Archive | May, 2015

Laura Sobrino- Rest in Peace

24 May

Oh Laura I’m so saddened at your sudden death! Laura Sobrino will forever be known as the Queen of Mariachi- “La Grandota” with her 6 foot 1 inch stature. Laura is considered to be one of two female musicians to break barriers and play in all male mariachi groups in the United States. I can’t imagine what that must have been like. Not only do you have to be good, but you have to be amazing to shut down any critics. She played for Mariachi Los Galleros de Pedro Rey and Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez.- two incredibly amazing influential and groundbreaking groups in US mariachi history. Mariachi Los Galleros was a powerhouse mariachi group in particular: everyone who become a part of Los Galleros went on to be a giant and celebrity in the mariachi world. Pedro Rey was a monster in the mariachi world as he had one of the most amazing voices plus he was a fabulous musician and song writer.

Here is a clip of them with Laura Sobrino in the back:

and this video is a MONSTER of talent! Just wow! The voices are flawless and the instruments are fascinating to watch as they are also flawless: 

Back to Laura: After spending time with the Galleros, Laura spent even more time with Mariachi Sol de Mexico. Here they can be seen accompanying Las Jilguerillas:

But what was the most amazing about Laura is that she believed in education- specifically mariachi education. She began her own company when she started to write out mariachi music. Mariachi is normally learned by ear. This means that you were supposed to learn music by listening and memorizing only. Sheet music for mariachi did not exist and Laura began to write music down and then selling it as a profit. In the late 80’s and early 90’s mariachi programs began to pop up in the US and sheet music was beginning to be in demand. Her website: Mariachi Publishing Company is still going strong.

In the 90’s something else magical happened. Jose Hernandez, being the genius entrepreneur that he is, wanted to form an all female group and had Laura lead the way in forming this all female supergroup in the US. The result would be Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, my all time favorite and most influential mariachi group. Being a fighter that she is, Laura left Reyna after disagreeing with Jose Hernandez over the direction of the group. While Reyna was an all female group, all decisions including the song writing were done by Jose. It was led by males, but performed by women. In the meantime Laura continued to teach both privately and publicly in schools and at University of California Riverside. Laura was a skilled educator who pushed and believed in her students. She touched the lives of students and instilled a “go for it” attitude. In 2011, I met Laura at a local mariachi festival and after listening to my story of wanting to start a mariachi in Santa Ana she told me “then what are you waiting for? Do it! Its not impossible.” And she was right.

In 2000, she and Marisa Orduño formed Mariachi Mujer 2000 forming another all female mariachi super group led, directed and wrote songs by and for women. They played sporadically as all of the members lived all over the US and only reunited for special events.  My mariachi friends and I described the ladies of Mujer 2000 as “Fierce” as they all look so intense and hardcore.

Here is a clip of Mujer 2000 :

More recently Laura became the US representative for Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlan and Juan Mendoza, nephew of mariachi legend Amalia Mendoza. I met Juan Mendoza in 2014 also as a fellow judge in a mariachi festival. The man is an awe inspiring singer yet he couldn’t find a gig until Laura Sobrino fought for him. He’s a very jolly man who is truly passionate for music as it runs through his veins. Laura’s facebook cover picture is Juan Mendoza. Again another life that Laura has touched and left a mark.

Countless books, documentaries and articles have been written about Laura Sobrino. I own many of them as she is inspiring to listen to her speak of her adventures as a woman in mariachi. Laura is not just a pioneer, entrepreneur and CREATOR of bringing life to the impossible, but also a massive supporter of mariachi festivals all over the US, Rosarito, and Guadalajara. She lets her TALENT and drive take over.

With her passing these are the words that have been used to describe her: icon, legend, pioneer, “you believed in us,” COMPAñERA, unica, incomparable, tireless work, and paving the way for future generations…. etc. The list goes on.

