libre, about his experience in New Orleans and at Jazz Fest:

How did you feel about participating in the Jazz Festival and being in New Orleans for two weeks?

Apart from all the functions, variety, and diversity of artists from different parts of the world, the treatment, the people, the food, everything is spectacular. Playing with Plena Libre felt spectacular. It is my duty to be part of this band and much more when representing Puerto Rico outside of Puerto Rico. 

How does it feel to see Puerto Rican culture celebrated at this festival?

Seeing the culture of the island is exalted here is very important. The reality is that we need more festivals like these where we can take our music, not just to New Orleans but around the world.

Did you have a chance to perform multiple times?

Besides being the vocal leader and percussionist in Plena Libre, I sing with the Bomba group Tambuye, which was also invited to represent Puerto Rico. I also play and sing with La Casa de la Plena Tito Matos, so we participated in the parades.


Yusa's Music

Click here para español>> La música de Yusa 

Every time Yusa performs, she takes the audience on her journey through music. When you attend a Yusa concert, you’re not there to listen but to feel. 

Her talent is undeniable, as she has been perfecting her craft for a long time, taking tunes from many genres and infusing her music with the sounds of every place she’s traveled.

Describing Yusa’s music is hard. You cannot categorize her; she likes it that way. She is a multi-instrumentalist; she sings, improvises, and dances. She never wants to be boxed in because her music is about feelings and experiences.

Yusa joined the conservatory in Cuba at age 9. As a little girl, she fell in love with the guitar when she saw the children of her caretaker practice their lessons. Her mother saw how music lit a fire inside her and recognized it was more than a brief infatuation. She saved some money and got Yusa her first guitar, offering the support she wished her mother would give her when she dreamed of being a singer. 

Thanks to her mother’s guidance, Yusa could pursue a demanding musical education in the conservatory in Cuba. She studied classical Guitar and became the first to graduate with studies on tres, a string instrument original to the Caribbean island. The tres was Yusa’s avenue to exploring Cuban music from the countryside and became her way to challenge the traditional training at the Conservatory, helping give folk music the place it deserved in the academy. 

Soon after graduation, she joined Son Los Que Son, a popular women-only band that needed a tres player, allowing her to perform and sing at the most famous Cuban venues. She could fill the 28-shows per month quota required to earn the salary as a musician in Cuba, and her dedication and hard work allowed her the privilege to tour internationally. 

Collaborating with friends who needed music for their theatre plays, Yusa found the need to write and compose. This event marked the birth of Yusa’s solo career. She got to tour Europe and Japan and earned nominations and an invitation from the BBC London to perform in Latin Voices, a concert where Yusa, Lila Downs, and Susana Baca were the stars. 

She founded Interactivo, a collective of incredible musicians, for which she was known in many places. In 2004 she participated in “Lenine in the Cité,” a live recording of a DVD of the recognized Brazilian musician who received two Grammys. She went back and forth, touring in the spring and fall. 

Her musician friend Santiago Feliu invited Yusa on his tour in South America. 

In Argentina, Yusa learned the extent of Latin American music beyond the canción protesta taught in Communist Cuba. She also realized she had already established an audience. When getting ready for a solo show, Yusa saw more than 200 people in the venue and thought, “This venue must do very well.” To her surprise, the audience sang her tunes and requested songs they knew from her collaboration with Lenine. 

“Argentina was a life-changing experience,” said Yusa. She settled in the Gaucho country for almost a decade. From there, she traveled all over Latin America and got a chance to learn the diverse folk rhythms from every region. She connected to her Latin culture, fell in love, and as her life went on, personal struggles got in the way of her life and career. It was time to move on, leave Argentina, and put her music on hold. So while searching for her inner peace, Yusa became a therapist and moved to Florida to work in her new field. Music became a side gig, and Yusa performed in Miami sometimes. The CubaNOLA Arts Collective knew Yusa’s trajectory, and when they heard she was in Miami, they invited her to perform with the Jazz and Heritage Foundation at Preservation Hall. Yusa enjoyed her brief visit to New Orleans.   

