Oh la la!

This is why Mexico beat France in their last World Cup game. All the talented French kids (with berets!) are busy dancing tecktonik in their parent’s basements instead of paying attention to football.

Secret Disco: Hi-NRG

Trans X-Living on Video

Stop-Wake Up

Lime-Babe Were Gonna Love Tonight

Considering the term “Chicano Oldies” is accepted and in popular use, I’d like to create a genre called “Chicano Disco.” Some favorite examples above.

In Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco, author Peter Shapiro explains how the influence of the European musicians’ love for synthesized music fundamentally changed the essence of dance music. Whereas disco used to be based on funk, live beats and real drummers bands like Kraftwerk showed there was another way to create a rhythm. The synthesizer with it’s fake handclaps, hi-hats and bass drums helped create a whole new genre of disco music: Hi-NRG.

Hi-NRG had a huge following amongst Mexicans and Chicanos in the Los Angeles area in the 1980s. It was the musical fuel for an amazing DIY scene of DJs, backyard parties and dance clubs that ruled over large sections of the city. It’s a movement that isn’t well known outside Chicano circles in Los Angeles, back then most people could not care less what was going on in our communities.

I wasn’t part of this scene but my brother was a DJ and a member of Boyz in Kontrol, one of the hundreds, if not thousands of party crews that existed at the time. The crews were responsible for organizing parties, dance contests, DJ battles and cruising (cars) spots. While punk may get a lot of credit for being a DIY scene, the disco scene of 1980s rivaled punk in it’s “let’s organize ourselves” philosophy. Unlike punk it wasn’t a political choice, the self organization was done out of sheer necessity. Our neighborhoods offered very few forms of entertainment or diversions for youth.

Towards the late 1980s, the backyard parties started attracting the attention of the authorities, and by using the excuse of minor incidents of violence, these authorities begin to systematically shutdown and target the parties. Some involved with the scene said this heavy handedness by LAPD and the sheriffs department helped to create the revival of cholos and gangs on the Eastside. During the height of the disco scene, to be a gangster or cholo was the epitome of being uncool. Kids would snicker at the site of old veteranos riding on the bus with baggy pants like some anachronistic figure of the past. The disco scene had Latino kids going from neighborhood to other neighborhoods across the city to attend parties and to battle each other on the dance floor. The rivalries that existed and any tension were quickly diffused through dancing and partying. The violence that occasionally happened at these parties was mostly due to fights over girls/boys and the usual love dramas.

When the authorities started cracking down on the party crews and cruising, the essentially were forcing teenagers with lots of energy to stay home. And who was waiting for them? The old gangs who provided them with diversionary outlets. Many of us saw this process play out in front of our eyes. I’m not saying this was the only catalyst for the upsurge in gangs but it was a significant one and gives us a few clues to how we can deal with our current gang problem. The more you try and control youth, the greater the eruption of chaos. Young people need something to do, they have a lot of energy and excitement for their new world that cannot be bottled up and funneled into a path that adults approve of. Let the kids party!

Hi-NRG is still popular among successive generations of backyard partygoers. Go to any baptism, quinceañera, wedding or birthday party on the Eastside or in the San Gabriel Valley and there will be at least one DJ set devoted to the pantheon of Chicano Disco aka Hi NRG.

Please see Pachuco 3000’s post: 30 Years of DJ Culture from East Los Angeles for further reading.

Favorite Video of the Week: Ağrıdan tulum


Many thanks to blog commenter Secret for recommending this link of the Kurdish dance agridan tulum (I hope I got that right!) and letting me know the difference between halay (which is a Turkish word) and govend (which is Kurdish). Between youtube comments and online sources, I try my best to get information on the videos I post but I’m not always accurate. My main goal is introducing you all to bits of world dance you might not encounter other places. Cheers!

ağrılı tulumcular 2

Besides the amazing dancing, this clip features the musician, Yakup playing this hypnotic music. El Mariachi anyone?

Yaqui Deer Dance

As mentioned in a previous post, a few weeks ago someone asked me if I was Native American and I answered as I often do,  most people of Mexican heritage have some indigenous heritage. I think they meant Indian from north of the US border but like lots of indigenous folks, I don’t recognize these borders when it comes to culture. I was told my maternal great-grandmother was Yaqui Indian and my mother says she remembers hearing Yaqui words as a child. So in honor of my indigenous heritage, I present this video.

