Since its inaugural event in 1991, only two Latino groups have ever performed at Lollapalooza – Cafe Tacuba from Mexico and Los Amigos Invisibles from Venezuela (each twice), unless you choose to count Manu Chao as a Latino. This year, six Latino artists/bands will perform on Lolla´s stages, and three of them are chilean, as thanks to Lolla Chile 2011 ( the first time the fest was ever celebrated outside the U.S.), the producers on both continents agreed to a cultural interchange whereby a few select artists that play at in Lolla Chile each year will also play Lolla Chicago.

We had a chance to converse with all the Latino artists, and these conversations were a testament to the deep roots and strength of nuestra música. Each artist´s story is as fascinating and unique as the many facets of what can be called Latino music. Here’s a quick rundown of these Lollatinos for 2011 and the reasons for their rhymes and rhythms.

LOS BUNKERS: Activist folk rockers

August 5, 1:45pm – Playstation Stage
“We wanted to get away from the divorce of rock and root music, and knock down the mental barrier that separates activist folk music – “trova” – from pure rock and roll, declares Francisco ´Francis´ Durán, vocalist, keyboardist and guitarist as well as one of the founders of the Chilean band Los Bunkers (now based in Mexico), early adopters of a raw rock en español. In fact, the group, originally from Concepción in the southern region of Chile, released a new album last year based entirely on covers of songs by iconic Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez, which indeed caused a bit of controversy.  Duran adds that Silvio and other important figures of the “New Latin American Song” genre that was born in the sixties were crucial to his country, providing “light in the very dark years” of Chile´s dictatorship. Today, the group continues to add new colors to the palette of their music, an art which he considers “the one most capable of reflecting the human spirit”.

CHICO TRUJILLO: Punk rockers who play cumbias

August 6, 1:30pm – PlayStation Stage
“For us, it´s always about staying within a style of danceable music, and that of making it a party”, says Tio Rodi, the percussionist for Chico Trujillo, an extremely popular Chilean collective formed by eight musicians, several of them also former members of a successful punk rock band. The band is hitting Lolla after amazingly energetic and well-received shows at SXSW and concluding a very successful European tour, and Rodi is speaking via telephone in fact, from Portugal, one of the last dates on the tour. Having witnessed them in concert several times, I can attest to the fact theirs is music that will make you move every bone in your body. What is curious is that cumbia, the music they play, up until a few years ago, was relegated to weddings and family reunions after decades of extreme popularity throughout the Americas. Pioneers in the revitalized cumbia that is now sweeping the continent, Chico Trujillo gives the cumbia positively aggressive energy and punk ska touches that has the young ‘uns and grandparents side by side, the latter two-stepping it in an embrace and the former hopping up and down and even moshing every now and then.

TERI GENDER BENDER AND LE BUTCHERETTES: Fierce feminism made music

August 5, 3:30pm – Google + Stage
“I’ve learned it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”, says Teri Gender Bender (bornTeresa Suarez), the founder of Le Butcherettes. Speaking from her L.A. home by phone, she refers to Carl Jung, the psychologist, Malcom X and the philosopher Leibniz practically in the same breath, which makes for fascinating conversation. Born in Denver of Hispanic parents (Spanish dad and Mexican mom), Gender Bender grew up in that city but went back to Guadalajara as an adolescent. Her music, she says, was born out of the many complexities of handling and dealing with two cultures and two languages and the identity issue. Initially, it was characterized by extremely and literally visceral rock, which she performed in a bloodied apron and sometimes with piece of bloody meat strewn about the stage. I wondered if the apron imagery was related to the name of the group, which means “female butchers” in French, but she said it actually came to her in a dream. Much of her music, which she composes by improvising, builds upon feelings and intuitions, she says: “The suppressed energy of being told to be quiet…it’s like a tumor that grows within us, fills us with resentment, and I wanted to get it out of me, like a butcher, even if I had to hack it out.” It’s all about channeling that energy differently: “I think we women try so hard to be beautiful, those domestic creatures that are created by men…I wanted to make that into a positive force”. It’s also about connecting to the public through live performance, she concludes, where the musician connects…” not just with the fans, but with grace…we will die some day, and music reminds us how alive we are… I never, never want to take that for granted”.

CECI BASTIDA: Pop rock ballads with a social conscience

August 5, 1:00pm – BMI Stage
“This supposed war against drugs in Mexico is not improving the situation” says Ceci Bastida passionately. Speaking from L.A., the pop rock singer/songwriter continues to explain why the topic is comes up frequently in her music: “It affects me and my family, the people I love and the country I love.” Born in Tijuana, she was school friend Julieta Venegas’ keyboardist for eight years, a period where many wondered when she would go solo, as her talents made it obvious that would be a choice at some point along the road. Well, it finally happened and now Bastida’s first album, “Veo la Marea” has come out and includes powerhouse invited guests, such as rapper Rye Rye from Baltimore, who sings a duet with Bastida in which they lament the effects of the “war against drugs” on both the African American community and the Mexican community with lyrics like these: “Narco, narco have you heard? Drugs and money gonna kill the world. Money’s green and the border’s red, why do so many gotta end up dead? Bastida concludes by saying she does not consider herself any kind of an expert on these complex topics, but that it is time to have a different type of dialogue, and that music can function as a spotlight on these kinds of issues so that people begin to begin to have conversations about them.

ANA TIJOUX: Hip Hop poetess

August 5, 1:45pm – Perry´s Stage
“Music comes from within, it’s visceral, a physical need…I have a lot of questions, and even if music does not give me any answers, at least it quiets the questions¨, exclaims Ana Tijoux. Raised in both France and Chile, the daughter of exiled Chilean parents, her smart, articulate hip hop is rooted and marked in feelings of tumult and change. These days, having obtained a Grammy nomination for her 2010 CD “1977”, Tijoux, speaking from her home in Chile, is sharing happily some of the highlights of her newest CD, which she has just finished recording. One of the big changes, says Tijoux, is that the new album not only has live music, rather than sampling, but the music is performed on instruments such as the violin, sax, French horn and others which are most often associated with classical music. Additionally, she is delighted to have recorded a song in duet and even some rapping with Uruguayan Jorge Drexler (whose 2005 title track for “Motorcycle Diaries” won the very first Oscar ever for a movie theme song in the Spanish language.) Tijoux is charming to converse with, and she expounds easily and eloquently on all sorts of topics. She concludes by highlighting the important influence of the generation of musicians from Chile and the Americas who created the protest genre of music known as “New Latin American Song”:… “That music is fundamental for my entire generation…it’s what I heard at home with my parents, and as political refugees, the topics that music deals with  were always a part of our dinner table conversation…of course at the end, all of those things go into one same pot, and all of that history has now become a part of my music.”

XIMENA SARIÑANA: Jazzy pop ballads with a sophisticated touch

August 6,12:00pm – BMI Stage
The best way to get the story on this talented actress and singer/songwriter is to hear her tell it in her own words – check our Gozamos interview just a few weeks ago at the LAMC in NYC, where Sariñana tells us all about how composing in Spanish for Warner Mexico and her first CD and then composing in English for her just released second CD with Warner USA brings out all sorts of different shades and nuances in a composer. Nevertheless, she affirms that Spanish is the language of her home and parents, and no matter what, she loves her Mexican side and its rich culture and traditions.

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