About

To some, Rubén Guevara (sometimes referred to as Rubén Funkahuatl Ladrón de Guevara) is most important as the man behind Ruben and the Jets, the real group that followed in the wake of the 1968 Frank Zappa album Cruising with Ruben & the Jets and left behind two of the finest rock & roll albums of Ruben Guevarathe early to mid-’70s. But Guevara is more than that – indeed, he is a multi-threat musician, performer, writer, and producer, for whom Ruben and the Jets are but one small musical achievement in a five-decade career.

He was born in Boyle Heights, on October 17, 1942, the son of a Mexican immigrant musician and composer – also named Rubén Ladrón de Guevara – who moved to Los Angeles following a 1941 Cinco de Mayo performance at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum with his trio, Los Porteños (which at one time included Mexican ranchera icon, Miguel Aceves Mejia.) He met his future wife backstage at the legendary Million Dollar Theatre at a later performance, and the two were later married. The younger Rubén Guevara spent his early years in the Mexican enclave of Santa Monica (La Veinte) and later moved to Los Angeles. He started studying music with his father and at nine formally took up the trumpet, and became proficient enough to join the California All-Youth Symphony (Easter Sunday Concert Live on NBC TV, 1957).

He reached his teens just as rock & roll and R&B were sweeping the nation, and in high school he began singing R&B harmony vocal (i.e., doo-wop) music, in the mold of the Penguins, the Flamingos, et al. With a friend, Pablo Amarillas, he formed the Apollo Brothers (named after their car club, The Apollos). His early influences included Don & Dewey, the Carlos Brothers, and, a little later, Ritchie Valens. The Apollo Brothers recorded My Beloved One/Riot for Cleveland Records in 1961 and performed at various local venues: The El Monte American Legion Stadium (Richard Berry, The Olympics), The Long Beach Municipal Auditorium (Paul Anka), Pandora’s Box (The O’Jays, Dobie Gray), and were good enough to make it onto local television (Wink Martindale Live at POP w/ Don & Juan).

In 1965, Guevara made his national TV debut on the popular rock variety show, Shindig! as Jay P. Moby.  He was a featured singer (along with Tina Turner), and closed the show with rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Bo Diddley. He was offered a returning spot as a regular on the strength of his performance but the show was cancelled.

Guevara continued studying music composition at Los Angeles City College and later composed and directed a gospel-rock cantata, Who Are The People? (“a tour de force” -LA Times, 1971). He played sessions (vocals on a Lalo Schifrin soundtrack for Clint Eastwood’s Coogan’s Bluff, 1968), sang where he could (the Hullabaloo on Sunset), and made his way as younger musicians must. Then, in 1968, lightning seemed to strike nearby, if not exactly on his career, when Frank Zappa chanced to record Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, an album of doo-wop-influenced rock & roll that – between its style and its name – attracted Guevara’s attention. The following year, at a Zappa concert promoting the release of album at the Shrine Auditorium, Guevara spoke to Zappa backstage congratulating him on playing doo-wop in the era of psychedelic noise and – that his name was Rubén. He renewed the acquaintanceship a couple of years later at Zappa’s Laurel Canyon home. After an all night record playing session where they listened to Zappa’s 45 rpm doo-wop record collection and discussed their mutual interest in modern composers such as Bartok, Stravinsky and Cage, Zappa suggested that Guevara form a group of his own – a real Ruben & the Jets. Zappa promised to produce if the group were to do an LP. This appealed to Guevara in that the project fell into his conceptual music theater direction which began with the previous year’s Who Are The People?

What followed, along with a California tour opening for the Mothers of Invention – was For Real!, a glorious album by Ruben and the Jets, produced by Zappa through his In-Discreet label and released by Mercury Records in 1973. An east coast tour followed with Three Dog Night, (then among the most popular and biggest-selling groups in the country), T-Rex, West, Bruce, and Laing, and then another album, Con Safos, with Denny Randell producing. The group was very popular in Los Angeles and the surrounding area, and appeared in a “Chicano Woodstock” in San Diego with Tower of Power, Azteca, Malo and the comedy duo Cheech & Chong.

Guevara had a few false starts over the next couple of years, solo projects (an album produced by Steve Cropper), that failed to materialize and also began to explore more seriously his Mexican roots, musical and historical. In 1976, he and former Jets band mate Johnny Martinez recorded Chicano doo-wop versions of The Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful for the American Bicentennial. Those songs became the first single ever released by a new Santa Monica-based label called Rhino Records. In 1977, he was seen playing trumpet in the band in the movie Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke (which also included a reference to Ruben and the Jets in its script with Cheech saying to Chong, “we’re going to be bigger than Ruben and the Jets.”). He and Cheech Marín began working together closely, which resulted in Guevara writing the title song for the movie Nice Dreams and working on the score of Born in East L.A. Guevara also showed up as an actor in the movie Gotcha! during the mid-’80s.

