Summer Pachanga heats up in August
by John Kuebler
A people’s culture is reflected in the music they create. The customs, beliefs, pain, struggles, joy and triumphs common to a culture—all of these themes are explored in a people’s music.
As various outside influences impact a culture, they also affect the evolution of the culture’s musical output. When Mexico’s northern lands were confiscated by the United States in 1848, millions of people were cut off from their cultural root and exposed, over the next century and a half, to a barrage of outside influences. Although these influences affected the Mexican American identity, the people of the Southwest remained, in large part, connected to and shaped by Mexican culture. So did their music.
“There has been a kind of historical amnesia surrounding the Southwest,” said local artist and filmmaker Daniel Salazar, “but Chicano music has continued to flourish despite that. Institutions didn’t nurture it, but communities did. And because of the persistence of the artists and musicians, the music has become a part of the American narrative.”
To celebrate that persistence and to honor the traditions, El Centro Su Teatro will present the 10th Annual Chicano Music Festival and Auction: a salute to Mexican roots music born this side of the border.
“It really is the party of the year,” said El Centro Su Teatro Executive Artistic Director Tony Garcia, who started the festival in 1997 as part of El Centro’s evolving mission to produce and promote Chicano and Latino art. “This event is carefully curated to offer an exciting and one-of-a-kind roots music festival and unique cultural experience for everyone,” Garcia said.
This year’s festival will kick off Friday, August 4, with La Noche Tradicional—a celebration of traditional Southwestern music that will coincide with the induction of new members to the fourth class of the Musica de Colorado Hall of Fame; followed by Saturday’s Summer Pachanga—a wild dance party with corridos, cumbias and boleros; and ending with Mariachi Sunday on August 6—featuring some of the finest Mariachi groups in the state.
The festival also features both a live and a silent auction, with various
treasures to bid on such as hotel getaways, restaurant gift certificates,
Broncos and other team tickets, and many other desirables to compliment the real
meat of the auction: a large selection of original artwork from throughout
Colorado and the Southwest.
Although its influences are varied, and although the musicians sometimes employ the electrified sounds of keyboards and drum machines, the roots of the music are still based in such traditional Mexican forms as Ranchera, Son, and Huapango. “This is a roots festival,” Garcia said. “And Mexico is the root.”
Local singer Debra Gallegos, who is part time host of KUVO’s popular Sunday
program Canción Mexicana, said, “These are songs that tell a story, though the
styles vary from place to place. The Tejano style, for instance, uses accordions
because of the old German polka influence. New Mexican style is a little faster,
uses more guitar, and the singing is a bit more nasal. Colorado style, on the
other hand, is laced more with garage band influence—rock, country, R & B. It
has a much more urban sound.”
According to Salazar, the old rhythms and styles are constantly being reinterpreted. “The inclusion of a broader range of music these last couple decades has enriched American culture tremendously,” he said. “It’s important, I think, for us to celebrate and encourage that ongoing dynamic. Ultimately, we are the beneficiaries, because our art forms live on, though, like everything, they are always evolving.”
Gallegos agrees. “I’m always happy that young people are out there making music,” she said. “I prefer that we create it rather than adopt other people’s.”
Adapting other musical styles, however, has allowed Southwestern music to thrive, even though the aesthetic remains rooted in time-honored traditions. The Chicano Music Festival celebrates both the traditions and the innovations.
“(The festival is) probably one of the most under-appreciated cultural events in the city,” Salazar said. “But that’s kind of nice because it makes it more intimate. There’s a real sense of community closeness. And the music is incredible. I guess that does qualify it as party of the year.”
Come enjoy the music, as well as the great auction items, indoor restrooms, free parking, and multitude of refreshments at the10th Annual Chicano Music Festival and Auction, August 4-6 at El Centro Su Teatro’s securely gated north playground, 4725 High Street in Denver. Tickets are on sale July 17. Ask about discount group rates and festival passes, as well as an updated band schedule, by calling (303) 296-0219 or visiting <www.suteatro.org.>
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