This Mexican Music Is Something Else

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

This Mexican Music Is Something Else


Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

There's nothing wrong with the mariachi or banda music most commonly presented at festivals celebrating Latin culture. Daniel Howard just wants to add another dimension to the north-of-the-border perception of Mexican arts.

Howard is a musician who spent two years in Mexico. Upon returning to the United States, he longed for the intimacy of musical gatherings he participated in there, particularly in Cuernavaca.

"There's nothing like that music scene here, so the only solution for me was to try to bring it here as much as possible," Howard said.

A Mexican singer-songwriter in the trova tradition, Alfonso Maya, already has played a couple of concerts locally that Howard organized. But for today's "Pueblo a Pueblo" event at the Tango Center, Howard wanted to sample another dimension of the Mexican scene he missed so much.

Enter Jessica Zapata, Howard's wife, who is a well- connected visual artist. Tonight, the couple will find out what happens when you combine international musicians with local visual artists as an experiment in cultural exchange.

Howard said he's not exactly sure how it will work out. The artists will be present, and he has left it up to them whether they want to sell their art or just display it.

The concert itself is not an unknown. Howard says Maya is one of the best in the genre in his native country.

"It's real innovative stuff; at the same time it's really melodic," Howard said of the genre. "This is designed to be very social and interactive."

As in the North American folk tradition of singers telling stories to go with their songs, trova artists tell jokes and yarns to introduce their original compositions.

If you are not a Spanish speaker, Howard said you still should enjoy the concert if you like acoustic, melodic music. But he can't guarantee you will laugh at his translations of the jokes.

"Storytelling, that's a big part of it. These are serious musicians, but they don't take themselves too seriously."

Hometown has a fertile scene

Maya is, according to his bio, a "true master of the trova genre of acoustic balladry and social protest song. …

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