Here is a link to a 1995 article written about her:

I relate to Laura because she has done what I strive to do in life: create from the impossible, do what has never been done before, educate our youth in particular young girls, spread the mariachi word, and represent with pride. We both encountered the backlash and side comments for being a female musician in a male dominated mariachi world. Yet we both have proved ourselves time and time again. I met her on several occassions and every single time I was left in awe just being in the same room as her. Thank you Laura for your inspiration and for paving the way for women in mariachi!



Ana Tijoux lecture

21 May

El amor y la rabia. Love and rage.   Y la rabia puede ser linda.

Cantar es ser honesto.

Toda la immigración es politica.

El artista no tiene que ser amable. El arte no es amable y se cuestiona.

Musicians feel emotions much stronger than most people. Emotions are what drive artists to express themselves.

The Occupy and other worldwide protests (social movements)  don’t do anything. Thousands of people have protested and nothing has been achieved.

Ana Tijoux considers herself a pessimist.

El rap y el graffiti es una forma de decir “yo existo” aunque todos los ignoren.

La importancia de la vida cotidiana y como nos afecta como personas.

These were the lasting emotions that Ana Tijoux’s lecture series that I unfortunately missed due to a bad infection. The lecture is fabulous except for the interviewer’s annoying accent- whatever the hell her accent is.

The sensitivity of musicians makes sense to me. It makes sense why all artists especially art-ivists have stronger emotions. The emotions of all 5 senses drive us to a point of explosion and need to express themselves. Ana is wonderful at expressing what is seen in our lives and putting it into words. It makes me wonder what she is going to do next after the master piece of “Vengo.”

El amor y la rabia. Its what drives people and this world. Its so beautiful, but so real. Recently, certain events in my life have proven this to be true. What has driven people to do what they have never done? Love and Rage. What drives people to change careers, have children, and listen to music? Love and Rage.  What are the most common song topics? Love and rage. What brings families together? Love and rage. What brings countries together? Love and rage. Just brilliant. I continue to be fascinated with this woman and the words coming out of her mouth. Its pure passion. Pure love.

This woman has blown my Nike socks off. Just check out the lecture as Ana Tijoux loves to preach too.

Jane the Virgin

17 May

Give me a few weeks to sit down and artfully dissect “Jane the Virgin.” But for now, read this article as a prelude to the massive and historic genious work of “Jane the Virgin”


How Jane the Virgin makes “OMG moments” work

By Vivian Obarski

If you watch television these days, there’s a lot of teasing regarding “OMG moments” — those moments that have social media and the water cooler blowing up in reaction and comment. While it isn’t a new thing — anyone remember the Who Shot JR? — this trend seems to have intensified the past few years as networks try and get people react online.

Some of it is engagement between fans and the production crew, some of it is just over-the-top moments where everyone’s jaws are left gaping as we’re left wondering if these things can be done. During my TV binges, I’ve noticed lots of shows that capitalize on that, but I’ve found it unsatisfactory, like a piece of candy with a weird aftertaste, as I dissect the moment later and realize that a character’s motivation was abruptly changed to fit a situation or I find a plot hole one could drive a truck through.

Which is why I’m pleasantly surprised by Jane the Virgin. Maybe it’s because it’s on the CW that it’s been allowed to flourish in a way that it couldn’t on a bigger network. The show is seriously filled with OMG moments — I mean, the insemination that kicks off the whole show is the original OMG moment — and it hasn’t let up at all. I think it says something that the revelation as to who shadowy drug cartel Sin Rostro was is probably one of the most mild OMG moments of this show.

But what makes all of this work is that the characters move and react organically to the situation. While some people didn’t support Jane wanting full custody of the baby, from her perspective it made total sense — having a child near the woman who shoved her grandmother down the stairs (this show) and the hotel’s reputation as “the murder hotel” (one of the funniest lines in the show). Michael’s initial reaction to Jane’s pregnancy is understandable, given the plans he had for their life together exploded.