Yaqui Deer Dancer Yes, that is a deer head on his.

The clip is of an important ritual tradition called the Deer Dance. The festival where this dance took place was intended to bring Yaqui tribes from both sides of the borders together to celebrate their culture. There is some debate as to whether it was appropriate to film the ceremony and post the clip on Youtube. As the dance was a demonstration and not a ceremony, it seems approriate as a method to educate others in Yaqui culture.

Yaqui: Danza del Venado en Sonora, Mexico

Yaqui prefer to call themselves “Yoeme” and their homeland is “Hiakim.” It is their homeland name that most likely gave rise to the term Yaqui.


I’m in between novels, hence more frequent posting. I’ve also been spending more time on Youtube researching various musical threads – so much so, that at this point I can probably do a favorite video of the day (I post videos daily on facebook). So what to do? Well, I suppose share them with you all, right?

Back when I was putting together the Music From Everywhere CD, I knew I wanted to include a song from Lata Mangeshker. She is after all, the voice of Bollywood and my first introduction to this music style. Dilbar Dil Se Pyare was the song I chose. The rhythm made me think of camel caravan stretching across the desert. The composers did a good job in conveying the atmosphere of the song because just recently I discovered the song really is about a caravan. And not just any caravan, a Gypsy caravan.

Lata Mangeshkar – Dilbar Dil Se Pyare – Caravan, 1971

While the music is strictly late 60s Bollywood, the dancing seems to be based on traditional Gypsy/nomad dancing from Rajasthan. I particularly like the use of the wheel in the choreography.

Oh Kesario Hazari Gul Ro Phool

The real Banjara-Gypsy dancing is beautifully performed in the much referenced (on this blog, anyways) Romani movie, Latcho Drom.
According to a translation on Youtube, the young Banjara boy is singing about a girl he loved who was so beautiful she was dangerous. “Beware the evil eye” was included in this translation.

It is believed Romani/Gypsy people left northern India about one thousand years ago in successive waves of immigration into Central Asia and Europe performing music and dance during their travels and sometimes were made slaves to perform as royal court musicians.

Another aside, of all the music of the Romani diaspora, it is Flamenco with the twelve beat compas and the rhythm of “Gypsy” Indians that is most closely related. In Flamenco there is a type of song called martinetes, derived from the hammering of metal smiths similar to what is shown at the beginning of the clip.

Mexico: Son Huasteco

Huasteca Region, Mexico

As mentioned previously, I had hoped to write a little on my recent trip to Mexico but I’ve been having trouble finding a place to start. So much has changed since my last visit there seven years earlier. I can’t tell if Mexico is more American, the US is more Mexican or if it’s just that I’m finally beginning to understand both cultures. In any case, there’s too much to wrap my head around, there are race and class issues I simply do not have the skills to write about. (Like what’s up with all the vendors and ambulantes calling me “huera” when I have the same morena skin as them?) Then there’s the commercialization of El Chopo, the high prices of La Lagunilla and the intensity of Mercado Merced, all of these subjects are coincidentally being covered by Los Angeles journalist Daniel Hernandez who has been sharing his cultural observations of Mexico DF on his excellent blog: Intersections. I’ll leave the good writing and the insightful analysis to him. Instead, I’ll focus on two subjects that partly inspired this visit to Mexico: Son Huasteco music and Filigree jewelry.
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Kurdish Halay Dancing

[oh crud, all the videos are gone!-4/19/08]

Kurdish Halay Wedding Dance

Back in the early days of Napster, users would often chat and exchange music through recommendations. One memorable musical exchange occurred with a Kurdish guy who had emigrated to Germany. I recommended Ozomatli which he loved and he offered lots of Kurdish popular music in return. One song that stood out from the rest of the pro PKK tunes I ended up downloading from him was a song titled “Kurdish Disco.” I’m a sucker for anything “disco” but this song was exceptional for the time, it combined a traditional Kurdish folk tune with dance beats. It seems some of the traditional Kurdish rhythms are quite close to disco/dance beats and the combination of these two styles sounds quite complimentary. Perhaps now this song wouldn’t be a big deal as this kind of global meshing is pretty standard in the DJ world.
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