Sonic Cinema: Paying Tribute To The Godfather Of New Mexico Music

August March
3 min read
Paying Tribute to the Godfather of New Mexico Music
Al Hurricane (Julia Minamata
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Al Hurricane is a force of nature. With a career spanning more than 50 years, Hurricane is not only responsible for defining much of the traditional New Mexico sound, but he’s also seen to it that his successors compose and perform within a seemingly ageless format that’s entertaining and accessible to listeners worldwide. And Hurricane’s reputation continues to grow; just ask anyone who participated in the Al Hurricane mural project that manifested this past year at The Tannex.

Although the accolades have been pretty much continuous during his career, the definitive filmic representation of Al Hurricane’s work, past and present, remains the 2007 concert film and documentary
A Tribute to Al Hurricane, “The Godfather .”

Produced and directed by Hurricane acolyte Tiny Morrie under the musical direction of Hurricane’s son and protégé Al Jr.,
A Tribute to Al Hurricane contains footage of a celebration concert held at Isleta Casino and Showroom back in April 2007. It also includes rare still photos and narration exploring the musician’s storied career from its humble beginnings through contemporary efforts, collaborations and transitions.

While that may seem like a long time to some hipster music aficionados, the timelessness of Hurricane’s oeuvre makes this DVD essential watching and listening for longtime fans, fascinated transplants and musically inclined folks who want to know more about the shape and history of authentic New Mexican music.

Viewers of this DVD shouldn’t expect a musical exploration on the lofty levels experienced in outings like
The Last Waltz or Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii . The photomontages scattered throughout may seem more like PowerPoint lectures on New Mexican history than the cinematic reflection of a great artist. Yet Hurricane’s plaintive expression in concert, the solid talent of accompanying musicians and support crew, and the sheer size and depth of the man’s career on display more than redeem the film as a document of the workmanlike brilliance of which Hurricane and his band of followers are capable.

The proceedings take the form of a narrative, with each musical number preceded by background and historical information. Beginning with Hurricane’s past as a member of the musical Sanchez family from Ojo Sarco in northern New Mexico, the video aims to tell the story of this musician’s influence and domination of Hispanic music in New Mexico. Friends, family and band members alike take turns paying tribute to Al Hurricane through the performance of tunes that influenced their own vision and work in the medium of New Mexican music.

The concert proper begins with Hurricane Band guitarist A.J. Martinez taking the stage to pick out a rendition of the popular and heartfelt tune “La Varsoviana.” Other highlights include up-and-coming singer Bryan Olivas performing the Hurricane classic “Mi Saxophone” and Mariachi Paisano del Valle, led by Martin Sena, rocking out with a Hurricane-influenced version of corrido “Juan Charrasqueado.”

With a cast of New Mexican music royalty and enough traditional, albeit modern, tuneage to keep you watching and dancing for hours on end, this DVD—though simple in production and execution—provides a rare glimpse into the life and work of New Mexico’s original cyclone.

A Tribute to Al Hurricane, “The Godfather ” is available for purchase on the 89.1 KANW website at and via online resale outlets.

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