The Lusitania

Resurfacing as a rock band, The Lusitania now sails from El Paso

EL PASO – A plain white-walled room in an everyday suburban house filled with amplifiers and microphone wires is the meeting ground and practice space for the El Paso-based band The Lusitania. The band begins to tune the instruments to start the first practice of the week. Even though they’re nestled in a traditional neighborhood, the vibrations shake the walls of guitarist Will Daugherty’s home. “My neighbors are really cool with what we do,” Daugherty said. “We haven’t gotten complaints about the noise.”

The Lusitania has been shaking walls since 2006 with an eclectic collection of music variously described as “a blend of folk rock and country” and as ranging from “waltz’s to brawling punk-rock anthems.”

The band originally started with brothers Michael and Blake Duncan but has since added members Daugherty, Charles Berry, and Adi Kanlic.

Senior Jecoa Ross plays the oud along with other students during Layali Al-Sham’s rehearsal. (Paul Reynoso/

Arab music ensemble brings the Middle East to the border

EL PASO – On Friday afternoons in the practice room of the Fox Fine Arts building, a group of students rehearses for Layali Al-Sham, UTEP’s Arabic music ensemble. The ensemble primarily consists of UTEP students that sing and play Arabic music. The instrumentation of Layali Al-Sham includes a wide variety of Western Classical and Arab musical instruments such as the clarinet, electric guitar and the Egyptian flute called the ney. Dr. Andrea Shaheen, assistant professor of ethnomusicology at UTEP and director of the school’s World Music Ensembles, said that the formation of the Arabic music ensemble began in 2010. “It sort of fell into my lap in that there was this core group of three or four students that were really driven to learn,” Shaheen said.

Local DJ Amer and Co-Founder of Project Freedom. (Meili Bettina Robles/

Downtown welcomes glowing Halloween revelers with open streets

EL PASO — Whether they were dressed as a banana, boxing champion, a huge hand flipping the bird, or just plain decked out in glow sticks, one thing was certain, they celebrated the first Halloween of its kind running through downtown. Thanks to Downtown Glow, the first annual event by Flow Entertainment, El Pasoans had a place to celebrate Halloween in a healthy, fun and bright way. The event took place on October 31 on one mile of closed streets including Oregon and Main. “We had seen this concept in other cities and saw that it was very successful,” said Crystal Bocanegra, co-founder of Downtown Glow. After seeing an event like this in Las Vegas, Crystal and her husband Alby decided to use their experience in event planning to create one where participants could enjoy what their own city had to offer.

Sun City Music Festival 2011 at Cohen Stadium. (Iris Lopez/

The Sun City’s nightlife rocks with the electronic-dance music that left Juarez

EL PASO – This city on the U.S.- Mexico border known for the strong Mexican-American culture experienced a dramatic growth spurt in music and entertainment in the past two years as nightlife fizzled in violence-plagued Cd. Juarez. “Many people expected the Juarez violence to spill over the border, but the only thing that spilled over that border was the real electro nightlife,” said Silver IsReal, head of Estylow Junktion clothing design. Juarez’s nightclubs such as Hardpop and Morocos concert halls were host to many shows that attracted well-known DJ’s. When the violence in Juarez began to increase, many El Pasoans stopped crossing the border to see those shows and the nightlife followed them north.

El proyecto de la Orquesta Esperanza Azteca pretende no solo formar músicos si no además alejar a los niños y jóvenes de la violencia desatada en la ciudad. (Foto cortesía de Jove Garcia)

Jóvenes, padres de familia y maestros trabajando en concierto tocan un son de esperanza en Juárez

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México – La vida de la pequeña de 11 años cambió por completo cuando la Orquesta Esperanza Azteca llegó a Cuidad Juárez. Jaqueline, cuyas calificaciones en la escuela no eran las más altas, sentía que le faltaba llenar un vacío dentro de si misma. “Antes de incorporarme a la orquesta me faltaba algo que me hiciera sentir más viva, más plena”, dice Jaqueline. La Orquesta Esperanza Azteca de Cuidad Juárez, un proyecto iniciado por el gobierno municipal y operado por Fundación Azteca, del Grupo Salinas en la Ciudad de México, es un proyecto social cuyo propósito principal es contribuir a la formación de mejores seres humanos a través de la música. “La orquesta consiste aproximadamente de 230 niños y adolescentes de seis a 17 años de edad que provienen de diversos niveles socioeconómicos de la ciudad”, dice Jove Garcia, coordinador del proyecto.

La tambora es el sonido que define al nuevo ritmo del tamborazo. (Janeth Mendoza/

¡A bailar tamborazo!