None of the characters felt like they were sacrificed on the altar of the OMG moment. Instead, they created the OMG moment by how they are as people and their motivations (of course Petra would steal her ex-husband’s sperm — AGAIN — the woman was emotionally manipulated). It’s exaggerated, but it makes sense when you take it from their viewpoint.

Speaking of Petra — it would be easy to make her a scheming gold-digging villainess, but the show’s done us a favor by creating a complicated woman who wants her ex-husband to love her again and is fighting for her share of money. But by opening up her world and including her manipulative mother (this show does amazing work with mothers and the different methods of mothering — from Xo’s freewheeling style to Magda’s controlling issues), a stalker ex-boyfriend and even the strained push-pull of her relationship with Rafael, you get a sense as to who she is and what she wants. Her motivations are complicated and numerous, which gives the character many notes to play with, instead of just one.

janerafaelIn contrast, I could see Jane being easily reduced to a virtuous woman being thrown around by the insanity of the world around her, but it hasn’t been that. This show erased the idea that a “good” character is a boring character. She owns her sexuality (in this case, by not having it), by negotiating the parameters and dealing with the situation. She’s got heated kisses and chemistry filled scenes with both Rafael and Michael, but it never turns into a “WE SHOULD STOP NOW!” moment, because it’s clear people respect her decision and are willing to go with it because they respect her. She calls the shots in the terms of sex in her relationships. And she demands respect — from telling Michael in the pilot that it’s her turn to be selfish for a bit and plotting with Rafael to manipulate Petra to get Magda out of the hotel. It’s clear that good doesn’t mean meek.

I can’t even say how much I appreciate this after show after show currently places emphasis on the anti-hero. Maybe I’m sick of a world of Walter Whites and Don Drapers, but it’s hard to be honest and good at times. It’s more convenient to slide into the banal and selfish. One of my favorite moments with Jane was when she admitted to Michael that she had a fantasy about Rafael. That created a conflict by simply wanting to state the truth, when a lie would’ve been so much simpler, but as a character, Jane wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she did that — relationships are about openness to her.

Which brings up the love triangle between Rafael, Michael and Jane — I can’t think of any love triangle where all sides were compelling and interesting. It’s easy to make one side manipulative and trying to break up the other half, but it’s never been that. Both sides are compelling.

Rafael almost seems like destiny with the insemination as well as their kiss five years ago.  However he also doesn’t seem to understand Jane as well and the way they tackle life is very different — he (rightfully) feels like life is short and you have to move fast, while she is a planner and needs her space and time to make her decisions. It’s a realistic hurdle to many relationships. He’s trying, but the pressure from him to have Jane take him back is also a sign that he’s still learning she needs her space and she can’t be manipulated as easily as some other conquests.

But Michael post-breakup has also shown a respectful caring for Jane that went beyond marrying her and their plans together (hilariously illustrated in several portrait shots). It’s not the family he envisioned, but he’ll deal with it. He’s given Jane the space she needs, but also at the same time said he doesn’t want to be chosen because he’s considered “safe.” He’s demanding his own agency in this relationship, which is also understandable. No one wants to be the second choice when it comes to love.

Now add in the self-absorbed, but also selfless, Rogelio; stern and loving Alba, who also has a flexible view of religion when it comes to family; Xiomara who is a more free-wheeling mother, but also fiercely protective of her daughter; and a host of other characters, and one would think this show would be overstuffed or plodding, but it never feels like that thanks to the deft pacing of the show.

That in and of itself is a marvel — it’s rare you can see a show spin so many plates and weave in so many loose threads without falling apart. I was surprised to see Magda come back as well as the show address Alba’s fall, but they did so with seamless integration and it helped give new life to Michael and Jane as well as fuel conflict between Jane and Petra (not to mention some hilarious fantasy wrestling sequences, another great OMG moment). Even the finale, with Sin Rostro returning was such a surprise and menace that I’m excited to see how they handle that in Season 2.

