Latin-flavored rock on the rise
Some years ago, salsa – not the musical style, but the stuff you dip your chip in – overtook ketchup as the leading condiment in the States. Can the clave, the rhythmic essence of Latin music, be far behind in supplanting the beat of rock ‘n’ roll?In the Aspen area, at least, acts blending Latin beats with American rock are popping up everywhere. Yerba Buena, a New York-based group whose members hail from South America, the Caribbean and the United States, was greeted rapturously at Jazz Aspen’s June Festival, opening for David Byrne (whose own sound owes something to Brazil). Ozomatli, an L.A. band that stirs funk and hip-hop into its Latin groove, was a hit at Jazz Aspen’s JASummerNight Swing.At Belly Up last night it was Los Lobos; Saturday it’s deSoL, which also returns for Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day Festival.And if you count reggae, the number of Latin-related acts appearing locally goes up enormously, as both Belly Up and the Labor Day Fest schedules are loaded with reggae.It’s not just an Aspen moment. Ry Cooder, who has raised the profile of Cuban music with his Buena Vista Social Club projects, has struck again. His new CD, “Chavez Ravine,” pays tribute to the music of a Hispanic L.A. neighborhood that was uprooted in the ’40s to make way for Dodger Stadium. Texas’ Los Lonely Boys hit huge with their song “Heaven.”Albie Monterrosa, lead singer for New Jersey-based deSoL, thinks there’s more to come.”I don’t think this has come to the forefront yet like it’s going to,” he said. “Carlos [Santana] came in 1968, with this Latin-rock feel, but this time we’re going to come in a wave, not just one person.”David Hidalgo, singer and guitarist for long-running L.A. band Los Lobos, believes the music has always been worthy of wide attention. But with acts like Santana and Los Lonely Boys having mainstream success, and the burgeoning Latino population, the music business is finding that Spanglish-speaking bands can sell.”The music’s always been there,” said Hidalgo. “But now they’re finding out it’s viable. There’s a market and they’re tapping into it.”For Hidalgo, the best aspect to that market is how diverse it is. None of the aforementioned acts has been ghettoized; they play on the usual club, theater and amphitheater circuits for varied audiences. Ozomatli’s latest appearance was at a Jazz Aspen fund-raiser that had a $125 ticket price.”It’s good that it’s not just for Latinos,” said Hidalgo. “We thought our music would appeal to everyone, not just a certain ethnic or age group. And to a certain extent, it’s come true. We’ve had a few good years here, and it’s a wide array of people.”
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