Culture

After Walking Into The Wrong House Party, This Latino Show Promoter Fell In Love With Punk Rock

Underground indie music has a problem: inclusivity.

Indie rock has always felt like a scene dominated by those have the capital to make it — not necessarily wealthy people, but those who have enough income to pursue music seriously. It’s the same with punk: Some of the people you who first come to mind when you hear the four-letter word grew up in affluent neighborhoods (Black Flag’s Henry Rollins and Minor Threat’s Ian Mackaye, to name a few.)

Credit: Wayne Ballard

There’s a reason for it: it’s expensive. It’s expensive to acquire instruments, and if you want success outside of your given location, touring is expensive, recording is expensive, meeting the people who can further your career can be expensive (this is an issue of access.) Even in underground circles, where a do-it-yourself mentality dominates who can access what, issues of privilege come into play — if you have financial support from a family member or what have you, you can make a lot of things happen. Lots of poor Latinos don’t have that privilege.

“I remember being scared because I had never seen a punk before.”

Rogelio “Rogie” Hernandez is making great strides lessening the socioeconomic and racial divide in his music community. The 25-year-old Mexican-American is from Los Angeles, a Latino town where the majority of the indie rock musicians are white. For those involved in the L.A. underground music scene, Hernandez books concerts dedicated to celebrating the diversity and culture he loves so much, with a special focus on punk — from his hometown of Boyle Heights, to all over East L.A. and beyond.

And it almost didn’t happen.

“It was kind of an accident. I was only really listening to rap music, stuff you would listen to in my neighborhood, which is mostly gangster rap, West Coast, G-funk,” he says when asked how he learned about punk in the first place.

Wax Witches @ Backyard in Boyle Heights Photo: Yuki Kikuchi

When Hernandez was 13, a friend invited him to a hip hop show at someone’s house — a regular event in his neighborhood. They heard music in the distance and entered the wrong home to discover a punk show. But this wrong turn became Rogie’s first experience with the abrasive style of punk music. “I remember being scared because I had never seen a punk before. My friends kept trying to calm me down; I remember being so scared and not wanting to be there,” he recalls.

The music had an immediate effect on him. “I thought, ‘What is this? It’s still scary, but I fucking like it.’ I remember moshing for the first time and staying for the whole show. The next day I went home, got rid of my [Air] Jordan’s and decided ‘I’m a punk now.’ After that I was hooked.”

That show, unlike the mostly white shows that dominate Los Angeles (and beyond) now, was “all Latino punks,” Hernandez qualifies, which became a culture shock when he started exploring other realms of local music, namely, the indie/punk stuff he spends most of his time with nowadays. He thought Boyle Heights was the epicenter of underground LA music making until he branched out to neighborhoods like Echo Park to discover similiar music was being played by, in his words, “affluent white kids.” He says, “I remember walking into random shows downtown and the crowd was 90% white. I’d be the only brown kid there, and they’d make me notice it: they’d come up to me and ask ‘You’re into this kind of music?’ Maybe they were just curious but it makes a person of color uncomfortable.”

Show Me The Body @ International Java Co. Photo by: Bella Vallero

But he kept going — mostly out of necessity. Hernandez felt the need to leave his Boyle Heights/East L.A. scene because the violence in his neighborhood began to overshadow the sense of community being built during local shows. And the Los Angeles Police Department wasn’t helping. “When we were kids, going to Latino punk shows in backyards, our neighborhood wasn’t the safest. There were lots of gangs, sketchy people we had to worry about. We’d go to shows and walk home and cholos would stop us, call us ‘faggots’ and beat the shit out of us. The punks started getting tired of being beaten up so they started rolling in little crews to stay safe. Those little crews became almost like punk gangs. You couldn’t go to a show in East L.A. without worrying about maybe getting stabbed or shot and I’ve seen it all happen,” he explains. “Some of those things have happened to me. You’d go to a show and within a few songs there’d be a giant fight and it would be over. LAPD started catching on that this thing was becoming hyper-violent. When you’re 14, 15, you don’t need a criminal record.”

“You’re going to be the next FYF Fest.”

Rogelio was faced with a problem: He loved the Latino punk scene but the violence gave it an expiration date. In some ways, it became exclusive — only people who felt a certain level of safety could go and enjoy themselves. On the indie rock side of things, he felt othered by race, and grew unsettled with the continued success of similar projects, driven by white males, that ignored the colorful sounds of his own backyard. The solution? To start booking shows in East L.A., at his house on East Second, where anyone and everyone was welcome.

Show Me The Body @ International Java Co. Photo by: Bella Vallero

Soon, the shows at his house became a phenomenon — it was dubbed “E. Second” — with Hernandez organizing upwards of three shows a month. He had found his niche exploring the rawness of a house show in East L.A. while removing the violence. Moshing was welcome, as was “losing your shit,” but the key was to be courteous. “When I told people [in the indie rock scene] I was from East L.A., they were like ‘Isn’t it so dangerous over there?’ At the time my neighborhood was getting safer, and it’s always been a really warm neighborhood. It kind of killed me that they all think of us as murders and criminals and shit,” he explains. “I wanted to show everyone that we like the same music, we like live bands.” The goal was, and still is, to act as a bridge of different cultures, and it’s reflected in the kind of bills Rogie puts together — on any given night, you can expect to see a Cumbia band play before a hardcore band who opens for a noise goth project. “It’s all about choosing the good in everything and mixing it together,” he says.

“I really want to get to a point where I can help my neighborhood sustain its own cultural identity.” 

Three years later and E. Second has achieved real success — including a write-up in the New York Times. “When that happened, people in the scene were like ‘You’re going to be the next FYF Fest,’” he recalls, but things began to become unsustainable. Neighbors, once tolerant of the loud music, would get upset with its increasing frequency, demanding shows get shut down or end at a certain time. For now, Hernandez has his eyes set on taking his vision to proper venues like Highland Park’s Hi Hat. “I think it’s lost some of the magic of East Second,” Hernandez reveals. “But it’s always been DIY and punk, very informal. I started booking there because I thought it was the next step in doing this and being successful. I’ve never had the punk mentality of being like, ‘Money is bad,’ which I kind of hate about DIY/punk people. They think trying to make money is a terrible thing. For people like me, who are Latino and poor, we have to find some level of success or we can’t keep doing this kind of stuff.”

War of Icaza @ International Java Co. Photo by: Bella Vallero

Hernandez remains optimistic. He’s already managed to diversify his scene and the indie rock one at large, combining sounds and languages on bills that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. When asked about the future, his speech slows, “I have a vision. From the get-go, this has been a learning experience, something that’s constantly evolving.”

He pauses. Hernandez makes it clear he wants to find some personal success — but his definition of success isn’t about wealth. It’s about building respect for the art created in his community: “I want to find some personal success doing this. I don’t have the luxury of falling back on wealth. When you’re a poor Latino person, a lot of people don’t realize how necessary that is, especially in the arts. I really want to get to a point where I can help my neighborhood sustain its own cultural identity. We have a lot of great artists who, if were given a shot, could do really beautiful things for music and the world. The scene, right now, is just overly saturated with old white guys that it gets a little discouraging. You keep ignoring us but we’re here, and we’re not going to go away.”

READ: From Corridos To Punk, Chulita Vinyl Club Spins The Music We’re Dying To Hear

Recommend this story to a friend by clicking on the share button below.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Luis Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Luis Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com