People have talked about the narrator and the use of white typeface to keep people abreast on what’s going on with the show, and I won’t belabor the point by saying I agree it’s a brilliant idea, because it is and it’s done so deftly that they’ve become another character and the friend you’re watching the show with.o-JANE-THE-VIRGIN-IMMIGRATION-

What I give credit to is the showrunner — Jennie Snyder Urman for demanding and creating such an intricate plotline and quick pacing, as well as the recognition that the narrator and typeface add to the show and help remind viewers of past events. As the show goes into season 2, I’m going to be excited to see what they do and how things progress. It’s not often you see a show so confident in its vision from the pilot onward, so a show like this should be savored.

For me, this show has been a sheer pleasure to watch and it’s because everything is firing on all cylinders — the cast, the production, the crew, even the music work so well together. I can’t wait to see what happens in October and I hope that other people start discovering this gem

BB King Box

17 May

Lovely article that demonstrates the legacy that BB King left in music .


9 May

I don’t like Morrissey. He’s too 80’s, music is too repetitive and very dark and depressing. So I didn’t think much when a Alternative Mexican Rock supergroup was formed as a tribute to Morrissey called Mexrissey. It consists of Chetes (Zurdok- one my top favorite bands of all time)), Jay de la Cueva (Victimas del Dr. Cerebro, Fobia, Molotov, and Moderatto), Ceci Bastida (Tijuana No! and Julieta Venegas), Alejandro Flores (Cafe Tacuba and Pepe Aguilar), Camilo Lara (Mexican Institute of Sound and tons more), and Sergio Mendoza (Orchestra Mendoza). All the songs are sung in Spanish. Just WOW.

All the facebook and Twitter posts have been popping up about this supergroup so I checked out the SoundCloud and fell in love with the two singles: “Ask” and “Everyday is like Sunday” sung by the flawless Chetes and Ceci Bastida. Chetes is flawless with whatever song he composes or sings. I find his voice comforting, melodic, and timeless. Naturally that song is just about perfect with a “Matador” sample.

Then I figured, Ceci Bastida? The stuck up keyboard player with no personality and really not so great solo albums who is known for making mistakes with her keyboard skills? “Everyday is like Sunday” blew me away. Thank you Ceci for helping a song to start redeeming yourself. It features a mariachi trumpet, Ceci’s vocals who sound inspired by Mazzy Star: mellow, laid back, full of emotion, and just awesome enough to make you not want the song to end.

Check out the two songs here and prepare to be sucked into Ceci’s voice

Then I found a video of the group presenting themselves in London and have now fallen in love with them:

They are top of the line musicians, with almost flawless musicianship, no doubt. But what got me was their outfits: mariachi tight pants with emroidery on the side and a black t-shirt that says “Morriseey” and a charro belt. My heart just melted. When I lose some more weight I am going to have those pants made for me just like the pants the Trio Ellas wears. They are essentially mariachi pants, but for women. And a t-shirt! I heart t-shirts. And Ceci is wearing chola hoops. Ayyyy! Its mariachi rock. And that’s what my heart says.

When does the CD come out???????????????????????

Ana Tijoux- Lolapalooza 2015

4 May

Oh boy oh boy! A WHOLE live recent concert of Ana Tijoux on a big stage. It features a full live band, DJ, percussion AND AND AND Los Buscados which is a brass band that serves as Ana’s backup brass band. What a beautiful journey it has been to see Ana go from Makiza with a DJ as her “band” to her days recording “La Bala” with a 4 piece jazz influenced band to a whole full out stage full of musicians. And it gets quite thuggish too when two guest male rappers join her on stage and remind me of Mexico’s Control Machete or Cypress Hill. This is just a lovely lovely video that shows how far Ana has  come. The comments section also suggest her to perform at Viña del Mar, but apparently she has denied performing there. She is just awesome………