Wassup Rockers

Meninas Brasileiras.

To coincide with LAMC week last month, Latina published a music issue where they highlighted a lot of emerging artists. Well I just noticed that the magazine’s website posted a small video feature to go along with that issue. It features soundbites from several artists* who were at LAMC.

It’s not like the comments section to any website is a treasure trove, but I was really interested in the comments for this post because of the reaction some had over Brazilian Girls. There are no Brazilians and only one girl in the group, and there was some debate over Brazilian Girls being identified as a Latin music group. A couple of them expressed anger at Latina for “lazy journalism,” saying that the magazine should have fact-checked whether there were any Latinos in the band.

I understand why some people are upset, but I do think they’re overreacting. It wasn’t the magazine’s idea to put Brazilian Girls in the LAMC show for Celebrate Brooklyn. I mean, why direct anger at the magazine for wanting a scoop? If the band was there, and it was buzz-worthy among certain crowds, I can’t blame the publication for wanting a quote from the band and then featuring the interview bit on the magazine’s website.

The other thing to ask is SO WHAT? That’s a serious question and I’m not asking it to be dismissive of the complainers, necessarily. I’ll be the first to admit I was iffy about Brazilian Girls as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn lineup, mostly because I thought their sound didn’t really jive with Miranda!, who at that point were supposed to headline the show. Also, the people organizing the show could have found another group who could use more exposure in NYC. Brazilian Girls already have a decent following here. And yes, I do feel like it could have been a group that had more people of Latin American descent, or who performed music that is more clearly based in some Latin American genre or other, or a group that performs primarily in Spanish (or Portuguese).

But back to SO WHAT. Like, digamos que ninguno de los miembros en un grupo se puede identificarse como una persona Latina. Is it really bad if a band is inspired by a genre of Latin American music and infuses it in their own work? I don’t really listen to Brazilian Girls, pero ellos admiten una influencia multicultural (tienen canciones en varios idiomas) que incluye música de origen Latino. I mean, hey, why don’t we yell at all the bands with mostly Latino members who insist on making music in genres dominated by Anglos–rock o lo que sea–or who write most of their lyrics in English and accuse them of rejecting their own cultures. (I’m not advocating that we do so. After all, we’d be yelling at a looooot of very talented people.)

Of course it’s a touchy situation–you don’t want the non-Latino to just latch on to Latin American music because it’s trendy or because of some romantic view. Ick, ick. At the same time, I don’t think it’s the end of the world to embrace bands that openly acknowledges being inspired by Latin American music and even make an effort to perform in Spanish, etc. Not to get all cheesy on you, but I do think that music should be inclusive, not exclusive. The more people can enjoy music, the better, and I enjoy groups that reflect how vastly diverse our world is becoming, don’t you? Or maybe you feel threatened that your culture will lose its identity if there’s too much back-and-forth and dialogue among various cultures. Hm, I guess I understand that too.

I mean, I think the biggest tragedy with Brazilian Girls is that their music doesn’t grab my attention. Seriously, I can’t imagine ever being a fan.

LAMC has had non-traditional acts before, the kind you would not expect to see at a convention on Latin American music. The one time I went to see Aterciopelados, Coheed and Cambria opened for them(!). I was aware that their lead vocalist is Latino, but Co & Ca are mostly made up of white musicians, the band is based in the US, their music is influenced by American rock bands, and they sound totally prog-y, a genre that I seriously doubt originated in a Spanish-speaking country. Frankly, having them open for fucking Aterciopelados was one of the biggest WTFs I’ve experienced in my life. I don’t get what the LAMC’s goal was, but they have a track record for featuring musicians of all backgrounds and of all genres, and I guess the Brazilian Girls appearance was just another act in the same vein.

One thing that did surprise me, I should note, was the comment by one person stating that the singer of Brazilian Girls is Latina because she is Italian, and Italy is a “Latin European country.” I never even knew that there were “Latin Europeans,” but there’s a whole article about it on Wikipedia, y como todos sabemos, ¡Wikipedia nunca miente! (Jajaja.) Supposedly it’s equivalent to the term “Latin American.” Pueden leerlo aquí, como pueden ver, the article is under dispute. En serio, you learn something new everyday, and the whole Latin European concept kind meets my quota for today.

But c’mon, dude, even if Italy was the heart of the Roman empire and was all over the Latin that now makes a basis for Romance languages, “Latino” has a totally different concept in the US. Here we’re talking about hispanohablantes (and in some definitions, those who speak Portuguese as well). If you ever read Latina magazine, in fact, you’ll see that is geared toward women who have a Spanish-speaking or Portuguese-speaking heritage, primarily from the Americas. Nothing in their pages on Italy, or France, or Romania…

A final comment about the video on the Latina site: I thought it was cool that all the artists interviewed were able to speak English. Some had heavier accents than others, but they were all more than capable of presenting their groups in English and expressing some of their artistic views. Bilingualism is always appreciated! Kudos to those interviewed for this video.

Sorry for the weird, scattered and not-very-timely rant. I mean, what do you think? Am I completely off-base, am I too dismissive of the commenters? Maybe I completely missed their point.

* The groups featured in the Latina video:
Brazilian Girls
Francisca Valenzuela
La Pulquería
Los Fancy Free
The Fire and Reason
Ximena Sariñana


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