He cut more music for Rhino Records with his new band, Con Safos (“resembles the blustering funk of Fela Kuti” – Dave Marsh) and ran the short-lived Rhino offshoot label Zyanya (co-founded with Rhino president Richard Foos), which did a series of releases devoted to Latin rock (History of Latino Rock: 1956-1965, Best of Thee Midniters, Los Angelinos: The Eastside Renaissance, 1983) and produced a series of showcase performances by a brace of legendary East L.A. outfits, including Cannibal & the Headhunters and Thee Midniters, the emerging Los Lobos, and (naturally) Ruben & the Jets. Some of the highlights of Guevara’s work for the label were later preserved on compact disc, Reconquista!: The Latin Rock Invasion (“4 stars” -Rolling Stone,1997), and Ay Califas! Raza Rock of the 70s & 80s (“memorable” Village Voice, 1998). Guevara’s work then shifted toward writing and teaching poetry, and also theatrical performance (co-founded and directed performance art group, The Modern Mesoamerican Ensemble and created La Quemada, for UCLA exhibition, Chicano Art: Resistance & Affirmation, 1990;  toured France as a performance artist with his solo piece Aztlán, Babylon, Rhythm & Blues (in collaboration w/visual artists Patssi Valdez and Gilbert “Magu” Luján), with the seminal traveling Chicano art show, Les Demon des Anges, 1990); and in 1989 was musical director for an HBO special devoted to Latin music, Caliente y Picante, featuring Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Santana, Linda Ronstadt, Jerry Garcia, Rubén Blades, and Esteban “Steve” Jordán.

In addition, he has made key contributions to various art and multimedia exhibitions devoted to Chicano/Latino music, culture, and history: View From the Sixth Street Bridge: A History of Chicano Rock, edited by Dave Marsh, Pantheon, 1985; curated and annotated listening station of classic California Chicano rock for Cheech Marín’s traveling art show Chicano Now!, Smithsonian, 2002, De Young Museum, San Francisco, 2006, LA County Museum of Art, 2008; and curated annotated Los Angeles Chicano Rock & Roll: 1948-1985 for the historic art show MEX/LA “Mexican’ Modernism (s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985 for the Museum of Latin American Art, 2011; co-organized and curated Resistance & Respect: A Forum on L.A. Muralism & Graff Art: 1932-2007, at Crewest Gallery, downtown L.A., 2007, and Resistance & Respect II, at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, Little Tokyo, 2009.

In 2000, co-produced Mexamerica (Angelino) a collaborative compilation of original material by artists from Mexico City (Roco/Maldita Vecindad), Tijuana (Luis Guerena/Tijuana No!, Fussible/Nortec Collective, Mercado Negro, Mexican Jumpin’ Frijoles, Nona Delichas, Gerardo Navarro), and East L.A. (Calavera, The Blues Experiment, Aztlan Underground, Quetzal, Los Illegals, Ruben Martinez, Richard Montoya/Culture Clash, Funkahuatl, Moses Mora).

Guevara has collaborated with the L.A. Japanese American and Muslim American communities creating cross-cultural/faith theater projects, Sacred Moon Songs, East-West Players Theatre with multi-ethnic performance group Great Leap, and cross-cultural unity activism with Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Guevara recently (2008) resurfaced again as a singer, songwriter, composer, bandleader, and producer with his new band Ruben Guevara & The Eastside Luvers and on November 11, 2010, released the vinyl version of The Tao of Funkahuatl (Angelino) (“Freaky funk, soul, rock, jazz, and spoken word by a magic medicine man” -Falling James, LA Weekly). The CD was released simultaneously in Los Angeles and Tokyo Japan on March 20, 2011.  The band opened for Los Lobos at the House of Blues (Sunset) on December 19, 2010.

The self-ascribed “Angelino culture sculptor” lives in Boyle Heights where he continues his life-long work as a musician, poet, teacher, and cultural activist.

By Bruce Eder, All Music Guide, 2006, with additional information by Rubén Guevara, 2008, 2009, 2011.


Press

LA People 2009: Renaissance Man — Ruben Guevara
By Jonny Whiteside
LA Weekly, April 20, 2009. Photo by Kevin Scanlon

* Ruben Guevara

Ruben Guevara’s mercurial pedigree, as groundbreaking Los Angeles performance artist, Chicano sociocultural Zeitgeist, theatrical director, poet, activist, journalist, classically trained composer and on-again-off-again rock & roll star, is one of dizzying degree. This freewheeling résumé only hints at the depth Guevara’s passions plumb, and from his late-1950s start, crying doo-wop with the Van Teers and Apollo Brothers, to his award-winning mid-1990s Urban Chicano mythology performance piece “Aztlán, Babylon, Rhythm & Blues,” to current persona Funkahuatl (the leopard print–clad Ancient Aztec God of Funk), Guevara has undergone a series of artistic, intellectual and personal epiphanies that have been consistently transmogrified and extrapolated into telling, critical and uniformly well-accepted stage presentations.

