There will be a point this coming Thursday night when Helado Negro, the musical alter ego of Roberto Carlos Lange, will kick up a wave of high-pitched sounds off his synthesizer and lead the crowd at the Regent Theater into a chorus about being “young, Latin and proud.” The song, which turns 2 years old this summer, continues to serve as an anthem for a generation of Latinos growing up in Trump’s America, a development Lange never expected.
“Absolutely, it caught me by surprise,” the multitalented Lange admits over the phone. “The song was made for me and was more of an intimate song. We had a few shows and, kind of the way the world works in trying to get people to know that you have a new show coming up, we thought it would be a good idea to release a new song, and I thought, ‘Oh, this would be a great song for summertime.’”
Lange released “Young, Latin and Proud” just as candidate Trump was calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. “A lot of people have commented to me that they found the song to be somewhat of a reinforcement of an anti-Trump idea,” he says. But he insists the song wasn’t intended as a response to Trump: “It was just music that I was making that I’ve always made since day one, since the first record. A lot of my music has been covering the same themes. People pick up on it later in time.”
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Cuco is the future!
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and there’s nothing about Viva! Pomona that needs to be fixed. Founder Rene Contreras celebrated the sixth birthday of his little festival that could in Pomona this past weekend with yet another stellar lineup of local and international independent artists that struck a perfect balance between Latino artists and everyone else.
The annual two-day festival brought a range of artists from different genres, with acoustic weirdos such as Juan Wauters and Tall Juan sharing floor space with their musical opposites like punk group The Coathangers and fuzzy surf-rock duo Surf Curse. It’s a formula that has worked since the festival’s inception, a depiction of the diverse tastes of Contreras and others like him.
The two worlds that the festival brings together have always coexisted well, although the disparity between the two seemed stronger this year than it has at past Viva! Pomonas. It was far from a Bloods and Crips or greasers and socials situation, but the line between the Latino segment of the festival and the rest stood out more than it had in other years.
One reason for the disparity was the star power behind some of the new names on the bill — specifically, Omar Banos, whose musical alter ego Cuco is more insanely popular than anyone who isn’t a teenage Latino from L.A. obsessed with emo and romantic ballads realizes.
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Beto Gonzalez (center) and Samba Society
My latest piece in LA Weekly:
Brazilian-American musician Beto Gonzalez was too young to understand the country around him when his family returned to Brazil in the 1970s. It was only as he grew older, after coming back to the U.S., that he learned of how samba music became an important tool in the struggle against the country’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
Now, as the founder and artistic leader of Samba Society, Gonzalez hopes to share that history with a local audience during a time when the current political climates in the two countries he calls home have slid towards the types of attitudes that led to Brazil’s dictatorship.
Samba Society’s Brasil 70: Samba/Soul/Resistance, which they’ll perform this Friday at the newly restored Ford Amphitheatre, explores the rise of samba music in a decade marked by political censorship, repression, kidnappings and torture. Samba, forro and other genres of Brazilian music kept the spirit of resistance alive among the masses as the movement against the dictatorship grew, a resistance Gonzalez learned about during his studies at UCLA and in Rio de Janeiro as an ethnomusicology major.
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The links between hip-hop and indigenous people aren’t obvious at first. What could pop-locking, graffiti-tagging sneaker heads possibly have in common with peoples whose cultures date back centuries in the Western hemisphere?
But as some of the artists performing at the Hip-Hop: First Peoples, New Voices event at Grand Performances explain it, the links and parallels are abundant in the music, the art, the narratives and the dances. Most important, hip-hop is a channel for these artists to reclaim their people’s culture and heritage by building up their communities with their own voices.
The Saturday, July 1, event will feature performances by Jessa Calderon (Tongva/Chumash/Mexica), Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota), The Sampson Brothers (Mvskoke Creek/Seneca), Tanaya Winder (Southern Ute/Duckwater Shoshone/Pyramid Lake Paiute), MC RedCloud (Huichol) and Mare Advertencia Lirika (Zapoteca).
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A.Chal (aka Alejandro Salazar) is a tall dude who cuts an imposing figure, filling every room he steps into with silent intensity. His voice carries as much weight as the booming bass he produces for his music, but he’s soft-spoken during our interview, rarely speaking above a murmur. There’s an interesting duality to his persona as a singer, rapper, producer and solo artist, which continues to evolve on his latest release, On Gaz.
On Gaz, A.Chal’s third release and first mixtape, arrived on June 2, four years after his debut EP Ballroom Riots and just one year after his first full-length album, Welcome to Gazi. On the latter release, the Peruvian-American artist was the self-aware party boy who sought self-reflection and self-critique after debaucherous nights out on the town. On this new release, which features appearances by French Montana and A$AP Nast, he confronts his feelings of guilt after his insecurities convinced him to destroy numerous personal relationships in the months leading up to the release of Welcome to Gazi.
A.Chal sharpened his skills as a songwriter while living in New York, but friends urged him to head west to Los Angeles. Since moving here, he’s been better able to find inspiration and outlet for his creativity, resulting in an album, a mixtape and songwriting credits for the likes of Rita Ora, Max Martin and Jennifer Lopez.
Read more at LA Weekly.