“What do you mean, you haven’t heard about Los Quince Grandes,” August March mumbled as he dug around in his left desk drawer for a picture he had of himself and the two Hurricanes, Al and Al, Jr.
“This is the essence of what New Mexican music is all about,” he proclaimed as he passed me a red chile stained printout of a digital photo that showed him standing between the legendary father and son musical duo.
“These dudes truly rock,” March continued with revelatory flair, as he went on about New Mexican music, the legacy of Al Hurricane and the huge awards ceremony that happens every year to honor the music and mythology of The Land of Enchantment.
In the past, the proceedings have been dominated by the likes of legends: Tiny Morrie and his musical descendants, Al Hurricane, Al Hurricane, Jr., Lorenzo Antonio and Sparx have always been big with audiences here in The Land of Enchantment. They are popular with judges, too, as this year’s roster of award-winners suggests.
When Weekly Alibi sought out the sage words of Al Hurricane Jr., concerning the significance of Los 15 Grandes, he told this reporter, “It’s important because these performance help keep New Mexican music and our culture alive. It demonstrates we’ve got game and it’s a fun time for everyone who attends.”
The winners include the Los Garrapatas. The OG Latinx combo features longtime Albuquerque musician Gene Chavez, who is coming out of retirement to play the awards ceremony.
Weekly Alibi gave Chavez a phone call to find out more about this year’s show. Chavez told us that his band was being recognized for their signature tune, “Jam at the Rancho,” a sort of rollicking Nuevo Mexicano tune taken from the classic Mexicano “Alla en el Rancho Grande,” a standard which was popularized by the legendary Jorge Negrete.
Asked about the music his band has lovingly crafted, Chavez replied, “We’re a very traditional New Mexican music group. There’s five members to the group, it started out as 4 brothers and a nephew. We’re playing typical, what I call down-home New Mexico music for the past 30 years. In our heyday, we did a lot of weddings, a lot of anniversaries and New Year’s Eve gigs.”
This is what Chavez told Weekly Alibi about the tune that got this year’s award: I would say it’s the equivalent of hillbilly music, music for a hoedown. When we recorded that, the idea came from the melody of “[Alla En] El Rancho Grande” and we got a fiddle player who liked country music to sit in and we mixed the two genres, a country fiddle with the Mexicano lyrics—I took some liberty with the lyrics and made them amusing. We wanted it to come across as some guys having a good time playing music at el rancho. That’s the kind of flavor we try to give New Mexican music.”
Chavez said the band will indeed perform this weekend, but he’s not sure they’re going to do the award winner because they don’t have a fiddle player anymore. But he said that Los Garrapatas would do a killer “traditional rancherita” to get the audience up and dancing.
Besides Los Garrapatas, this years winner’s include perennial favorites Sparx for their new song “Se Me Fue Mi Amor;” Lorenzo Antonio and his latest hits, “Como No Voy A Quererte” and “Busco Un Amor;” as well as Al Hurricane, Jr., who will perform a recent tune called “La Ley Del Monte.”
New Latinx acts have also been added to this year’s ceremonies. They include Grammy Award nominee Micky Cruz, a guitarist of Nicaraguan and Filpino ancestry who makes his home in The Duke City. He’ll be awarded for his recording of “Se Me Perdido La Cadenita.” Mariachi Cardenal from Las Vegas, N.M., will be celebrated for their recording of “La Yaquesita.”
Other award winners include singer songwriter AJ Martinez for “Las Altenitas,” Johnny Sanchez y Puro Norte for a cool and tender tune titled “Mi Barrio Querido” and Sangre Joven, a septet from Las Vegas, N.M. who won with a touching melody called “Viente Años.”
This year’s award ceremony—which will become a DVD for sale at kanw.fm— features 15 classic acts: The whole enchilada translates into The 15 Big Ones of New Mexico. That’s some title, eh? Good enough to make you split the Rancho Grande for one heck of a Saturday night dance party, dig?