Low-key, dignified, learned and funny as hell, Guevara holds forth at his simple East L.A. bungalow headquarters with an engaging mix of cerebral discourse and earthy rock & roll insight. Conversation spins through his alliances with the likes of Richard Berry, Frank Zappa, Lalo Schifrin, Cheech Marin, poet Kate Braverman, artist Patssi Valdez; a scattered, chaotic mosaic of triumphs and misfires, each glittering shard ultimately playing a keystone role in the unusual soul composition Guevara has created. It ain’t been easy: After the Apollo Brothers’ 1961 debut disk “My Beloved One”/“Riot in the Quad” (“very R&B, lots of reverb on the guitars”) got them a gig at the fabled El Monte Legion Stadium, Guevara began hustling it up Hollywood style, and was eventually offered a regular spot on big-beat TV showcase Shindig! Despite the rather uncool fact that they wanted him to replace P.J. Proby by billing Guevara as J.P. Moby, he agreed, only to see the twice-weekly series canceled. He landed a job at Chicken Delite on the Strip the followng week. “So I’m back there battering the chicken,” Guevara says. “And this delivery guy comes in and says, ‘Hey, man, didn’t I see you on Shindig!? What are you doing here?’

“What the fuck does it look like? Trying to pay the rent … now that’s a rock & roll story.”

Guevara was a stone R&B cat — during the height of Beatlemania — and after a few years, he gave it up, enrolled at LACC and studied composition. It enabled him to fulfill his aim, scoring motion pictures, when Lalo Schifrin brought him in to collaborate on Clint Eastwood’s offbeat, psychedelicized 1968 flick Coogan’s Bluff (“Lalo was great, always very relaxed. In fact, I just got a royalty check for that — $17,” he recalls). Not long after, Guevara stretched further, writing, directing and performing in his antiwar-themed “experimental–dance theater/gospel-rock cantata,” “Who Are the People?”

“It was R&B Primal Theater,” he explains, “a little ragged, but it was all right.” The following year, he attended a concert by Frank Zappa’s doo-wop novelty side dish, Ruben & the Jets. “I went backstage, wanted to compliment him for doing doo-wop at the height of the psychedelic era. Told him my name was Ruben and I’d sung doo-wop; he asked for some demos, but I wasn’t interested, I wanted to compose, write scores.”

A subsequent meeting at Zappa’s house a few years later proved fateful; they were up until dawn spinning old 78s, and after the conversation turned to classical music, Zappa was impressed with Guevara’s spectrum of knowledge. Finally, he asked him to join and front Ruben & the Jets. “I don’t want to do rock & roll anymore,” Guevara told him. “There are too many detours.”

Zappa’s reply? “Build your own roads.”

That was all it took. For the next three years, and two albums, Guevara went full tilt, sharing bills with Zappa, T.Rex, sometimes playing to crowds of almost 50,000, or, at Max’s Kansas City with the Troggs, less than 200. But the life was mad: “Too much of the high jinks … we were blackballed from Holiday Inns coast to coast. The band became unmanageable, and all this in a world where you want to share your soul, but what you get is grief. After the second album, I was ready to leave.”

Busted flat sooner than later, Guevara had a déjà vu after taking a job at a wholesale-record distributor. “I had to unpack my own record; all these boxes came in, we open them up and it’s Con Safos, the new album. My co-worker is saying, ‘Hey, that’s you!’ Record buyers are coming in asking, ‘What are you doing here?’ What could I say? The Jets crashed.”

By 1975, he reached a turning point. “I didn’t have any cultural consciousness, but at LACC, I was taking a Chicano-studies course and one day I decided to sell my car, take off for Mexico. Turn myself over to fate and just go. My dad said we might have Mayan blood, so I wound up in Palenque, where everyone called me ‘El Americano.’ That was weird because in America, I was Mexican. I couldn’t figure it out, but I climbed this pyramid one day and ended up proclaiming myself to the universe, shouting, “I’m not Mexican — I’m not American — I’m Chicano!”

Back in Los Angeles, his awakening fueled a new round of Gil Scott-Heron–inspired spoken-word pieces, which led to his role spearheading a radical performance-art style, equally based on spiritual, political and historic issues. He assumed a wild series of new personas — Aztec Watts, El Indio (a 500-year-old undocumented guy selling oranges on the side of the freeway) — always “trying to mix theater, poetry and dance into a cohesive aesthetic.” Guevara was at the center of many memorable presentations, as either performer, artistic director, ringmaster or curator, mounting events everywhere from UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall and the Japanese American Cultural Center to Club Lingerie.

