Next is my conversation with Adriana Astorga-Gainey and Jesenia Gardea of the Pacifico Dance Company. The Los Angeles-based non-profit company takes a serious approach to folklorico dance that centers on training professional dancers.
How do you explain the Latin American experience in Los Angeles? That’s a complex question, but we are sure it would look, sound, and feel a little something like this year’s Tropicália festival.
Over two days, the Fairplex in Pomona hosted Goldenvoice’s newest musical endeavor, which brought to life a mixtape that encapsulated the past, present, and future of Latin American music and brought multiple generations of Latinos and others together for a truly inclusive weekend of fun.
There were plenty of moments that encapsulated that feeling. There was the young lady who called her parents on FaceTime so that they could watch Peruvian romance balladeers Los Pasteles Verdestogether. There were the two comadres who made their way to the front of the stage for Los Tigres Del Norte and held each other as they sang, screamed, and cried to every song alongside girls young enough to be their granddaughters. There were the young goths who patiently waited for Prayers’ set by singing along with Paquita La Del Barrio who performed before their favorite duo did on the same stage. There were the Asian and African-American kids moshing together with the Latinos in more pits than I could count. There were the young gabachas who swooned at Kali Uchis’ every movement.
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.
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.
Singer-songwriter Ceci Bastida has long championed political and social causes such as immigrant rights, the Zapatista movement and various issues concerning her native country of Mexico. Her most recent foray into activism, however, is undoubtedly her most personal.
This Saturday in Oxnard, she will be one of a handful of artists to perform a free, all-ages show in support of the Schools Not Prisons Arts & Music Festival tour, which promotes safe communities via voting, political activism and non-violence among community youth, with a focus on funding schools and educational programs while fighting against “zero-tolerance” policing of students that ultimately funnels many of them into the United States’ massive prison system.