I will not make the argument that Columbus's arrival in the New World was insignificant merely because he was an absolutely awful person or because he didn't actually discover anything (which he himself maintained, claiming until his death that he'd merely found a different route to Asia). But think about this before you dismiss -- before Columbus, avocado, bell peppers, blueberries, cashews, cassava root, chili peppers, chocolate, cocaine, gourds, maize, peanuts, pecans pineapples, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, tomatoes, and vanilla were all unknown in the Old World and alcohol, apples, bananas, barley, cheese, coffee, mango, onions, rice, tea, and turnips, and wheat were unknown in the Americas. Imagine an existence without any of those and you can hopefully begin to get a taste of the importance of the Columbian Exchange. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomato sauce or gnocchi and you can't help but wonder if this is why Columbus is so dear to many Italians. Imagine, on the other hand, genocide, slavery, and old world diseases and you'll understand why he's even more hated by many others.
Today, the world lost a giant of music, as Maestro Paco de Lucia passed away, at 66 years young, from a heart attack at a resort in Mexico. “Paco lived as he wished and died playing with his children beside the sea,” said a statement from de Lucia’s family published on the websites of Spanish newspapers.
Paco took the Flamenco style and tradtition of the elders in the genre and blasted off into his own universe, to some early criticism, owning every note of his huge legacy and backing up all his moves with incredible chops and technique. I had many unforgettable chances to see Paco in person doing his thing, each a unique and unpredictable experience, except for the sheer technical mastery of his instrument always present. I also took away from these shows Paco’s palpable confidence, his air of “badass”-ness that deservedly asserted his own internal awareness of what he was doing in the moment. I lament his passing, and will miss him tremendously. Adios, Paco.
Fortunately we have much in the visual and audio realms to see and hear Paco, and to mark the absolutely inimitable place that Paco held in the music landscape. The 2-CD set, En Vivo Conciertos, won a Grammy and is a most enjoyable album, displaying Paco’s genius live, and represents the last tour he did almost exactly. Amoeba has some true gems of Paco’s here.
It took me a long time to warm up to flamenco music. My interpretation of Flamenco music came from living in the U.S. To me, Flamenco meant those awful guitar duos with white puffy shirts playing at restaurants or soft jazz instrumentalists such as Struntz & Farah or Willie & Lobo, who played what most Americans considered Flamenco. Then, there are The Gypsy Kings; do I really need I say more? On top of that, most Mexicanos have some sort of grudge against The Spanish for being one of our many oppressors. Even though I am first generation, I still held the grudge of my indigenous ancestors.
I soon discovered that Flamenco came from Spain’s Moorish roots and not from the awful Christians who conquered the Americas. In fact, the Christians hated it. The music was mostly improvised and lyrically has lots to do with love, life, death and sex, but mostly sex. Most Mexican music I love (Son Jarocho and Son Huasteco) has the same African and Arabic roots. I soon embraced Flamenco and dove into a much needed Flamenco listening session. My taste grew and I became a fan of Manolo Caracol, La Niña de Los Peines, El Agujetas, Camaron De La Isla and Paco De Lucia. I also became a fan of the new school flamenco: Buika, Radio Tarifa and Ojos De Brujo.
But until I started working at Amoeba, I had no idea there was a movement in the seventies that merged Flamenco with Rock, Funk and Psyche. The mixture makes perfect sense to me, as there are many similarities with the music. The minute I heard it I was an instant fan. Acid Rumba: Spanish Gypsy Grooves 1969-1976 captures that moment in time in Spain where the progressive movement met its past. Every artist on this collection is immensely talented. You can tell each singer and guitarist could kill it on the traditional front. From Los Amaya’s “Bailen Mi Rumbita” to the heavy meets sweet Morena Y Clara’s “Dejé De Quererte,“ there is no denying the fusion of fuzzed-out Flamenco Rock and funky rhythms. It was also a time when established Flamenco artists stretched out, as in Dolores Vargas "La Terremoto" and El Noi’s “Zorongo Rock.”
In the US, the word "Latino" is used often, regardless of accuracy, as shorthand for a region's dominant Latino population. In the southwest it usually means "Mexican," in the northeast it means "Puerto Rican" and in Florida, "Cuban." Indeed, those are the three largest populations of Latino-Americanos in the country, although it goes without saying that there are many less-recognized groups of Latinos. Each have their own distinct culture, history, and place in America. This entry is about Colombians, who at an estimated 730,510 currently living in the US, make up the seventh largest Latino population, and the largest population of South-American immigrants in the country.
The country of Colombia is home to at least 85 indigenous nations, including the Muisca, Quimbaya, Tairona, Wayuu, Arhuacos, Kuna, Paez, Tucano, Guahibo, Cauca, Guajira and Guainia. The main population of European immigrants to Colombia were from Spain. Basques, Italians, Germans, the French, Swiss, Poles and Russians also migrated in large numbers. Smaller but significant numbers of European immigrants include Belgians, Lithuanians, Dutch, British, Portugese and Croatians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From 1825 til 1851 the Spaniards forcibly brought uncounted numbers of slaves from West Africa. Syrians and Lebanese arrived from the Levant. Today, 58% of Colombians self-identify as mestizo, 20% as white, 14% as mulatto, 4% as black, 3% as zambo, and 1% as Native.
Every year I look forward to building my altar for Dia De Los Muertos. It’s become more important to me than Christmas or New Year's, and most certainly more than Thanksgiving. It's time for me to take time out and think of those who have left this world and look forward to their spiritual return via memories, stories and offerings. Besides images of family and friends that have passed on, I like to include musicians and artists who have inspired me in some way. This year, many great musicians from Latin America and Spain have passed. So this is my ofrenda to them. Pan De Muerto, Chocolate and Tequila for all spirits who visit. I hope you can include the souls listed below in your altar or in your thoughts today.
Mercedes Sosa (Argentina)
Argentine folk sing and outspoken activist. Along with Silvio Rodriguez, Victor Jara, Violeta Parra and many others, was part of the Nueva Canción movement. Nueva Cancion was the mixture of Latin American folk music and rock with progressive and politicized lyrics. Mercedes Sosa is not only respected in her native country, but around the world. Her most recent album, Cantora, contains collaborations with the likes of Shakira, Caetano Veloso and Luis Alberto Spinetta.
Jorge Reyes (Mexico)
Jorge Reyes started one of Mexico’s first progressive rock bands, Choc Mool, in the late 70’s/early 80’s. He played both guitar and flute while incorporating many indigenous instruments of Mexico. In 1985, Jorge went solo and released a series of new age albums based upon indigenous Mexican culture. He performed legendary concerts at famous Mexican archeological sites such Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza and his music was used for movies and television shows around the world. Coincidentally, he had an annual Dia De Los Muertos show at The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City that was widely popular.