He’s not exactly P.C., deriding the mid-’70s Brown Power movement as “Red Power — it was all Mao and Marx, there was no spiritual indigenous consciousness, except in a superficial ceremonial sense.” He battles to tear down “the Pocho Wall, which is a real division between Mexicans and Chicanos. The whole issue of ‘pochismo’ is ridiculous — we’re not betrayers. The fact is, Mexico was a mess after the revolution; that’s why we left, you couldn’t get anything done there.”

Guevara’s passion and creativity have taken him far (“There’s an Aztlan Center in Paris — can you believe that?”), and despite his tireless mentoring and stewardship of a dozen or so upcoming East L.A. bands, he allowed all of it to keep him away from his own music. Finally, on New Year’s Day in 2008, he had an epiphany on a remote mountaintop. “I try to get to Joshua Tree every year, take stock — a soul assessment. I was asking myself, ‘What do you do? Who are you? You’re a singer, you started out that way and that’s who you are.’ And that is who I am.”

Thus was born his current bandstand character, Funkahuatl, performing a new set of freshly baked material, almost all of it centered on the subject of love, with inspirational boosts from Tantric Buddhism and Guevara’s idol, the sixth Dalai Llama. Regularly performing at exquisite joint Eastside Luv, with a crack band and drop-ins like the Doors’ John Densmore, Guevara has reignited the R&B-soul fixation that began his career. “I had a meltdown on that mountaintop,” he says, “but I bounced back and realized that everything is interconnected; plants, rocks, love, the soul, and now I’ll take that into the outer world and share it.”

MUSIC PICK OF THE WEEK – LA WEEKLY WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2008
Ruben Guevara at Eastside Luv

Any examination of Los Angeles’ Chicano rock & roll scene leads to Ruben Guevara — not simply for the reason that the cat was there at its very dawn but also because he has played a crucial role in its evolution. He began his musical life as a doo-wop rocker with the Apollo Brothers, playing at the legendary El Monte Stadium, then steamed through the ’60s as a powerhouse soul balladeer with a regular spot on the network-TV show Shindig. His career took a significant twist after he picked up Frank Zappa’s parody platter Cruising With Ruben & the Jets, which resulted in a congenial confrontation — where the singer explained that Zappa’s caprice mirrored almost exactly his own life — and Guevara ended up fronting the band. But Guevara’s passion for, and involvement with, Chicano and Mexican culture led him into more contemplative territory (where he created his alter ego Funkahuátl, “the Aztec god of funk”). A complex and compelling figure, Guevara promises that tonight will “refunkafy and stir-fry your feet, heart and soul.” Since he’ll be joined by all-star members of Thee Midniters and Oingo Boingo and special guest John Densmore, it’s clearly a case of truth in advertising. (Jonny Whiteside)

 

The Entirely True Legend of Ruben and the Jets

eMusic – Published February 21, 2008
by John Morthland
The Entirely True Legend of Ruben and the Jets
Late in 1968, Frank Zappa’s band the Mothers of Invention released the seldom-remembered Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, a tribute to and parody of doo-wop. The album was both spirited and poignant — Ray Collins proved a natural-born lead singer for the style and the harmonies were nearly as sharp — though the lyrics must have sounded skewed to doo-wop purists. Since this predated the rock & roll revival (Sha Na Na formed the next year) and the golden era of doo-wop was still not that far in the past, the clean and simple sound stood in direct contrast to the complex and abrasive music more typical of the Mothers. In fact, the cover art hinted that maybe this wasn’t even the Mothers at all, and more than a few people believed the whole thing was one of Zappa’s pranks (he’d constructed a biography of “Ruben Sano” for the liner notes, using his own high school photo to illustrate it). Most of them came to accept that they’d been had, but it was all in good fun — the kind of put-on common in hip circles back then.

One person who wasn’t fooled at all, though he was mightily intrigued, was Ruben Guevara, himself a doo-wop singer whose high school duo, the Apollo Brothers, had cut one single for a local label back around the time Ritchie Valens ruled locally. Guevara had been kicking around the fringes of the Hollywood and East LA scenes ever since, and had also studied modern composition at City College. “It was doo-wop songs but they were Zappa doo-wop songs,” he remembers thinking after his then-girlfriend introduced him to Cruising. “It didn’t knock me out but I appreciated it as a great piece of theater.” When the Mothers played the Shrine Auditorium, Ruben talked his way backstage and thanked Zappa for helping keep the music alive.

That was that until a couple years later, when Ruben accompanied his friend Bob Harris (a Mothers’ keyboardist) to Zappa’s house. They played records and talked all night about their mutual love for R&B, doo-wop and classical modernists like Stravinsky and Varèse, but what impressed Guevara most was Zappa’s love and attentiveness towards his kids. Zappa suggested Guevara form a band called Ruben and the Jets, which Frank would produce. Guevara was initially reluctant because he was then more involved with film than music, and he feared being taken as a joke. But he liked the idea of tapping into Zappa’s audience, so he soon assembled the band and signed with Zappa’s Indiscreet label. “I told Frank I’d do it so long as it wasn’t parody music,” he recalls. “I wanted to do the whole catalog of Los Angeles music — rock, blues, jump, R&B, doo-wop — and with a theatrical edge, like the show bands we used to have in East LA.”