The pandemic forced Yusa to find new horizons. She accepted help from a good friend in New Orleans and decided to settle in the city of jazz. It did not take long for Yusa to find a new sense of belonging, a rich musical community, and make new friends. Music became her primary focus again, and she has been busy performing at various festivals, venues, and events. 

Yusa’s performances are designed not to be heard but to be felt. She takes the audience on her musical journey and shows her jazzy spirit. She feeds from the energy of her audience and gives them an unforgettable time while celebrating together “ the luck of being alive.”

Yusa will perform at French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest. Follow her on social media as Yusa Music to learn about her show details.


Our music section "Notas y Colores" is made possible thanks to the support of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation

Piano on a Truck

Piano on a Truck

By Claudia Vallejo

Click aqui para español- > Piano sobre ruedas

Social distancing, banning crowds, and restriction of entertainment are in place. But who says that music must stop? Not in New Orleans! Put a 600-pound piano on a truck’s bed so that the show can go on.

Jacques Ferland loads a grand piano on his white truck, drives around, finds a corner of a park or the front of a house to park, and invites a pianist to play it. “Piano on a Truck,” Jacques’ idea, gave new birth to perform music during the pandemic.  

Jacques Ferland is a Canadian native who calls New Orleans home. He has been fixing, tuning, and moving pianos for over 20 years.  He started “Piano on a Truck” in the French Quarter in December of 2019.  His idea did not work well at that time. A few months later, the pandemic hit, and Jacques decided to roll his piano on the truck again. “It is now or never,” he thought. This time, people loved it! 

There are not exact days to catch a concert on Jacque’s truck.  Its frequency depends on the weather. The piano can get easily damaged if it gets wet, and as he also remarks, “nobody wants to be in the rain.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” The best way to know when to catch a concert on wheels is to follow “Piano on a Truck” on Facebook.

On top of the white truck, the gold-painted piano on one side and red on the other is frequently seen at Coliseum park in the Lower Garden District. On a random Wednesday, adults, young people, and children sat to listen to Kristofer Tokarski playing Louis Armstrong’s tune “Two Deuces” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Sweet Substitute,” among other songs.  It was a one-hour show. “The style of music that I play is traditional jazz piano. What people hear is a lot of what I would play ordinarily at a club,” says Kristofer.

Different musicians play regularly on “Piano on a Truck.”  Kristofer Tokarski plays early jazz. Andre Bohren performs classical piano. Josh Paxton executes some of the great New Orleans pianist legends, and Joe Krown is also a New Orleans-style piano player. “It depends on what people want to hear,” explains Jacques. 

Who could imagine that a truck could be used for something so fun?  Jacques Ferland’s piano on a truck is already an iconic sight around New Orleans’s streets and old neighborhoods. “I feel that there will be a demand for it even when the bars open again. It is always nice to be outside,” asserts Jacques while he fixes the fifth piano that, like the other four before it, will end up on the back of his truck someday.    

A Conversation with Jason Marsalis

A Conversation with Jason Marsalis

By Claudia Vallejo

Click aqui para español- > Una conversación con Jason Marsalis

Jason Marsalis is the youngest of the Marsalis, considered the first Jazz family in New Orleans and the United States: Branford, saxophonist, Wynton, trumpeter, Delfeayo, trombonist, and Jason, drummer.

Jason started to play drums at the tender age of seven with his father, Ellis Marsalis Jr., the great New Orleans piano player and educator. He died a year ago, on April 1st, 2020, from Covid-19 complications.       

We asked Jason about his new album (his seventh) and his view of New Orleans’ musical scene during these difficult times, but we mainly talked to him about his father.

Are you preparing a new album?

I am preparing a different kind of album, music for relaxation and meditations. It was after the pandemic that I decided to play on the vibes of music of that nature. The recording is finished. I just must get the artwork and master recording together.  But at some point this year, I would release it via download.

