Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chicano Music

CHICANO MUSIC? La cancíon mexicana, latin jazz, movimiento protest songs, oldies, tejano, conjunto, hip-hop, reggaeton, o qué? Maybe all of that. There is a good shelf's worth of books to help figure it out.

A good place to start is A Texas-Mexican Cancionero by Américo Paredes (University of Illinois Press, 1976, reprint by University of Texas Press, 1995) , subtitled, Folksongs of the Lower Border. Paredes, one of the masters of Chicano research and historical preservation, collected sixty-six songs that were representative of the folksongs of the Lower Rio Grande Border from 1750-1960. Here are the words, the compositions, and the stories behind the songs that tell how life was for the people along the border in the days of shoot-outs with the Texas Rangers (¡rinches cobardes!) - Jacinto Treviño; smuggling tequila across the border - Los tequileros; and the first appearance of television and easy-payment plans (ya no tengo pa' cerveza por estar viendo los monos) - Ya se va la televisión. Unique photographs, too.

Moving several years forward, take a look at Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles by Steven Loza (University of Illinois Press, 1993). Man, this book has it covered. The book jacket says, "Loza provides a historical overview of the music from the nineteenth century to the present and offers in-depth profiles of nine Mexican-American artists, groups, and entrepreneurs in Southern California from the post-World War II era to the present. His interviews with many of today's most influential barrio musicians, including members of Los Lobos, Eddie Cano, Lalo Guerrero, and Willie Herrón, chronicle the cultural forces active in this complex urban community."

The Old Barrio Guide To Low Rider Music, 1950 - 1975, by Ruben Molina (Mictlan Publishing, 2002), doesn't focus only on Chicano music. This book provides rundowns on the bands and singing groups that taken together defined and continue to define the urban sound of low rider culture - equal parts R&B, Chicano rock and oldies, with bits and pieces of jazz, blues, and maybe one or two corridos or rancheras. The book starts with Johnny Ace and ends with the Youngsters, and in between are thousands of details about everyone else that matters, from El Chicano to Thee Midniters, from the Premiers (photo at the top of this post) to Ritchie Valens. A fun book that looks fine, so fine, on the coffee table.

Back to Texas for The Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music by Ramiro Burr (Billboard Books, 1999), another group-by-group, singer-by-singer compilation from Accordion to Henry Zimmerle y Conjunto San Antonio. Written by music journalist, syndicated columnist and critic Burr. This is the source for information about the wide range of styles and the diverse musicians that continue to produce the most popular Latino music in the country (yes, even more so than salsa.) If the word Tejano means Selena and nothing more, this book is for you.

Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock 'n' Roll from Southern California, by David Reyes and Tom Waldman (University of New Mexico Press, 1998), is a more-or-less chronological analysis of the various personalities, influences, musical styles, low and high points of the Chicano rock scene in SoCal, from Chico Sesma and Lalo Guerrero to Los Lobos. Many, many details and personal insights that create an insider's feel to the book.

Two other excellent sources are Chicano Popular Culture: Que Hable el Pueblo, by Charles M. Tatum (University of Arizona Press, 2001), and Chicano Renaissance: Contemporary Cultural Trends, by David R. Maciel, Isidro D. Ortiz, and María Herrera-Sobek (University of Arizona Press, 2000), both of which have outstanding sections or chapters on Chicano music.

This list lacks a reference for the music scene in the Bay Area (California) - Santana, Malo, et al. - and a definitive work on the music of New Mexico - Al Hurricane, Roberto Griego, Tobias Rene, etc. Any suggestions?