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Blog: Your source for topics related to the Frontera Collection

The most common gifts for Mother's Day are flowers, chocolates and maybe jewelry. But traditionally, Mexicans also give music as a gift to honor their madrecitas. This album by Los Tigres del Norte, "A Ti Madrecita," contains 12 songs expressing devotion to mothers, tied with a bow on the cover.

Flaco Jimenez, the great Tex-Mex accordion player who brought international attention to a genre often overlooked by the mainstream music industry, was honored recently with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Recording Academy. Jimenez, 75, became one of only five Latin American or Spanish artists to ever receive the award in more than 50 years. Past winners include Brasil’s Antonio Carlos Jobim (2012), Mexico’s Armando Manzanero (2014), Puerto Rico’s Tito Puente (2003) and Spain’s Andrés Segovia (1986).

This is the tale of a tall, adventurous German immigrant who trekked through the border towns between the U.S. and Mexico, armed with a tape recorder and a passion for real downhome music. Without speaking the language, he cruised the cantinas and bounced from bar to bar, seeking out the best local bands he could find.

One of the secret treasures of the Frontera Collection is the amount of vintage Cuban music it contains. Among the most popular and longest lived bands is La Sonora Matancera, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. There are some 140 discs in the archives, mostly old 78s, by the iconic Afro-Cuban conjunto, founded in 1924 in the province of Matanzas. However, not all the titles are credited to the band itself. 

Memorial services were held for Mexican ranchera singer Gerardo Reyes, who passed away February 25 at age 79. Fans, friends and family said final goodbyes to the beloved vocalist with music and a Funeral Mass held in Cuernavaca, the colonial city he called home for the past 45 years. The casket was surrounded by flowers and a large framed portrait of the singer standing with a cross in front of an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Veteran Mexican singer Gerardo Reyes, whose popular touch and unpretentious demeanor earned him the nickname "El Amigo del Pueblo" (The Friend of the People), died February 25 after battling liver cancer. He was 79.

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.

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.

Dodger PlayerThe 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.

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, 2013, at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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.

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