Novedoso género musical se expande en Chicago

CHICAGO – No importa el país ni la cultura, pero la música siempre ha servido como forma de identificación y expresión. La música mexicana no es excepción: Es tan colorida como la cultura del país. Existen rancheras, corridos, mariachis, norteñas, y muchas más, pero un género que está creciendo rápidamente en los alrededores de Chicago es la música del tamborazo. Este particular género consiste de sólo instrumentos y no va acompañado de voz. Tarolas, tambora, saxofones, trombones y tuba son algunos de los instrumentos que se escuchan en un tamborazo.

The Lounge also works as an art gallery. (Kristopher Rivera/

Music and art now pervade the ambiance of the Sumatra Hookah Lounge

EL PASO – A new lifestyle is sprouting on the corner of Mesa and Rio Grande where the Sumatra Hookah Lounge weathered by a blend of cultures and creativity has become a point of origin for many talented artists in the area. “The culture is kind of growing into more of like a musical inclined thing,” said David Zubia (bass/vocalist) of Squids Ltd. “We have a lot of electric music scene, and it’s kind of cool to see these rock bands come out and then connect with the crowd, have a good time with the crowd, and involve them.”

The Genesis of this movement began with the ambitions of David Aver, owner of Sumatra Hookah Lounge, took over the tavern from its previous owner on December 2010. “With Sumatra it was primarily a hookah but there were so many young artists that would come and visit my establishment that I decided to kind of make it my mission to contribute to the community by providing an outlet for local musicians,” Aver said. “So as far as on the music side we’re having a lot of people and everyone’s welcomed.”

David Zubia, Stan Zubia and Manuel Hernandez have played a few shows at Sumatra and are an example of the local talent that use the venue as a starting platform.

John Steady. (Annette Baca/

Lyrically complex John Steady sings for the passion

EL PASO – John Steady stretches the title musician to new limits by ignoring musical genre borders and playing multiple instruments while still remaining a Hip Hop lyricist artist at heart. At age 16 El Paso’s Steady began compiling verses in his school notebooks. He still keeps all the old notebooks in a box. Although he admits he’s come a long way from those initial rhymes, he still recognizes his attachment to them. He looks back to what he wrote in his youth and can see how much he has progressed since then, now 10 years later.

Mexicans at Night duo playing at M's Lips Lounge in downtown El Paso. (Annette Baca/

Mexicans at Night – The soul of the borderland is an indelible note in their musical scale

EL PASO – Steel walls cut and scar the border, while robotic eyes search for movement like predators for prey and border agents patrol the line in choreographed patterns raising clouds of dust, but none of this can keep out the music. This fixed fence prevents illegal migration and keeps America less subject to foreign influence, but it cannot stop a constant transfusion of Mexican culture from becoming ingrained in the U.S. lifestyle, especially in the borderland. “If we’re from El Paso, we often have U.S.-American tastes…but we also have the Mexican culture in the background somewhere. And I think people from Juarez and elsewhere have the same thing,” said Roberto Avant-Mier, a professor of Communication at the University of Texas at El Paso. He added that the people in the border have two languages, two cultures, several identities, and numerous musical influences, which according to him can come from at least two orientations.

Llega la moda tribal a la frontera

EL PASO – Botas largas y picudas, pantalones entubados y música de cumbia electrónica son algunos de los elementos de la nueva moda en la frontera llamada Tribal. El movimiento tribal nació en México D.F. alrededor de los años 2000 ó 2001. Entonces el movimiento utilizaba sonidos más indígenas como ritmos Aztecas.  Después al momento de llegar a Monterrey se convirte en Tribal Guarachero que es más parecido a la cumbia y guaracha colombianas. Existen varios grupos de baile tribal en las comunidades mexicanas de Estados Unidos y en México. Su forma de vestir es muy particular y lo más llamativo son sus botas picudas.

D.J. Alfredo Macias. (Jessica Alvarez/

El Paso safer home for the border Electronic Dance Music community


El Paso’s Electronic Dance Music scene


[Natural sounds: Borderline Skitzo’s “Technopal” track]

JESSICA ALVAREZ (Reporter): While the violence in Juarez has increased significantly over the last 3 years, so has the safety and unity of El Paso’s Electronic Dance Music (EDM) community. Since 2008, many kids and young people have ceased going to Juarez to see their favorite DJs and acts and El Paso has become the place for such events. The EDM scene that existed in Juarez has now jumped across the river and is now thriving here in El Paso making it safer for young people to attend the events. [Nats: Borderline Skitzo’s “Technopal” track]

ALVAREZ: Rasmiyeh Rishdi Asam, also known as Miss Mia, is a regular party-goer and she is also a photographer for the local Electronic Dance Music scene. [Nats: Fredo Maci’s Original Track- “Something Made Simple”]

RASMIYEH RISHDI ASAM: “Because of how the violence has escalated in Juarez, it’s just dangerous to be in the streets in that kind of city or environment.

