Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Juan Chavez: shredding on the violin?

There are three things a woman needs to do in order to succeed as a trophy wife on the East Coast (and I mean actual East Coast, none of that Real Housewives of Manhattan crap):

1. play tennis well
2. speak a foreign language (French or Italian only), and
3. play either the violin or the piano proficiently.

Of these, the third is the most important, because if you play the violin well at 25 (standard trophy wife age), it's only because you've had years of practice; if you've been able to practice for so many years, it's only because your parents were rich enough to either hire a nanny to deal with the first few years of screeching, or else build a practice room far off in some other wing of your mansion.

But not all violinists are as snooty as this gross generalization would lead you to believe. Strings come more or less standard with folk bands--which, even at their tamest, are considerably more fun outfits than your little sister's 6th grade recital. (Shameless plug: I have some friends in a folk band called the Bridgebuilders, and they're awesome!) There's an Israeli musician named Miri Ben-Ari who did strings for most of Kanye West's first album, The College Dropout; indie favorite Andrew Bird played violin for the Squirrel Nut Zippers before he went solo. Contemporary Latin music, however, remains all but untouched by strings--the notable exception being tango, a genre whose dramatic air pretty much necessitates a violin or two.

Enter Juan Chávez, a recent Berklee grad who had spent most of his life playing improvisational violin until a high-school teacher suggested he play for his school's salsa ensemble. Juan was recently at WGBH to teach the show OneGuest (in the spirit of full disclosure: I work for those dudes) about the differences between salsa and cha-cha-cha and to plug his new band, Arco Kemao. Here, he shreds:

So do string sections in salsa do their part to class the genre up, or does the violin get more cred?

Monday, August 25, 2008

que verguenza

Starting off this blog with something that is not indie and only peripherally Spanish may not be the strongest choice. Nonetheless, let's discuss Daddy Yankee's voting record.

Let's forget McCain's stellar list of celebrity supporters--well, who else aside from Spencer and Heidi?--for a second and think about how at this point in the game, McCain has done everything he could to distance himself from his pre-election stance on immigration. Let's not forget that he had a freaking awesome immigration reform bill on the table as recently as 2006--but then abandoned it, along with his admirably liberal position on immigration in general, as soon as he needed to adopt the fierce neo-con facade. Instead, let's focus on the real issue: Daddy Yankee's place in the campaign. I'm worried that the poor guy is going to feel a little out of place in the McCain camp, especially if Romney joins the gang and mistakes him for one of his old handymen. As it stands, adding him to the mix is a little like adding tabasco sauce to a bowl of gruel. So what can he do to keep his popularity up among Hispanics while continuing to champion a cause that he firmly believes in?

An Obama diss track wouldn't be a bad start. Barack Obama more or less started the reggaeton-as-campaign tool movement while he was slugging it out with Hillary earlier this year. His song, the creatively-titled "Obama Reggaeton," did its part to ignite the Latino population, most of whom were ardent Clintonites; its only problem (aside from sounding like a cheap ad for second-rate beer) was that the guy who wrote and performed it was--well, he was a nobody. Daddy Yankee, on the other hand, has been in the game for so long that he can start shit and gain exposure for it in Kuala Lumpur.  Look what he did with Don Omar:

This election has the potential to become one of the greatest rap feuds America (latina y el norte) has ever seen. Now, if only Calle 13 would step up for Obama.