Monday, December 27, 2010

El Chicano

I first discovered the tune Viva Tirado on an album of the same name by a Mexcian-American band from LA called El Chicano.

There were several reasons I picked up this album; the liner notes listed the nationalities of the band and recording team, including it being engineered by "...a cat who is half English and half Mexican, a New Zealander  and a Scotchman" [I wonder who that Kiwi was?]; they also noted the album was "recorded afterhours of the lounge of the Kabuki Sukiyaki Restaurant, 3840 Crenshaw Blvd  [pictured on the cover above], because that is what El Chicano wanted and because Moss is too good to be true" [what?], and it's got a charming version of Light my fire by the Doors that compresses all that is good about that song into 25 seconds.

Viva Tirado was originally written and performed by Gerald Wilson in the early 60s, and proved to be a big hit for El Chicano in 1970. Oliver Wang at Soulsides has written a recent piece on how he discovered the tune via Kid Frost sampling it in 1990. Read on...

Oliver Wang: "I discovered' “Viva Tirado” back around 1990, when Kid Frost sampled/interpolated parts of it for “La Raza” but I didn’t realize the greater genealogy of the song until later in the decade when one of my academic mentors, Josh Kun, put me up on how Frost was flipping an El Chicano song that, in turn, was based on a Gerald Wilson original.

The connection planted a tenacious seed in my head and for the dozen years after that, I slowly began to flesh out the story behind what I call the song’s “multiple iterations” and specifically, how “Viva Tirado” is at the center of a rather remarkable, multi-generational conversation between L.A.’s Black and Brown communities. After all, here’s a song, originally written by a Black composer in honor of a Mexican bullfighter, covered by a Chicano band steeped in Black R&B and jazz, then sampled by the first major Chicano rap artist. It seems no matter where the song goes, it’s always a bridge between cultures; this becomes even more true once “Viva Tirado” goes international and falls into the hands of everyone from Augustus Pablo to Nico Gomez to Los Mozambiques.

I finally had the chance a few years ago to collect these ideas into an academic essay that just came out in the Journal of Popular Music Studies. They actually use my essay as the “free” offering from this month’s issue and for the occasion, I prepared a mini-mega-mix of “Viva Tirado” versions to the site.

You can find it all here. It really is an astounding story for those who don’t know it and I feel like I wrote my essay with scholarly rigor but hopefully still accessible enough for the “lay person” to read. The mix of songs includes some of my personal favorite versions of “Viva Tirado” though there were many versions I could have included but didn’t."

Check out Oliver's Viva Tirado mix, he's also got a great reggae version in there by Augustus Pablo that I'm rather fond of.

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