El Paso's DJs are bringing more diversity to their mixes. (Nicole Castillo/

El Paso finds itself dancing to the music

EL PASO – A new El Paso sound pounding through the air with different rhythms coming from all corners compels listeners to move with each pulsating beat and it’s a dance. “People are looking for change in the city. I’ve been one to push the envelope for our mix show ‘the bambucha,'” said DJ Johnny Kage of local radio station Hit F.M. 104.3. “I think hip hop had its time and place. The dance community has been so undergrounded.

Relevance leads to an internship epiphany in the neon desert

EL PASO — The music festival was a living, breathing organism of 11,000 blurry faces, bright lights and loud sounds. Walking through the darkness and seeing the excitement of people dancing frantically to their favorite artists made me understand that we all shared the same mutual amazement for the present. And I had helped to make it happen. Two months earlier, I had received one of these so called “suggested student opportunities” messages via email. I needed an internship I could care about and Splendid Sun Productions wanted interns to help put on a music and arts festival entitled Neon Desert Music Festival on April 30th, 2011.

Building community with percussion

EL PASO — If you are ever passing by Rim Road near Scenic Drive in West El Paso in the summer on an early Friday evening, you might hear a throbbing sound of tribal drums pulling you in closer to the infectious pulse that is Echos in the Park. What started out as a series of relaxing outdoor musical improv sessions by heads of the local jam band, Stanton Street Collective, has evolved into a weekly fluid gathering at Tom Lea Park of musicians and percussionists from all walks of life. “There is something special about having an impromptu jam session with a bunch of people that have never practiced and sharing that feeling of camaraderie,” said Roberto Santos, organizer for the Barbed Wire Open Mic Series. Since getting its start nearly four years ago, Echos in the Park has been gradually growing its circle of amateur percussionists up on top of one of the most beautiful and accessible scenic points overlooking the Downtown El Paso and Juarez area. Though the event’s lack of centralized ownership, formal structure, legitimate promotion and fixed schedule, it has some how managed to continue to thrive efficiently and effectively with word-of-mouth throughout intimate circles of music lovers across the city.

Popular culture offers a different way to evaluate the immigration experience

EL PASO — Immigration on the U.S.-Mexico borderland is portrayed in popular culture as criminal and illegal to audiences that are disconnected from the reality of immigrants who cross the border to save their families from poverty and widespread violence. “Would you risk everything to come to the Unites States?” Dr. Richard D. Pineda asked an audience at the University of Texas at El Paso. He followed this thought with the example of an immigration raid in northern Iowa. Workers at several meat-packing plants were apprehended and taken to deportation facilities. “Even though that force was essentially gutted on that day, they’ve been replaced,” he added, explaining that those plants now show record outputs, “and I can assure you those are not workers working in high level jobs, but workers working for a minimum amount of pay.”

The economic incentive for immigration is too high in the United States and a variety of tasks require a “disposable workforce,” one that comes in the form of undocumented immigrants, explained Pineda, an associate professor of communication at UTEP.

Neon Desert Music Festival to light up the Sun City

EL PASO  – Skies will illuminate here and the Franklin Mountains will reverberate during the city’s first Neon Desert Music Festival that will take place Saturday, April 30 with international, national, regional and local talent. Zachariah W. Paul, one of the event’s organizers along with Gina Martinez and Brian Chavez came up with the idea in October, 2009. “We wanted to do a music festival in El Paso and we felt this is a market that doesn’t have anything like what we are trying to do,” Paul said. “We felt there is a demand here and the people would support us to do something like this.”

Paul said their vision is to create an event that is for the city of El Paso, by the city of El Paso. He said it will feature a combination of international, national, regional and local talent.

Rock-and-roll music springs from Latino roots

EL PASO — From rumba to mambo to cha-cha-cha, Latin music rhythms played an important role in the development of rock-and-roll music, strongly influencing songs like Rock Around the Clock and Tequila. “I would consider rock-and-roll music a Latin genre because there are so many Latin connections to it and Latin music was part of it from the very beginning, ” said Dr. Roberto Avant-Mier an associate professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. His book Rock the Nation: Latin/o Identities and the Latin Rock Diaspora explains how Latin rhythms form part of the foundation of rock-and-roll music. Born and raised in El Paso, Avant-Mier told UTEP students and faculty recently that Rock around the Clock by Bill Halley was a song based on the clave, which was a Cuban rhythm. Scholars believe this rhythm came from Africa and is a foundation for Cuban music.

