the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center,
the Arhoolie Foundation,
and the UCLA Digital Library
The Mexican corrido or narrative ballad has been described as a musical newspaper, since the lyrics are often based on actual events featuring folk heroes and revolutionaries. But don’t ever think of the genre as yesterday’s news. Some songs become so popular that they are passed down from generation to generation, becoming musical history lessons as well.
The website also features an interview with Carlos Martínez, the young musician recently named musical director of the legendary mariachi. The interview was conducted by mariachi musician and historian Jonathan Clark, of San Jose. Fans may recall that Clark, one of the most diligent chroniclers of the genre and its exponents, wrote the chapter on mariachi music in the award-winning book about UCLA’s renowned digital archive, The Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings, published by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press. In the interview, the wide-eyed Martinez describes his thrill at being passed the director’s baton directly from the legendary Ruben Fuentes himself, who joined the band as a violinist in 1944.
The exploits of baseball slugger Yasiel Puig, and the dramatic story of how he got out of Cuba, has attracted much media attention. But this is not the first time a rags-to-riches immigrant tale has captured the imagination of Dodger fans in Los Angeles. Nothing, in fact, will ever quite match the pop-culture furor surrounding the phenomenon that came to be known as Fernando-mania. The two sports superstars, a generation apart, are now even drawing comparisons by sports writers.
Among the most fascinating recordings in the Frontera Collection are the staged re-enactments of historic events. In the era of 78 rpm discs, these historic accounts, with their sound effects and scripted dialog, gave people a sense of being present at momentous battles, revolutions or times. Even today, it’s not hard to imagine the appeal of recordings that bring to life distant happenings that, in those days, could only be talked about or read in newspapers. The recordings are mostly one-sided accounts filled with fanfare, hero worship and patriotic pomp and circumstance.
The critically praised research guide to the Frontera Collection, published by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, was recently given the award for Best Discography in the category of folk, world or ethnic music research, by the prestigious group of music and audio specialists, the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC). This month, the ARSC will officially present the honor at its formal awards banquet during its annual conference scheduled May 15-17 at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The book, written by Agustin Gurza with contributions from Jonathan Clark and Chris Strachwitz, explores multiple aspects of the digital archive, one of the largest and most valuable collections of recorded Spanish-language music in the world.
The two norteño musicians were strolling down the main street in the border town of Nuevo Progreso when a woman stopped to talk to them. She was an artist from just across the border, in McAllen, Texas, and she wanted permission to paint their portrait. Her name was Reefka and she had an eye for character in the subjects she spotted along the porous border along the Rio Grande Valley. She would snap pictures and ask questions about their lives, the better to capture their essence in her art. Her husband and creative partner, Steven Schneider, would then write poems or short prose paragraphs about the people they met, inspired by the paintings.