Monday, October 12, 2009
The Public Broadcasting System series Latin Music USA attempts the impossible this week and next week with six hours devoted to the various styles of Latin music in the United States (click on the headline for the details). That's a tough task between Puerto Rican and Cuban salsa have little to do with the polkitas of Tejano and conjunto and the brassy banda sound that's welled up from the western Mexico states of Sonora and Sinaloa.
Last year, I got to preview the California-Texas segment that airs next week. I went in wondering how director John Valadez would wed the two disparate sounds together and came away impressed. The parallel stories are told through the rock and roll sounds that Richie Valens tapped into with "La Bamba" while Freddy Fender nee Balemar Huerta was doing the same out of Texas with "Wasted Days, Wasted Nights," through the Latin rock sounds of Cannibal & the Headhunters, Little Willie G, Thee Midnighters, Lalo Guerrero, and Chuco Valdes,and the Chicanismo movement of the 1960s and 1970s when Little Joe Hernandez and Steve Jordan from Texas began plugging into the Cali sound blowing up around Santana, Malo, and War.
Texas gets its props by showcasing Little Joe, Flaco Jimenez, the leading exporter of the Nowhere But Texas conjunto accordion sound, and Selena, the great standard bearer of modern Tejano.
I was prepared to pick nits, and yeah, Sunny & the Sunliners, Tortilla Factory (featuring El Charro Negro, Bobby Butler),Lydia Mendoza, Narciso Maritinez, Los Alegres de Teran, Esteban Jordan, Mingo Saldivar, Fito Olivares, Sir Doug and loads of others could have been showcased. But to squeeze two very different regional sounds together as one and make sense of them both demonstrates Valadez' understanding and appreciation of Texas-style Latino music. PBS.org has a pretty decent chart that explains Latin Music in Texas and California here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/latinmusicusa/#/en/exp/tejano/universe.
Main thing is, Texas and Tejanos get their due. Next time, the state should get all six hours to tell the rich story like it deserves to be told.