El Karaoke-Lounge llega a El Paso

EL PASO — A unos segundos de pisar el escenario con el micrófono en la mano, la joven se mueve al ritmo de la música y entre gritos y aplausos de la audiencia toma un paso hacia adelante y comienza a cantar una de sus canciones favoritas. La audiencia  aplaude más y sus amigos esperan ansiosos para animar a quien en instantes se convertirá en una de las tantas aspirantes al canto. “La verdad es la primera vez que vengo a este lugar y el ambiente está padre y me agrada. No suelo cantar en público pero el ambiente aquí te motiva”, dijo Stephanie Gonzales, estudiante de El Paso Community College. De acuerdo con la Cámara Hispana de Comercio en El Paso el crecimiento dinámico de está ciudad ha sido acreditado a un comercio internacional con Ciudad Juárez.

Los Pistoleros de Texas’ Music Straddles Two Texas Borders

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Texas has no shortage of musical groups influenced by the norteño and conjunto music that evolved along the U.S.-Mexico border. Los Pistoleros de Texas one-ups those groups by throwing another border into the mix: the Texas-Louisiana border. The band stirs up a spicy, accordion-driven gumbo that combines the border’s traditional Tex-Mex sounds with the Gulf Coast zydeco, country and blues prevalent in its hometown of Houston. That diverse musical approach drew enthusiastic applause at the recent 2010 San Antonio International Accordion Festival, where Los Pistoleros performed in October.  It’s also helped the band attract fans from across musical genres, leader Roberto Rodriguez explained.

Opera cantó el grito de Juárez contra el terrorismo

EL PASO, Texas — Un grito de paz y contra el terrorismo, a través del lenguaje universal del arte, fue uno de los objetivos principales del programa “Amor por Juárez”, presentado septiembre 11 en el Teatro Plaza, de esta ciudad. La iniciativa, de la Opera de El Paso, unió a mexicanos y estadounidenses en una jornada donde se derrochó talento, exquisitez y concordia. Destacó la llegada temprana de los espectadores, sobre todo de los más jóvenes, quienes abarrotaron las instalaciones. “Con la presentación de hoy nos unimos al dolor que sufren los mexicanos por la violencia en Juárez” dijo, la doctora Michele Stafford-Levy, una de las organizadoras. Y agregó: “También lo hacemos para recordar los sucesos terribles del 11 de septiembre de 2001”.

Juarez residents continue to have faith in future

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, México — Last January the state of Chihuahua claimed through a statewide press release with different statistics of seizures and arrests to be working hard to fight the “war against organized crime.”

Yet the 6,022 killings (645 this July, 2010 and rising) have led the people, the press and other media outlets to a different conclusion—that the Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua is a failure and the people have lost faith in the political and judiciary system in Mexico. But even in these dire circumstances, there is still a sense of hope that lingers deep within the fibers of the Mexican population. To many, these extreme circumstances have been a vehicle in the search for truth and reason and understanding, and it has been a way to grow in faith and to reconnect with family and friends. The people want to make things better from within the country, which usually means that the private sector steps in to help. For example, the Iniciativa México project is a joint effort between the private sector and the two biggest media outlets form México: Televisa and TV Azteca.

Johnny Costello sings his own journey through life

EL PASO — Standing over six-and-half feet tall, musician and singer/songwriter Johnny Costello looks like he should be dunking a basketball instead of strumming a guitar. Even though Costello can still jam a hoop as he did when he was a forward playing AAU basketball in high school, his passion for music has changed who he is today. Many musicians play because of the love and passion they have for the art. For Costello, his music reflects not only who he is, but also the journey that brought him to the realization that one day everyone will hear his tunes. His life experiences have shaped the music he sings and writes.

Slab City artists play their music free and easy

NILAND, Calif.–In a small secluded area on the outskirts of this desert town, a mish-mash of trailers and tents surround a big stage that unites the people of Slab City in a very unique way and brings their musical talents to life every Saturday night. Slab City is a tiny “town” where there are no bills to pay, no running water or electricity, and when nature calls, you choose your bush.  And yet there are about 50 people who live here year round, even in the harsh summer months when temperatures can reach 118 degrees and “residents” spend a lot of time cooling off in nearby irrigation canals. “Most of the people who live out here in Slab City have lost their home, money, and family, so they have nowhere else to go,” said Sean Paul, a U.S. Army combat veteran. “I can eat out of a can. I am used to this, but a suburban American might find living here a challenge.”

Paul said he arrived in Slab City about 13 years ago and he chose to stay because life at the Slabs is free.