How do you see New Orleans’ musical scene during the pandemic?

It is not the greatest financially because it is very limited. But, musicians will figure out a way to keep the tradition. New Orleans will figure out a way to support creativity and preserve its culture. That is why you have even musicians from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra played downtown on Frenchmen Street on the balcony of “Dat Dog.” 

You were busy playing, touring, and recording before March 2020. How has this time affected your career? 

Everything came to a stop. I had to figure out other ways and other things to do.  I have more of an online presence.  I have been doing more postings of videos. I just joined the popular application Tik Tok, and I have been teaching online. I cannot tour, but I have been able to figure out other things.

This pandemic has hit close to your heart, are there any memories you could share with us about your father?

I spent so many years with him playing music, and I learned so much from him over time.  It can be hard to pinpoint a single moment per se.  I have these different memories of him. He always let me know when a drummer was coming to town who will give a clinic, and we will say, “alright, let’s go!”

I think that there are revelations that I have in talking to other people about my father (laughs). We did a recording, “The New Orleans Collection.” I spoke to the session’s producer, and he said that my father surprised him because he was always listening to something.  He was not confined to one era. He always was into music played by young people.  Often, the older average musician is only interested in their peers’ music or generation, but that was not my father. He believed in music, but he believed in young people playing the music to keep the music going.

This is kind of a funny memory: We were on a family vacation, December of 97, and we were in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a nice town! Dad and I were walking by this club, and we saw this sign: “appearing guitarist Charlie Hunter.” We were so excited: “yeah, Charlie Hunter is here!” We looked again and realized we had missed him by one night (laughs.) We were so upset! We could not believe it! 

Does keeping the legacy of your father put a lot of pressure on your shoulders?

No, it does not! Keeping his legacy is something that I want to do. There are recordings of his that I have that will get released over the upcoming years. At the same time, we will be collecting things as a family: new recordings, papers, or even lessons.  I had a conversation recently with Bradford (older brother who plays saxophone) about some recordings and classes that he taught ages ago. We have not decided what to do with them yet, but we will preserve these things. The knowledge and music that he had is not something that will be forgotten, and it is something that we will pass on in different ways.

I know that you played at Snug Harbor recently. How did it feel to be on stage again?

It was great to play in that room again.  I grew up playing in that room.  It was a bit surreal to be playing there and my father not being around. I played with him in that room since I was seven years old.  But it was still great playing there, and that’s something I am looking forward to doing more in the future.

Amanda Shaw's New Joie

Amanda Shaw's New Joie

Para español hacer clic aquí ->La Nueva Alegría (Joie) de Amanda Shaw

By Ana Isabel Gil

Louisiana's favorite Cajun fiddler Amanda Shaw releases her new album at a time when everything is on hiatus. The situation of the city, the country and the world move between uncertainty and constant fear, both for the present and the future. Music and art have historically been a tool to connect, to complain, to give our opinion, and share our feelings. And this time is not going to be the exception. We were used to moving in our world so fast that we did not stop to smell the roses, look out the window, listen to a song, read a poem. We were used to just producing. Now there is no other way to do all those things for which there was no time before. Amanda Shaw knows that our life in these moments without art would be up in the air, so she has released her new album to remind us that music and joy are siblings and our allies in times of uncertainty. Here is a letter from Miss Shaw herself:

Bringing joy to Summer 2020 with NEW Cajun music 

Hey y’all,

With so much uncertainty, now, more than ever is the time we come together as a community. While navigating through this unfamiliar space, one thing is for certain – we must continue supporting one another.

As a musician, I know firsthand the healing power of music. I have often reflected during times like these, thinking, “What can I do?” For me, the answer is simple – I can start where I stand by sharing my gift with others.