He succeeded. For Real!, the 1973 debut, featured five singers and material ranging from Zappa’s “If I Could Be Your Love Again” and several originals by Guevara and other band members to a stampeding take of Joe Houston’s “All Nite Long” and a bluesy “Dedicated to the One I Love” that owed more to the powerful Lowman Pauling/5 Royales original than to the Shirelles’ wistful hit that other acts copied; the song went out on a hellacious Zappa guitar solo, apparently his only non-producer contribution to the LP. The harmonies embraced doo-wop, East LA R&B and folk-rock alike, while Robert “Buffalo” Roberts’ tenor and Jim “Motorhead” Sherwood’s baritone provided perhaps the last true heyday of rock & roll saxes.By then there definitely was a strong back-to-the-roots movement, and this was one of its few albums musical enough to avoid being perceived as kitsch a year later. I also remember the album, doubtless to Zappa’s delight, confusing many people: had there been a real Ruben and the Jets all along? If so, why had the Mothers been doing their songs? If not, who were these guys? Guevara doesn’t remember it that way; people came to see them out of curiosity and the Zappa connection, he says, but they were always well-received strictly on their own terms. Either way, a fictional band had suddenly become a real one, though not for long.The 1974 album Con Safos proved equally strong, with Guevara’s “Cruisin’ Down Broadway” a tuff-enuff novelty rocker, “To Be Loved” and the bar band standard “Honky Tonk” cutting a groove deep and wide enough for the koolest “Low Ridin’ Cruiser.” Then Ruben and the Jets broke up. Guevara has remained an all-around LA arts activist/provocateur — a writer, poet, actor, performance artist, East LA concert producer and compiler of Chicano and roc en Español compilation albums (for his own Zyana label, a Rhino imprint) who does fascinating work in all those arenas. Lately he’s been itching to rock again. If he does, the results are bound to be worth checking out.

 

Mexing America
L.A./TJ bands vault the Pocho Wall
Josh Kun
LA Weekly, Published on October 26, 2000

In the video for their 1998 song “Stolen at Gunpoint,” TJ punks Tijuana NO! and former Kid East Los rapper Frost tried to erase the U.S.-Mexico border by declaring an imaginary full-clip guerrilla war on the suits and uniforms who keep it there. Splicing together archival footage of the Mexican Revolution and the Chicano civil rights movement, the video showed Tijuana and Mex-L.A. uniting to take back the land annexed from Mexico by the U.S. in 1848, when the Treaty of Guadalupe- Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War by drawing a new line in the dirt. Overnight, northern Mexico became the U.S. Southwest and thousands of mexicanos woke up as second-class U.S. citizens.Over the years, this border between countries has created a border between a people: the divide that separates mexicanos from Chicanos. Ruben Guevara calls this “The Great Pocho Wall” — real, puro Mexicans to the south, their gringofied, English-speaking pocho brethren to the north — and he’s spent most of his adult life as an activist, writer and pioneering Chicano rocker (Ruben and the Jets, Con Safos) trying to tear it down through quiet artistic revolution.

His latest attempt is the Mexamerica project, a TJ-L.A. musical summit (funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture) that, besides being proof that TJ and L.A. have more to do with each other than LAPD corpse searches in Baja trash dumps, has resulted in a not-for-sale CD and an upcoming L.A. concert (where you can snag the CD for free). The Mexamerica disc throws together members of L.A. Chicano bands (Los Illegals, Calavera, Quetzal, Aztlan Underground, Blues Experiment, Slowrider) and Mexican bands from Tijuana (Nona Delichas, Mexican Jumping Frijoles, Tijuana NO!, Mercado Negro, Fussible) — along with a tongue-twisting Mexico City cameo from Maldita Vecindad’s Roco, and poetic spray from Culture Clash’s Richard Montoya and tijuanero Gerardo Navarro — in a series of studio tag teams that rightfully deserve the “transfrontera” label that Guevara and project co-organizer Ruben Martinez have envisioned.

“There is a transfrontera nation being born,” Martinez writes in the CD’s liner notes, which also include cross-border musings from Chicana writer Maria Elena Fernandez and veteran Tijuana music critic Octavio Hernandez Diaz. “From Boyle Heights to Culver City/From Michoacan to Wisconsin/From the taquerias of Queens to/The raves of Guadalajara.”

The roots of the project stretch back to 1974, when Guevara, who was born in East L.A. and raised in a Mexican hamlet in ’40s Santa Monica, went down to Mexico feeling like family and came back a rejected orphan.

