ACTA to Showcase Chicano Music in Washington D.C.

ACTA - Posted on 31 August 2011

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Augustin Lira and Quetzal

Join us as we travel to the Nation’s Capitol to feature Agustin Lira & Alma and Quetzal in two free concerts: Cantos de mi Cantón / Songs of my home. Share the special music that maps out a social history of the Chicano experience in the United States, music that illuminates the life, struggle, resilience, and joy of the Chicano community, which has contributed greatly to our grand nation. The concert is curated by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and presented by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The concerts will be webcast by the presenting organizations and broadcast by Radio Bilingüe–the National Spanish-language radio network. The concert is also supported by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution.

Concert Information: Sept 14, 2011
12-1 pm EDT: Coolidge Auditorium (located on the Ground Floor of the
Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress). Presented by the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress–Free, no tickets required.

6-7 pm EDT: Kennedy Center Millennium Stage–Free, no tickets required.

Webcasts:  (LIVE)
Radio: (LIVE)

About the Artists:

Agustín Lira and Alma

Agustín Lira, a NEA National Heritage Fellow (2007), began his public artistic career at the age of 19, when he cofounded El Teatro Campesino with Luis Valdez during the Delano Grape Strike headed by Cesar Chavez in 1965. The company created songs and plays, performed on picket lines, at rallies, and toured throughout the United States, giving voice to the farmworkers’ plight and demonstrating the power of artistic expression in uniting and inspiring the farmworker communities. Lira’s powerful singing and socially relevant lyrics were at the heart of El Teatro Campesino and established his role as the preeminent musical voice of the early Chicano Movement. After leaving Campesino in 1969, Lira resumed his work in music, theater, and grass-roots organizing, forming several theater groups notably El Teatro de la Tierra, which performed throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles metropolitan area to critical acclaim.
Lira has composed music for films and recordings and has received numerous awards for the cultural work he has produced. Together with Patricia Wells Solórzano, Lira formed the musical group, Alma, in 1979 to bring to life the Chicano-Latino experience through musical performances. Alma features original compositions by Lira and is known for its mesmerizing duets, inspirational lead guitar playing by Wells, and incomparable, rhythmic bass by Ravi Knypstra. Alma blends Mexican, Latin American, American Folk, and Afro-Cuban styles creating a hybrid: Chicano music.

Alma has performed throughout the United States, Mexico and Cuba, most notably at the American Folklife Festival and the US-Cuba Friendship Concert. The group has produced various recordings, such as Siempre he est
ado aquí (I have been here forever), Canciones de amor y lucha (Songs of love and struggle). Agustín Lira and Alma contributed extensively to the Smithsonian Folkways 2006 recording, Rolas de Aztlán: Songs of the Chicano Movement, which Thom Jurek, from All Music Guide has described as “an original and necessary document of essential American musical history.” Alma also scored the music for the award winning film documentary, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle, and most recently has performed at the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowship Concert at the Music Center, Strathmore, Maryland.


From the ashes of Los Angeles’ 1992 uprising arose a collective of East Side musicians committed to respectfully continuing the legacy of over 70 years of Chicano Rock. Standing on the shoulders of giants like Lalo Guerrero, Ritchie Valens, Cannibal and The Headhunters, The Brat, Los Lobos, and many others, Quetzal has created a path that has earned them the recognition as “one of Los Angeles’ most important bands” (LA Times). With four albums (Quetzal; Son Del Barrio, Sing The Real; Vanguard Records, Worksongs; Vanguard Records, Die, Cowboy Die; Independent), Quetzal has had the privilege of sharing the stage with a diverse list of artists such as Los Lobos, Zack de La Rocha, Ziggy Marley, Los Van Van, Taj Majal, Daara J, Ruben Blades, Fishbone, Cubanismo, Littlefeat, and Ozomatli.
The ensemble, Quetzal, lead by Martha Gonzalez (vocals, tarima, chekere, congas) and  (jarana, requinto doble, bajosexto, electric guitar), forges a sound that will simultaneously make you dance and contemplate change. With influences ranging from Stevie Wonder to The Smiths, Juan Gabriel to Bjork, and Miles Davis to Arsenio Rodriguez, the music of Quetzal is as rich and complex as their pluri-ethnic barrio experience. Their unique combination of activism and creative compositions has allowed them to travel the world using music as a tool for creating global networks committed to building community.   
Since 2002 Quetzal has been central in facilitating a transnational dialogue between Chicana/o musicians and artists from California and Mexicano musicians and dancers from Veracruz, Mexico. From this dialogue emerged many recordings, performances, publications, workshops, and community building efforts under the organizing auspices of “Fandango Sin Fronteras.” To enhance this dialogue, Gonzalez and Flores spent nine months in Xalapa, Veracruz in 2007 composing and recording music with women of “El Nuevo Movimiento Jaranero,” a movement geared at reinvigorating the son jarocho music tradition of Southern Veracruz. Between 2008 through 2011 they also initiated and coordinated the Seattle Fandango Project, a grassroots effort using the technology of the fandango jarocho as a community-building tool. Quetzal most recently completed its fifth studio album, “Imaginaries,” to be released early 2012 on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

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