NEW Summer Music that brings you JOY

The start of summer 2020 is a time of transition, and to me, it feels like a great time to release Joie, my first ever traditional Cajun album! Joie, which simply means JOY, is filled with soul-stirring Cajun music that brings me back to my roots as an artist and gives fans a taste of the Cajun culture we all love about Louisiana. Joie is now available for pre-order by clicking here today. I sincerely hope that Joie brings you the JOY you need in your life!

Mariposas Movement

If you would like to support an amazing cause and add more style to your summer, check out the Amanda Shaw Foundation’s newest initiative, Mariposas Moradas, a beautiful purple butterfly jewelry collection, created by renowned jewelry artist Cristy Cali, and inspired by me. Click here to browse the special pieces that benefit the Mariposas Grant Program, an initiative supporting small businesses with grants through the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana.



I can’t thank you enough for the support you’ve shown me through the years, and I always strive to give love back to this community with my music. My wish is that we continue getting better and growing stronger by supporting one another.

We are so looking forward to Amanda's LIVE performance during the drive-in concert at Bucktown Harbor on July 4th with friends Flow Tribe and Brass-A-Holics. It's definitely going to be a fun one!

A Conversation with Cristina Perez. Musician, Mother, Activist

A Conversation with Cristina Perez. Musician, Mother, Activist

By AnaMaría Bech

Click aqui para español- >Una conversación con Cristina Pérez. Música, madre y activista.

Cristina Perez is a firm believer that while life is complicated, that is what makes it beautiful. As a New Orleans-based singer and mother to three-year-old special needs son Oscar, she is dedicated to creating authentic music inspired by female empowerment, untraditional motherhood, positivity and inclusivity for all.

With an artists’ drive, she is focused on using her original music to bring light, love and awareness to her community and to give a louder voice to mothers of children with disabilities and rare diseases.

Following the release of her single, “The Sweetest Thing,” written as a love letter to New Orleans, Cristina set her music career aside to care for Oscar full-time. Oscar, or “Oskie,” has endured a one-and-a-half-month stay in NICU and six surgeries. His routine consists of thrice weekly physical, occupational, and speech therapies; he is also globally delayed and tube-fed.

As a result, Cristina and her husband’s lives are forever affected, and she now uses her voice to promote pediatric disability and rare disease awareness. She is Oskie’s champion in proving that he is much more than his medical diagnoses and inspires other mothers in her community to raise awareness, as well.

Cristina returned to her music career last year and released “Lessons I’ve Learned” on August 22, 2019, as an uplifting anthem for special needs mothers to turn to when things get rough – a motivation to remain strong despite what life throws at you. The music video includes four other local mothers who have overcome hurdles like Cristina’s.

Cristina also authors a popular blog called “It’s Not Too Complicated,” where she breaks down the trials and tribulations of motherhood, marriage and everyday life with a special needs child.

Currently splitting her time between New Orleans and Washington, D.C., Cristina sat down with VIVA NOLA to talk about her music career:

VN: Your biography mentions Miami and New Orleans being your two homes. Tell us about your connection to both cities.

CP: I was born in New Orleans and lived there until I was 12, when we moved to Miami for my dad’s new job. Although my dad is Cuban, he spent most of his youth in Puerto Rico and eventually went to undergrad and law school at Loyola New Orleans. I also attended Loyola University

VN: When did you start your music career?

CP: I asked for music lessons at six or seven years old — the first time I touched a piano, I just knew that’s what I was going to do. Music was everything to me. Music and volleyball. I joined the schools’ chamber ensemble in high school. It was the experience of playing in the orchestra pit that made me realize that I had to do music for the rest of my life. I ended up choosing a path in Music Therapy at Loyola University, which is what brought me back to NOLA in 2006.

VN: Which artists have influenced your music?

CP: Growing up, I was obsessed with Alicia Keys, John Legend, and Christina Aguilera. I used to learn their songs on piano and belt out singing my favorite songs when no one was home. I also listened to Norah Jones, Diana Krall, and

Michael Bublé. My favorite singer of all time is Ella Fitzgerald - period. She’s everything to me. In college, I was exposed to a lot more jazz — Esperanza Spaulding, Gretchen Parlato, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, Django Reinhardt — to name a few. My primary instrument in school was Classical Piano, and I took Vocal Jazz lessons from the famous Leah Chase.