“I was treated as a foreigner,” recalls Guevara, whose family left Mexico for the U.S. as part of the great migration north after the Mexican Revolution. “Which was odd to me, because I always thought of myself as Mexican. I was raised that way as a kid. My language was Spanish first. And suddenly I thought, ‘Geez, I guess I’m not Mexican — but I’m not American either.’ It’s a cultural schism I’ve been trying to bridge ever since.”

Mexamerica is that schism’s explosive, bumpy soundtrack, being worked out by parties on both sides of the line. Fittingly, it begins with the sound of binational friendship: Roco, Tijuana NO!’s Luis Guerena and Aztlan Underground trading what’s-ups and hand-slaps before ripping into “Breaking Down the Borders,” a bilingual metal-rapathon over indigenous drums that calls cards on the usual suspects (the border patrol, Columbus) and waves the flags of peace, justice and, in Roco’s neo- pachuco parlance, una conciencia en comunidad.

The politicized agit-rocanrol that’s at the top of Mexamerica’s to-do list does get the occasional rest, though. Calavera and Frijoles drummer Alfonso Nakamura conspire on a Thorogood–meets–El Tri beer-bust garage hustle (“Como Has Cambiado Tia Juana”), and Fussible drops technofied banda and mariachi samples into Blues Experiment’s retro Eastside funk (“What They Do”). But it’s the trip-folk of “Tener o Ser,” a soaring violin-and-jarana-laced duet between Quetzal’s Martha Gonzalez and Nona Delichas’ Claudia Morfi­n (the album’s only mujer moment), that, by choosing melodies over slogans, and by weaving voices between voices and languages between languages, most delivers on Mexamerica’s community-through-music promise.

Otherwise, there’s a slight dissonance to Mexamerica’s transnational couplings. Which makes perfect sense: L.A. and TJ are connected by the very same forces — culture, economics, migration — that divide them. So their merger into “another country that no single flag can repre- sent” (Martinez again) shouldn’t sound smooth. On Mexamerica, everything is appropriately just out of sync — a note, a tempo, a beat away from a seamless fit.

“I think something’s been started,” Guevara says. “I hope that when people see the actual manifestation of our work, it creates a deeper commitment to this kind of art, and to thinking about each other more. Then let’s just make more music together.”

Mexamerica bands play at Olvera Street (at Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Alameda Street) on Saturday, October 21, at 6 p.m., following El Pueblo Historical Monument’s “Rediscovering Our History” conference. Admission is free.


Records

The Entirely True Legend of Ruben and the Jets

For Real! by Ruben and the Jets. Produced by Frank Zappa, for his DiskReet productions and released on Mercury Records, 1973.

ruben-the-jets-con-safosCon Safos by Ruben and the Jets. Produced by Denny Randell for Diskreet Productions released on Mercury Records, 1973. “Two of the finest rock albums of the early to mid 1970’s.” -Bruce Eder,

los-angelinos-the-eastside-renaissance2

Los Angelinos: The Eastside Renaissance a compilation produced by Ruben Guevara for Zyanya/Rhino Records, 1983. Featuring 9 bands from East L.A. Cover mural by Gronk and Willie Herron, City Terrace Park. Calligraphy by R.G.


Overview Review Credits Chart & Awards Buy

Listen Now
Reconquista!: The Latin Rock Invasion
Various Artists. Produced by Ruben Funkahuatl Guevara

Review by Alex Henderson
American pop has been a strong influence on Latin artists for decades, but with the rise of the “rock en espanol” movement in the 1980s, numerous artists from all over Latin America as well as the U.S. and Spain started offering an impressively wide variety of hard-edged, guitar-powered rock with Spanish lyrics. “Rock en espanol” is every bit as diverse as English-language rock, and has given us everything from Pat Benatar-loving hard rockers and Clash-inspired punks to Ministry-ish industrial noisemakers. Reconquista spotlights some of the leaders of the movement, including Argentina’s Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Mexico’s Maldita Vecinidad Y Los Hijos del Quinto Patio, both of whom incorporate reggae, ska and rap; and the U2-influenced Mexican band Caifanes. While Cuca goes for a Van Halen-ish gloss on “El Son de Dolor” and Negu Gorriak combines salsa and dissonant “alternative” rock on “Ipurbegia,” Dividios draws on everything from blues-rock and reggae to Middle Eastern music. For those who haven’t yet explored “rock en espanol,” this anything-but-predictable CD can be a splendid introduction.
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4 stars -Chuck Eddy, RollingStone

AY CALIFAS! RAZA ROCK OF THE 70S & 80S

Ay Califas! Raza Rock of the 70s & 80s, a compilation

curated and produced by Ruben Funkahuatl Guevara for Zyanya/Rhino Records, 1998.

