Latin America, Political? No Way!

The Orange Count Register's Latin music coverage is already spotty enough—hey, Richard Chang, there's something called Chicano punk in this county!—but it recently outdid itself for sonic stupidity by running a Miami Herald screed in the Jan. 24 Show section titled “Politically Direct.” Written by former Reg scribe Jordan Levin, the article claims that “a new generation of artists” from Latin America is infusing politics into their beats, moving Latin music away from the “romance and heartbreak, with occasional breaks to party” that Levin claims characterizes Latin popular music. Hey, carajo: Did you listen to anyone beside Paulina Rubio for your research? Artists such as Bersuit Vergarabat, Los Tigres del Norte and Manu Chao continue to sell out shows—but never their progressive pop—after years of practice. In fact, Latin popular music is all about the political. Take Afro-influenced music like salsa, merengue and son, which originated from slaves who played their instruments and songs despite the threat of death that came with practicing it. Or how about Mexico's corrido, the strummed ballads that ensure radical dissidence will always be a part of Mexican life? And don't even get me started on Argentina's music, which, from the tango (initially a dance practiced between men) to cacerolazeros (people banging pots during protests) to today's most popular rock en espaol acts, was usually the only act of defiance against the country's conservative mores and brutal regimes? There are many more beats to beat up Levin with, but we won't humiliate him further. As for the Register's Latin-music coverage . . . when's the next breathless Super Estrella piece? (Gustavo Arellano)

Remember that anti-rave act that was kicking around Congress last year? Well, it's apparently back—in sheep's clothing. After being rolled into Senate minority leader Tom Daschle's domestic security bill, the anti-rave act has since been re-introduced as a stand-alone bill by Senators Joe Biden (D-Delaware), Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and our own Dianne Feinstein (D-California). But don't try charting its progress under the “anti-rave act,” which as originally drafted would have expanded the federal “crack house statute” to make it easier to fine or imprison rave promoters up to 20 years if they failed to prevent patrons from selling or using drugs at their events. The revised bill is now being called the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, and all mention of raves and electronic music have been stricken. “Don't be fooled!” warns the Drug Policy Alliance in an e-mail to supporters. “It's the rave act in new clothing. If enacted, it would harm innocent business owners, undermine public safety, and stifle free speech and musical expression.” And worst of all, you can't dance to it. (Matt Coker)

Missy Elliott HELL'S BELLS
Shitty, prefabricated, target-market-researched, destined-to-be-forgotten bands stinking up the radio and MTV. CDs priced at $18.99 collecting dust in the bins of rapidly bankrupting chain stores. Free downloading and CD burning running rampant. TicketBastard service charges helping to jack up concert prices so only the wealthy can afford going to shows anymore. Can you smell the end of the corporate music industry? We sure can! But maybe not just yet, as the Biz in the past few years has tapped into a lucrative new revenue stream: ring tones. According to a recent Reuters report, sales of the boop-boop-dit-dit ditties designed for cell phone users (also designed to annoy everyone within earshot) raked in as much as $1 billion last year—everything from “All You Need Is Love” to “Funky Town” to “Get Ur Freak On” and zillions of others—and collected a cool $71 million in royalty payments for songwriters. (Will we soon see the day when songwriters are penning melodies specifically for cell phones? Will Nokia, Qualcomm and AT&T become the new Sony, Warner and BMG?) More popular in Europe but catching on fast with novelty-obsessed American teens and college kids, the average ring tone runs about $1.50—about the price of a single 15 years ago, but of course back then, you at least got the whole song by the original band and not some obnoxious, techno-fried version that only lasts as long as it takes for you to ANSWER YOUR GODDAMN PHONE ALREADY! Here's an argument for the cell-phones-cause-brain-cancer conspiracists, if we've ever heard one. (Rich Kane)SIMPLY RED
The theme for the 2003 Orange County Fair will be “Red, Ripe and Rockin'” to celebrate tomatoes and popular music. Ironically, in past years, many of us wish we had tomatoes to heave at what passes for popular-music acts at the fair. But there is hope when the fair begins its 21-day run on July 11. Besides opening the long-mothballed Pacific Amphitheatre up to headliners and retaining the services of local bookers extraordinaire Ken Phebus and Steve Beazley, the fair board just upped its entertainment budget from $2 million to $5 million. Now if they direct some of that scratch to deserving—but underexposed—local musicians, they'll have us at hello. (MC)

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