VN: What about your Latin music influence?

CP: In New Orleans, I didn’t get the exposure to Cuban culture like I did in Miami.

I learned Spanish visiting with my grandparents in Puerto Rico and my dad taught us a bit as well. Most of my childhood exposure to Cuban and Latino culture was through music. Every weekend, my dad would drive us out to the pool or to the movies, and he’d play Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Albita, Gypsy Kings, Thalia — all the greats. I would study the lyrics in the CD inserts (written in Spanish) and sing along, learning phonetically how to pronounce all the words. That’s probably the most effective way of learning languages for me — music. When we moved to Miami, we couldn’t help but to be immersed in Cuban culture. It was there that I learned the most about my heritage — Noche Buena, pastelitos, Celia Cruz, Buena Vista Social Club, Carlos Vives, reggaeton — these were all new to me! I was able to build a network of friends through playing music and playing volleyball, mostly with other Cubans. To them, I was the Southern girl — and in New Orleans, I’m the “Latina”. Honestly, I identify as a little bit of both.

VN: How did you start performing in New Orleans?

CP: I was neighbors and good friends with trumpet player Gordon Au, who introduced me to my husband. They played in a traditional jazz band called the New Orleans Moonshiners. There was a period where I started performing that style of music as well. Then, in 2012, I landed the lead female role in Jump Jive and Wail! - the Louis Prima tribute at the National WWII Museum. When I wasn’t performing at the museum in one of their shows, or as a “Victory Belle”, I was performing for private events with my own band. I have a huge place in my heart for music of the 1940s. Louis Prima, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller — the music is timeless and downright legendary. It’s my favorite era of music.

VN: Tell us how your album “The Sweetest Thing” turned into a love letter for New Orleans?

CP: Most of the songs on the album were love songs written and performed in the style of Diana Krall and Norah Jones. It was very representative of what you would get from my live performances. I love that album. For the video for the title track, “The Sweetest Thing,” I was working with a creative team — and we figured turning the song into a love letter to the city would bring about positivity and connect our community through their love of the city. I’m all about connecting people through music.

VN: Any memorable local performances you want to mention?

CP: I’ve had some really fun experiences sitting in with my husband’s band at French Quarter Fest, and I finally performed with my own band in 2015. I also really love performing at City Park’s music series — the audience is super attentive and appreciative. I was really honored to sing the National Anthem at a Saints Game once with the Victory Belles for the Veterans Day game. That was intense - 70,000 people in the stands and another 20 million watching on live television! The first run of “Jump, Jive, and Wail!” was so much fun. It was my breakout role for theatre — and because Louis Prima was a NOLA native, we were sold out every night for the three-month run.

VN: How has music empowered you for coping with the challenges presented by your son Oskie’s special needs?

CP: While I was pregnant, I thought I would get so inspired to write new music after giving birth. Things were so hectic and challenging the first three years — I didn’t write a single thing. I mostly listened to music as a coping mechanism, a way to process what I was feeling when I didn’t have the words yet. When I was angry, I’d listen to “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit. When I was in the NICU with my son, I listened to “Bedroom Fans” off of local guitarist’s Russel Welch’s “Mississippi Gypsy” album. It was so soothing — and not too stimulating for my preemie. I had it on repeat for a long time. My background in Music Therapy definitely came in handy in implementing therapy techniques I learned from Oskie’s physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and also has given me skills in interpreting nonverbal communication — which is crucial for my son who is (at least currently) non-verbal.

VN: You finally got back into writing and singing. Tell us about your latest single.