18 classic California Chicano/Latino bands:

Santana, Los Lobos, Azteca, Tower of Power, Tierra, Cold Blood, Sapo, Malo, Cheech & Chong, Ruben and the Jets, Daniel Valdez, The Plugz, Cruzados, Yaqui, Con Safos, El Chicano, Los Illegals, War

“Memorable” – Village Voice


Mexamerica a collaborative compilation of original material produced by Ruben Funkahuatl Guevara and co-produced by Ruben Martinez and John Avila. Artists from Mexico City, Tijuana, and East L.A. including:

Aztlan Underground w/ Roco (Maldita Vecindad, Mexico City) and Luis Guerena (Tijuana No!, Tijuana); Los Illegals w/ Mercado Negro (Tijuana) and Ruben Martinez; Calavera w/ Alfonso ‘Poncho” Nakamura (Mexican Jumpin’ Frijoles, Tijuana); Richard Montoya (Culture Clash) w/ Gerardo Navarro (Tijuana); Quetzal w/ Claudia Morfin (Nona Delichas, Tijuana); The Blues Experiment w/ Fussible/Nortec Collective, Tijuana); Slowrider w/ Roco (Maldita Vecindad, M.C.) and Funkahuatl; Moses Mora.


Projects

Very Be Careful

Very Be Careful

Fransini Giraldo & Dancers

Fransini Giraldo (center) Choreographer

Producer, Artistic Director.

Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural’s 3rd annual benefit concert at the Ford Amphitheatre, Sunday August 2, 2009, 7PM.

Hosted by Culture Clash’s Herbert Siguenza with performances by Very Be Careful (cumbia, vallenato) with the SambaBody Dancers, led and choreographed by Fransini Giraldo; zocaloZue (Caribbean-Mexican modern folk) with special guest Fandango dancers and musicians; La Santa Cecilia (Latin American traditional-modern folk rock) with the SambaBody Dancers, choreographed by Fransini Giraldo; Kayamanan Ng Lahi, Filipino music and dance ensemble performing Mexican influenced material; nationally acclaimed poet and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s, Luis J. Rodriguez; Temachtia Quetzalcoatl Danza Azteca, Tia Chucha’s resident dance company will perform an opening ceremonial blessing.

 

“Fire & Soul” LA Women Unite for Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural’s Fourth Annual Benefit Concert

Producer, Artistic Director

Perla Batalla, Wanda Coleman, Kristina Wong, Ceci Bastida, Las Ramonas, Temachtia Quetzalcoatl

Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA (8/1/10)


 

“Honoring Our Donors” Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural Fundraiser & Art Auction

Producer, Curator

Honoring Donors: Bruce Springsteen, John Densmore, Cheech Marin,

Lou Adler, Richard & Shari Foos, Dave Marsh

On The Rox, West Hollywood, CA (4/18/10)


 

The Paramount Ballroom Presents

Creative Director

Very Be Careful

The Paramount Ballroom, Boyle Heights, CA (2/13/10)

 

 

Third Annual Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural Benefit Concert

“A Celebration of Community & Culture – ¡Sí SePuede! / Yes We Can!”

Producer, Artistic Director

Herbert Siguenza, Very Be Careful, zocaloZüe, La Santa Cecilia, Kayamana Ng Lahi,

Temachtia Quetzalcoatl Danza Azteca

Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA (8/02/09)


 

Second  Annual Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural Benefit Concert

“A Celebration of Community & Culture – ¡Sí Se Puede! / Yes We Can!”

Producer, Artistic Director

Cheech Marín, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Nobuko Miyamoto, Luis J. Rodríguez,

OPM (Opening People’s Minds), Ernie G., Olmeca, Upground, Temachtia Quetzalcoatl Danza Azteca

Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA (08/03/08)

 

¡Tardeada!

A Fundraiser/Art Auction for Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural

Curator, Organizer

Artists in auction: Carlos Almaráz, Linda Arreola, Chaz Bojórquez, Raúl Caracosa, Yreina D. Cervántez,

The Doors, Richard Duardo, Elsa Flores, Harry Gamboa Jr., Joel “Rage” García, Brandy Maya Healy,

Wayne Alaniz Healy, Los Lobos, William Loya, Oscar Magallanes, Andrés Montoya, Man One, George Rodríguez,

Reyes Rodríguez, Luis J. Rodríguez, Sonia Romero, Shizu Saldamando, Raoul De la Sota, John Valadez

Home of John Densmore (The Doors) Rustic Canyon, CA (07/20/08)

 

First Annual Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural Benefit Concert

“A Celebration of Community & Culture – ¡Sí Se Puede! / Yes We Can!”

