When Julian Fernandez of Los Texas Wranglers asked me to write the liner notes for Aye, Que Tan Bonita, the guys’ most recent album full of original material, I was honored and I jumped at the chance.
Here’s what I wrote:
For over a decade, Austin’s own Los Texas Wranglers have cultivated a uniquely Texas sound, deeply rooted in traditional, accordion-driven Conjunto with accents from Country, Blues, and other genres. This album is a great showcase of this sonic signature that has earned the veteran group a loyal following and awards and recognition nationwide. Continue reading Liner Notes: Aye Que Tan Bonita – Los Texas Wranglers
Confession: before our very first Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival, I had never written a press release. I found some pretty good examples online, and I went for it. I got lucky, and it paid off big-time.
To write it, I had to think of myself as someone who knows nothing about the event, the performers, our organization, or the style of music being played. I bolded the names of the artists, dates and times, admission, venue address, I included a paragraph about Conjunto music and one about Rancho Alegre Radio.
My press release got the attention of Nancy Flores at the Austin American-Statesman, and she wrote and published a huge article, complete with photos of the groups performing. In my opinion, that was the single most important factor in getting the crowd that we did for our first festival. They say that the newspaper business is dying, and that may be true when it comes to individual subscriptions, but newspapers are still in every doctor’s office and break room everywhere, and people still read every single page.
So I send the press releases to every media outlet I can find: radio, television, magazine, newspaper, all announcing the details of the event. But I have another strategy with them. Since many of the groups we bring to the festival are from outside of Austin, I also send a press release to the newspaper/media in the bands’ hometowns. I include a special note saying that the band will be representing their hometown at a conjunto festival in Austin.
Happy New Year! In my life, a new year means another Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival is only a month away.
This year, I’m starting a series of posts here on my personal blog about what we do behind the scenes. The goal of this series is to open our playbook, so to speak, and to document how we manage such a large project and event with only a few people and a nearly non-existent budget. It will also help me remember what I did this year when next year rolls around, lol.
The problem with having an early February festival is that your communications are often overshadowed by the holidays. People in the media might be on vacation, or they are focusing on holiday stories. Everyone else is pretty much just focused on the holidays. So, we really only have the entire month of January to get our message out.
There are, however, some things that should be taken care of months in advance. Booking the venue, finding sponsors and funding if necessary, booking the bands. Getting in contact with newspapers and other big media to get on their radar screens.
Something essential during this phase is to get your head in the game. In January, I eat, sleep, and breathe Festival stuff. With the limited resources we have, it’s 24/7.
The next topic in this series will be how I use Press Releases to promote our event.
When one of the most respected newspapers in the entire world, based in London, England, contacted us and asked us to write about Tejano and Conjunto music for an upcoming Travel piece about the American Southwest, we immediately said yes.
An interesting characteristic of all “roots” music like Conjunto, Blues and Traditional Country is the contrast of lyrics that describe heartbreak and despair set to upbeat music.
For example: Señorita Cantinera. Covered by countless artists including Ruben Naranjo and Roberto Pulido, it is from the point of view of a man sitting at a bar, drinking away his pain and jealousy because his woman betrayed him with someone else. Roughly translated, he says, “It’s your fault I live drunk and it’s your fault I will die drunk.”
As the latino population increases all over the country, latin music festivals are on the rise as well. The lineups usually include a wide variety of genres from all latin cultures, from alt-rock and hip-hop to tribal and duranguense to samba, salsa, and jazz. For wide-ranging showcases like these, the question is, “Why not Tejano?”
The answer is usually that the organizers don’t know where to start or who to invite, or sometimes it doesn’t even occur to them to include Tejano or Conjunto. A contributing factor to this is that, many times, Tejano and Conjunto musicians are not networked with the latin music scene, not even in their own hometowns. The reasons vary, of course, but in times like these, expanding your network is essential.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a doubter. Never – not for a hot minute – have I believed in God. A half-century after my bar mitzvah, I was producing Bob Dylan’s first gospel album. He had just been born again, and in an access of evangelism he pulled out the Bible and started to hit on me. When I told him to forget it, that he was dealing with a confirmed, sixty-three-year-old Jewish atheist, he cracked up.
Granted, my atheism may belong in the same package as my other prejudices. But my convictions, or lack thereof, are lifetime friends. They nourish and sustain me. They satisfy me. If my colleagues disagree, I tolerate their aberrations. I glory in my disbelief. Disbelief, at least for me, is a source of strength.
Yet I see myself as deeply spiritual. My feelings for literature, art, movies, food, and wine are all in vested with spirit. Above all, it’s in my feeling for music. Music has brought me joy; it has given me a beat and a groove, sent me down the righteous roads.
from Wexler’s autobiography, Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music.
Recently a listener wrote to us and mentioned how she is disabled and is unable to attend most of the great Tejano and Conjunto events where her favorite artists are scheduled to perform.
She’s not alone, and numbers and demographics don’t lie.
Tejano fans are by and large Hispanic, and if I were to guess, the average age of our audience is somewhere around 45 years old and getting older with each passing year. On top of that, the prevalence of diabetes has gotten so high among Latinos that the National Institutes of Health actually refer to it as an epidemic. According to their website, nearly 12% of all Latinos over age 20 are diagnosed with the disease.