CP: My latest single, “Lessons I’ve Learned” was the first song I wrote after having Oskie — three and a half years after giving birth. It’s the musical version of what I would tell myself to get through tough hospital visits or bad news. “Lessons I’ve Learned” is an anthem to others who have faced adversity and have or are working towards overcoming them. These last three years with my son, have made me a stronger mother, wife, and a woman, and I want to use my creativity and art to give a louder voice to those with loved ones with disabilities.

VN: How has motherhood changed your music?

CP: As far as my songwriting approach goes, I’m writing more in detail about my personal experience. Now, I’m letting it all out. My new music has more variety in styles and moods. I’m also doing some co-writing, letting others help me turn my ideas into a reality. It’s very reflective of my experience as a mother — knowing when you’ve done what you can, knowing your strengths, and then knowing when to ask for help. It takes a village. I’m also toying around with some electronic music and branching into more contemporary and pop styles — although my music will always have some sort of jazz influence.

VN: Are you ready to move permanently back to New Orleans?

CP: NOLA is still home to me, but we have bounced around the past few years for my husband’s clerkships in Birmingham, AL, Wyoming, and now we are in Washington, DC. We are planning on moving back to New Orleans! September 2020 is our projected return date.

VN: Are there music related plans for when you move back?

CP: I’ve been doing a bunch of songwriting and would love to release some new music. I’m hoping to make another music video and get back to performing. I’d also really love to write songs for other artists and focus on doing more collaborations. I know I will always use my voice, my music, to advocate for my son and for other parents in similar situations. The beauty of music is that it transcends language, age, race, ethnicity — it’s the ultimate universal language. I can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on.

Stream “Lessons I’ve Learned” and support Cristina by following her on Instagram @CristinaPerezEdmunds, on Facebook, Cristina Perez Music, or read her blog itsnottoocomplicated.

Doctor Nativo de Guatemaya

Doctor Nativo

By Jorge Fuentes

Click aqui para español- > Doctor Nativo

Imagine an explosion of music so powerful that, as soon as the first beat plays, the entire audience begins to dance. That happened on a Thursday night last month here in New Orleans when Doctor Nativo gave his live performance at the Hi-Ho Lounge.

Doctor Nativo suddenly appeared on stage accompanied by his four band members, and after lighting a candle, he began to play, sing, dance, and tease with gestures and hand motions that made those in his presence immediately give in. Before half of that first song, we were already bewitched, dancing, jumping, sweating with the same freedom and joy as children playing in a field.

Doctor Nativo is originally from a beautiful Central American country that he calls Guatemaya. He earns his audience one by one, pulse by pulse. He overflows an impressive energy and infects us with his subtle smile during a performance forged with such care that it appears spontaneous.

This is the way Juan Martinez, the artist behind the Doctor Nativo character, has achieved the artistry that singles out the masters: he makes us believe that what we are seeing is reality, and that any of us could do what he does. He knows how to take his audience where he wants. He integrates lyrics and music with his and the band’s attitude on stage, leaving nothing to chance, but nobody notices.

“Doctor Nativo knows how to take his audience where he wants. He integrates the lyrics and the music with his and the band’s attitude on stage, leaving nothing to chance.”

At least half of the audience present that night did not speak Spanish. It was my impression that many of us in the audience were seeing him perform live for the first time, yet we all had the feeling of being amongst friends.

Martinez had the guts to confess to his parents at a very young age that he will drop out of school to devote himself to music. In a surprising turn, they decided to support him, on the condition that he dedicated himself to music with determination. “They said they wanted to see me practice until my fingers bled,” he tells us. So, he did just that, and began participating in events known as “kermeses” in his homeland, playing in recognized bands in Guatemala like Mariposa Negra, and later on, performing outside Barcelona with the band Barrio Candela he formed in the Spanish city. It is around that time when his emblem song “Guatemaya” got released.

Living outside of his home country, he kept running into the same scenario. “Every time I introduced myself to someone, when I told them I was from Guatemala, they answered me with the usual saying, ‘Ah, from Guatemala to Guatepeor,’ and I didn’t like that,” said Doctor Nativo. [Meaning “from Guatebad to Guateworse,” a wordplay of the ending syllables of the country’s name.] “It never seemed positive to me, so I decided to give it a spin and honor our Mayan ancestors with the word Guatemaya. And that’s how it stayed,” he tells us.