Producer, Artistic Director

Culture Clash, Tierra/Salas Brothers, John Densmore (The Doors), Luis J. Rodríguez, Ernie G., Ollín, Upground, Xela,

El Vuh, Temachtia Quetzalcoatl Danza Azteca

Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA (07/29/07)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The [Inside] Performance Series

Curator, Artistic Director

Guillermo Gómez-Peña (El Mexorcist 2: America’s Most Wanted Inner Demon, performance art, premiere, production supervisor, 07/07/07), Luis J. Rodríguez (Notes of a Bald Cricket, spoken word, premiere, director, 06/16/07), Oliver Mayer (Bold as Love, play reading/workshop production, premiere, director, 08/18/07), Philip W. Chung (My Man Kono, play reading, premiere, curator, 08/25/07), Kristina Wong (The Years of Lying Dangerously, theater-performance art,  premiere, curator, 07/07/07), Prince Gomolvilas (Juke Box Stories, performance-theater, LA premiere, curator, 06/3,10/07/), OPM (Exotic Messages, sketch comedy, premiere, curator, 08/04/07), Chicano Secret Service (Strange Rumblings in Aztlán, sketch comedy, premiere, curator, 08/04/07), Melinda Corazón Foley (Second Chances, spoken word, premiere, curator, 06/16/07), Augusto Federico Amador (Stillborn), play reading, premiere, curator, 07/21/07), Gilbert Wong (Flight of the Concorde, spoken word, premiere, curator, 07/14/07), Gabriela Lopez de Dennis (Hoop Girls, play reading, premiere, curator, 07/14/07)

[Inside] the Ford @ the Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA (Summer 2007)

 

 

The Eastside Revue 1932-2002:A Musical Homage to Boyle Heights

Curator, Producer, Narrator, Director and MC.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Boyle Heights: The Power of Place” Tierra (w/ Rudy Salas), Lalo Guerrero, Cannibal & The Headhunters (w/ Scar & Rabbit), The East L.A. Revue All-Stars (featuring members of The Atlantics, East L.A. Jaguars, and The Masked Phantom Band), Los Illegals, Rev. Brian Qualls, (Sly, Slick & Wicked, The Shades), The Brat (w/ Teresa Covarrubias and Rudy Brat), Las Tres (w/ Alicia Armendáriz, The Bags, Cholita, Afro Sisters, Teresa Covarrubias/The Brat, and Angela Vogel/Oddsquad. Introduction and poem by poet, Marisela Norte), East L.A. Taiko (w/ George Yoshida, poet, musician, historian, 1940 Roosevelt High School graduate), The Skip Heller Ensemble (w/ introduction by UCR music scholar Josh Kun), Lysa Flores, East L.A. Sabor, Ollín, Slowrider, Cuauhtémoc Danza Azteca

The Japanese American National Museum Plaza, Little Tokyo, LA, CA (10.12.02)


 

Surcos Alternativos: Alternative Grooves from Mexamérica

Curator, Artistic Director, MC

“The Summer Sessions 2002 @ The Getty Center”

Fussible / Nortec Collective, Slowrider, East L.A. Sabor Factory, DJ Josh Kun, Cuauhtémoc Danza Azteca

The J. Paul Getty Museum Courtyard, Los Angeles, CA (07.20.02)

 

Mexamérica por la Paz

Curator, Producer, Director, MC

A benefit concert for Latinos Against the War in Iraq, a coalition of students, teachers, artists, and workers

DJ Roco & His Cyber Pachukote Sound System (Singer w/ Maldita Vecindad, Mexico City)

VJ Leonardo Bondani (Mexico City), Union 13 (East Los) Slowrider (East Los) Cuauhtémoc Danza Azteca (Aztlán)

Spoken Word: Yaotl (Aztlán Underground), Mixpe, Monica Sanchez, Gerardo “Border Gypsy” Navarro (Tijuana),

Rubén Gabriel Guevara, III (LACHSA), Funkahuatl (East Los) Mural: Nuke, Sound: Meno Man

Self-Help Graphics & Art, East Los Angeles, CA (03.28.03)


¡Las Fronteras Tiemblan! / The Border’s Rock!

Curator, Producer, Director, MC.“Mexamérica CD release concert.

Members of: Maldita Vecindad, Aztlán Underground, Calavera, Tijuana No!, Blues Experiment, Fussible,

Mercado Negro, Nona Delichas, Los Illegals, Quetzal, Ruben and the Jets,  Culture Clash, Gerardo Navarro,

Rubén Martínez

La Placita Olvera, Olvera Street, Los Angeles, CA (10-21-00)

 

 

Lil’ Ruben G. & Thee Latin Soul Revue I

Curator, Producer, Director, Performer

“Dia de los Muertos”

ASCO: Marisela Norte, Harry Gamboa Jr., Gronk, Willie Herrón, (and Daniel J. Martínez, light designer),

The Wildcards, Con Safos, Las Angelinas, Ultimate Force break dancers in collaboration with

Xochipilli Danza Azteca (choreographed by R.G.)

Club Lingerie, Hollywood, CA (11.02.84)

 

 

 

 

The Eastside Revue

Curator, Producer, Director, Performer

Los Lobos, Ruben and the Jets, Con Safos, Cannibal & the Headhunters, Paul Rodriguez MC

Thee Midniters (1984)

Club Lingerie, Hollywood, CA (01.29.83)