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 V.23 No.18 | May 1 - 7, 2014 

Music to Your Ears

“Los 15 Grandes de Nuevo Mexico”

DVD series explores sound of enchantment

For music lovers interested in discovering the beauty and enchantment of traditional New Mexican music, the series of DVDs made in conjunction with Los 15 Grandes de Nuevo Mexico Music Awards is a great place to start.

The 2008 edition, featuring performances by award-winning, homegrown artists such as Quemoso, Cultura and El Gringo is essential watching. This particular video also features the work of local legends Al Hurricane, Tiny Morrie and Al Hurricane Jr.

Filmed at the Route 66 Casino’s Legends Theater, produced by The New Mexico Latin Music Academy and hosted by KANW Program Director Kevin Otero, the 2008 awards ceremony and concert is a surprising collection whose entertainment quality is positively offset by heartfelt and honest performances from the heart of our state’s musical heritage.

Mariachi Tenampa sets a festive mood for the recorded proceedings with a rousing rendition of “La Negra,” a canonical standard. After brief remarks signaling “…a true testament of the popularity New Mexican music is enjoying,” Holloman, N.M. native group Quemoso perform the gently lilting instrumental “Vals De La Grama,” showing off their instrumental prowess with a polka-flavored piece that invites celebration, dancing and reflection.

Each of the performers on this epic DVD has made a substantial contribution to the music of this state. Each are presented as stars in their own right, and brief biographical sketches placed prior to the music add to the celebratory tone of the awards ceremony. Each grupo and each solo performer are given the opportunity to wax poetic about music, the award they are receiving and in some cases about life in Burque. The thank-you speeches reveal the immense popularity of traditional music in these parts.

Highlights include an eclectic mix of the purely traditional and divergent talents among native New Mexican musical artists.

Rhythm Divine performs a really cool tune called “Doña Juana,” featuring some amazing accordion and sax playing; it has tropical inflection that recalls balmy nights on the Gulf Coast under bright stars with romance looming like a full moon.

Meanwhile, Nuevo Mexicano star El Gringo, who performed regularly on Mexican teevee variety show “Sabado Gigante” demonstrates his considerable talent on a song called “La Rama Del Mezquite.” El Gringo, whose Latino-cowboy exhortations have been featured in The New York Times, belts it out for an appreciative audience. For newcomers to the genre, his performance reflects the essence of our state’s storied musical tradition, right down to the big rodeo belt buckle, 10-gallon hat, arpeggiated keyboards and subtle, romantic melancholy.

Of course, no performance like this would be complete without the participation of heavyweights like Sparx, Al Hurricane and his son, Al Hurricane Jr., and Tiny Morrie. Each of these legends pours their heart out, defining the concert as a true depiction of musical giants and giving a sharp reference point to a heritage that continues to grow and flourish amongst tradition and innovation.

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