“The amalgam of reggae and cumbia with a touch of hip-hop in a high-dance acoustic performance” is what made local promoter John Driver bring the band into the city.  “He’s very charismatic,” added Driver.

The most recent album is precisely titled Guatemaya and was finally released in 2018. The tour in support of the album has taken Doctor Nativo through several cities in the United States and Canada and culminates on December of this year.

Doctor Nativo’s band is currently comprised of four more members, including his wife, and his cousin. “I hope I am known as someone who gives himself without asking for anything in return,” says the Doctor who shares his time between Guatemala and Miami.

Driver, the local promoter, has been convinced of the power of Doctor Nativo. “My hope is to bring him to New Orleans again in January,” he hints.

Margie Perez

Margie Perez

Click aqui para español- >Margie Pérez

By Jorge Fuentes

Margie Perez gets to do what she loves in many ways. As a singer and songwriter, she performs around town in different settings and sings in several genres.

She likes to perform her own songs accompanied by a guitarist or a small group, she enjoys singing back-up vocals when her musician friends invite her, and she loves to make people dance when she’s leading her Latin band, Muévelo. 

“I don’t come from a musical family, but my mom had music around me all the time,” she says.  

Born in Washington D.C. to Cuban parents, Margie came upon her calling one night when an acquaintance heard her sing and told her about a band that needed a vocalist.  

Shortly after that, she ended up traveling to New Orleans for Jazz Fest and began visiting the city regularly. She was invited by Marva Wright, a famous local blues singer, to be one of her back-up singers, and Margie moved here permanently. 

Margie survived Hurricane Katrina. She has recorded two albums, and now performs a few times a week all around the city, enjoying the camaraderie of her fellow musicians. “I love it when a musician takes one of my songs and adds something distinct to it,” she says, smiling. “I love the writing process, I love to write with other people, I love to sing, and I love to sing with other people,” she said.  

Muévelo started about three years ago, when presented with the opportunity to play a tribute to Celia Cruz.  “That first gig was unforgettable,” she says, “I had no idea that there was this other side of me that came out when I sing in Spanish.” The 10-piece band has musicians who come from all over Latin America and they perform every month at a local venue in the CBD.  She explains that the music business can be difficult, but it is also rewarding.  

“As a musician, you have to wear a musical hat, but also a business hat,” she said, adding “music is so healing for me.  I love it when people dance, I love to see a dance floor full of happy people.”


YOCHO Band The New Orleans’ Salseros 

By Jorge Fuentes 

Click aqui para español- >YOCHO

The creation of the salsa band Yocho took place in New Orleans like many things tend to happen around here: by coincidence.

Th e band was formed two years ago by a group of friends who are all fans of Latin music. Some of its members had visited Colombia recently and had discovered salsa music, so they decided to form a band to expand their love for this genre. All seven members use an alias name, which is interesting. Their founder, who goes by Gigante, says that once they realized they had a strong interest in common, putting the band together resulted very organically.

The peculiar name for the band comes from the counting of times, in Spanish, before the music starts (and one, and two, and three), or something like that. They prefer to leave that name, and their own names, in the murkiness of legend.

What we know clearly is their love for playing and creating music from their own point of view, but without getting too far from the established patterns. And the dancing public supports them, since they have fans who follow them faithfully each time they play live.

During a recent radio interview, they presented their first original song, titled “Marisma,” in which, according to Grillo the vocalist, “we try to illustrate the tension in love before the moments of tenderness.” But it’s not a tender song, it’s rather a rush of energy typical of young age.

Their immediate plans include several gigs around the city and a festival in June. Yocho wants to keep on playing and creating music that brings joy to people. 

More information about Yocho Band is available on their Facebook page at facebook.com/yochoband

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.





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

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