By Ariel Campos
I was very honored to be approached by Modern Marimba to create something to help celebrate Latine Heritage month. As a professional musician and music lover, my eclectic musical tastes have been shaped by my diverse background. I was born and raised in northern California and currently live in Los Angeles. I am the son of a Mexican immigrant father and mom who grew up in both South Texas and Mexico. I was raised in a bilingual home, surrounded by classic Mexican music, classic rock, American country music, 80s pop music, percussion music, concert band music, and music from Spanish church services.
Latine culture is not a monolith; it is as diverse as the many cultures, languages, and dialects that create it.
The playlist I have created includes tracks from all genres of Latine music and, yes, even a Latine-inspired track by American Country superstars Brooks and Dunn. All songs on this list are influential to me in one way or another and represent just a small portion of music that inspires me and makes me take pride in my Latino heritage. I have attempted to create a Top 11 from the playlist.
Top 11 Tracks
- El Rey: José Alredo Jiménez. One of the most prolific composers of the Mexican song style la “Ranchera,” meaning ‘from the ranch.’ He was a master poet and crafted some of the most well-known of all Mexican songs of love, loss, and tequila.
- El Relampago: by Silvestre Vargas, performed by Lila Downs. Mexican-American singer Lila Downs is a miraculous trail-blazing artist raised in America and the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. She has crafted versions of Mexican classics in her own style. A true inspiration to my musical understanding, I recommend every song in her vast catalog, as well as her adventurous collaborations with the artist Matthew Barney.
- Quítate la máscara: by Rigo Tovar. This was one of my father’s favorite songs and artists; this song contains memories of family barbecues, dancing around the house, laughter, and good times.
- Sabor a Mi: performed by Los Lobos. Los Lobos is one of the first rock bands I can remember hearing that reflected the Mexican-American spirit. This great version of the popular song still holds up as a classic.
- Muy Fifi: from the album “Chávez Ravine,” by guitarist Ry Cooder. Using Chicano slang, this song tells the story of the early Chicano experience in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the true story of gentrification of a Latine community being displaced from Chávez Ravine in order to build Dodger Stadium
- Chili Caliente: by Louie Cruz Beltran. I was Louie’s vibraphone player for a good while. Louie represents the true musician entertainer. Louie has been a working percussionist/band leader in Los Angeles for the last 20-plus years with his arrangements and band.
- Sixteen: Los Super Elegantes. Los Super Elegantes was an indie art rock band founded by Mexican artist Milena Muzquiz and Argentinian Artist Martiniano Lopez Crozet. They used clever humor and quality song arrangements to produce two studio albums.
- Bla Bla Bla: Yerba Buena. This politically charged song is a sharp, witty argument to the band’s view of the hypocrisy of governmental policy in regard to immigrants from Latine countries. The band’s tight arrangements and party-friendly vibe will get everyone moving.
- Border Crossing: by David Vayo, performed by the University of Michigan percussion ensemble. This highly challenging piece for percussion ensemble depicts a metaphorical border crossing as described by the composer in the liner notes.
- Volver, Volver: by Vicente Fernández. This unofficial national anthem of Mexico describes the longing of wanting to return to a loved one.
- La Jaula De Oro: Los Tigeres del Norte. “The Golden cage” describes the catch-22 some immigrants find when they move to the United States and the sacrifices that are required in order to create a better life for themselves and their families.
Ariel Campos (he/him) is a former student of percussionists Karen Ervin-Pershing, and Mitchell Peters. Ariel is a Los Angeles-based percussionist, an advocate for diversity, and a music professor. He’s a graduate of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and is currently adjunct faculty of music at Mt. San Antonio College and Long Beach City College. He is also a board member of The Southern California Marimba, a non-profit organization that seeks to bridge the gap by providing professional support to students and artists.