Category Archives: Arts and Music

SoCal Mexican Roots Rock and Soul Band

Grammy Award-winning group La Santa Cecilia, named for the patron saint of music, is composed of accordionist and requinto player Jose ‘Pepe’ Carlos, bassist Alex Bendaña, percussionist Miguel ‘Oso’ Ramirez, and vocalist ‘La Marisoul.’ They were raised here fully bilingual and bicultural.

They are dedicated to voicing the experience of a new bicultural generation in the United States, fully immersed in modern music, but still close to its Latin American influences and Mexican heritage.

Their music is rooted in their Mexican heritage, but also inspired by traditions of bossa nova, rumba, bolero, tango, jazz, rock, and klezmer.

They have made seven albums, and their 2013 release Treinta Días won the Grammy for Best Latin Rock Album (Alternative or Urban). They have also been nominated for two Latin Grammies, and their album El Valor was named one of the best of the year by NPR’s Alt Latino.

Watch La Santa Cecilia in Concert.

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Mariachi Over the Rainbow

Mariachi is a music genre steeped in machismo, by straight men in glitzy charro suits and sombreros singing songs of love and lust about women. Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles (Rainbow Mariachi) challenges that.

The group prides itself on being the world’s first LGBTQ mariachi band. Their tight, energetic, and intricate sound has been honed by the work they’ve had to do to navigate the typically hypermasculine and heteronormative world of mariachi as gay and trans musicians.

Of course, the group’s social power would be nothing if their music-making were not at a high level. Their dual mission of being a respected musical group and advocating for social equality for the LGBTQ community has won the hearts and minds of many mariachi enthusiasts.

The band has performed at numerous gay and transgender pride events as well as the #SchoolsNotPrisons tour for the California Endowment. They have been featured multiple times on Univision morning shows, and highlighted many times in the press.

Watch Mariachi Arcoiris.

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Music is Community

For Andrés Martín, “music is community,” and his career path bears out this assertion. Native of Buenos Aires, Argentina and resident of Tijuana, Mexico bassist, arranger, and composer Martín has performed with orchestras, chamber ensembles, and as a soloist throughout Latin America, Europe, and the United States.

Since his arrival in Tijuana Martín has been immersed in teaching as well as performing as a soloist and chamber musician. He also crosses the border to San Diego frequently to perform as part of the Camarada ensemble, and it was Camarada that commissioned Unstoppable, a four-movement suite for flute, violin, and bass that also provided a fitting title for Camarada’s 2020/2021 season. As is typical of Martin’s work, Unstoppable draws upon his multicultural life experiences and broad influences for inspiration, blending jazz, Latin, classical, and world beat idioms to create a work that is engagingly eclectic, complex but accessible.

In conversation with Rafael Fernández de Castro, Director of UC San Diego’s Center for US-Mexican Studies, and Beth Ross Buckley, Co-Artistic Director of Camarada, Martin discusses Unstoppable’s genesis and structure and the importance of collaboration for maintaining artistic vitality, citing his work with Camarada as an example. Martin also stresses his commitment to cross-border projects as a means of building community, noting that their passion drives artists to create and connect no matter what the circumstances. He is a member of the Orquesta de Baja California, and also organizes and directs Contrabajos de Baja California A.C., an academy that celebrates a yearly international double bass festival and chamber music course in Tijuana.

Above all, Martín describes the goal that drives his work as conveying emotional truths about the human spirit and our shared aspirations, something for which music is uniquely suited.

Watch Andrés Martin’s Unstoppable.

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A Life in Theatre: Ariane Mnouchkine

As Ariane Mnouchkine states in this rare and candid discussion, “We simply work better with love…. we work better by looking for a place of affection.” And as you will discover, her life-work, the Théâtre du Soleil, is clearly nothing less than that. Started with her fellow students at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in 1964, the theater has endured and remained firmly rooted in its founding ideals as a collective, creating social and political critiques of local and world cultures. Working beyond the bounds of the classic proscenium in found spaces like barns and gymnasiums, the theater has reflected physically its philosophical foundations, principles which you will find Ariane shares so frankly with Allan Havis, UC San Diego Professor of Theater and Dance and visiting scholar Robert Marx.

Watch Ariane Mnouchkine – 2019 Kyoto Laureate in Arts and Philosophy .

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The Future of Cinema

Since its inception in 1885 with the Lumiere Brothers’ public screening of La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon), cinema has been a collective experience, the modern equivalent of gathering around the campfire for storytelling. It continues to shape our perceptions, our attitudes, and the larger culture by providing a sort of shared mythology. However, the COVID-19 pandemic with its social restrictions has altered the ways in which films are delivered to the audience and how we process them, just as the 1918 influenza epidemic affected the nascent film industry of that era.

Scholars believe that there is much to learn by comparing and contrasting the effects of these and other outbreaks on cinema worldwide. In this roundtable discussion by six of those scholars, UC Santa Barbara professors Stephen Groening, Maggie Hennefeld, Brian Jacobson, and Jocelyn Szcepaniak-Gillece examine how the study of pandemics past – most especially the 1918 epidemic – sheds new light on how the current health crisis is reshaping the world of cinema, and whether or not those changes are likely to become permanent. Moderated by Patrice Petro, the conversation addresses such topics as questions of financial risk and exposure in the media industries as the balance of revenue sources shifts; the challenges to the movie theater’s traditional role as public space; and how reliance on streaming services has changed our fundamental understanding of cinema. The participants also explore how fears of viral infection are reshaping the literal and figurative “atmosphere” of moviegoing, since it remains to be seen if audiences (particularly older segments) will return to movie theaters in pre-pandemic numbers.

Finally, the panelists describe various strategies employed by the major studios and film distributors to adapt to changing circumstances. The consensus is that while there will always be a substantial audience of hardcore moviegoers who insist on seeing films on the big screen, the burgeoning popularity of services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney Plus, and others will continue. A pattern has already developed whereby many new releases have a brief theatrical run, after which (and in some cases during the run) they appear on digital platforms. Though initially confined to independent films this release pattern has become increasingly the pandemic-induced norm, and may eventually be limited solely to big budget blockbuster titles as marketing and distribution costs continue to skyrocket.

The specifics of the long-term future of cinema are as yet undetermined, but a close study of historical antecedents may help us to discern its outlines.

Watch Roundtable 1920/2020 – How COVID-19 is Reshaping Cinema.

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