This border city’s recording industry reputation is growing

El Paso is currently home to number of recording studios and the past year was a good one for musical artists coming out of the city on the crossroads between music scenes in Austin and Los Angeles. Khalid has been the most successful of three fresh faces from El Paso that have reached the national stage. Elia Esparza landed a spot on The Voice in 2016, followed by Valerie Ponzio in the 2017 season. Beacon Hill Recording Studios

Alfredo Gonzalez is general manager and music producer at Beacon Hill Recording Studios, 6430 Gateway Blvd, where Khalid recorded his hit song “Location.” Gonzalez said the 3-year-old studio struggled at first, in part because El Paso didn’t have a large recording industry infrastructure like big cities.

Selena celebrated across El Paso

“Anything for Selenas,” the iconic line from the 1997 Selena Quintanilla-Perez biopic starring Jennifer Lopez, still sums up the feeling many El Pasoans have for the late Tejana songstress. The crowds turned out for a weekend of honoring the singer’s life sparked by the Selena Celebration movie festival at the Alamo Drafthouse at Montecillo March 31 through April 2.  

The festivities began with a party at the Later, Later bar, 109 N Coldwell The whole night belonged to the “Reina de la Cumbia” as people cheered, danced and sang along to all her hits. The Alamo Drafthouse had six screenings of the movie “Selena.” The $12.99 tickets included access to the April 2 Bidi Bidi Banda concert by an Austin tribute band in the theater’s parking lot. Those not attending movie screenings were able to attend the concert for $5. El Paso’s own Selena impersonator, Diamond, was the closing act.

Grassroots Rios Online Radio to promote El Paso music talent

EL PASO — Beer bottles clink in the hands of burly men as ACDC pounds on the speakers. Under the sound of televisions playing football games, a faint chatter can be heard on the second floor of the Pershing Inn bar—“Welcome to Rios Online Radio…”
Since January 2013, Joseph Brooks and Gabriel Acuña, producers for Rios Online Radio, have met every Sunday at the Pershing Inn, 2909 Pershing Dr., to host a podcast aimed at promoting El Paso, its residents and the local music scene. Rios has produced about 40 shows in two seasons, under Chuco Talks, Rio Sports, and Rio Pod Co. “I used to do podcasts with my friends a couple years ago in my garage, using a cell phone in a can hanging in the middle of the room. We just shared it among friends,” Brooks said.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

13. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

50 LIBROS/ 50 BOOKS: Mujeres y sus historias. 
“… Anyway, those were catastrophes”
Jennifer Egan

EL PASO – This experiment of writing every week about books written by women or with intense female characters has been quite a journey for me. It has forced me to read more, to re-read more, to write more and, obviously, to become more aware of what good stories are made of. I have sat in different places to read, I have listened to different music to write. I have learned about the different techniques used by authors to create that so called fictional world.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Calm career uncertainties by taking that intern leap

EL PASO, Texas — This past summer, I forced myself to be more involved with extracurricular activities that would build my resume. Naturally, the best and most productive thing I could do during the summer, aside from working, was to get an internship. Personally, the hardest part about finding an internship was finding out who I was. I didn’t want to commit myself wholeheartedly to an organization if my interests changed in my habitually fickle manner – from general communication studies, to creative writing, to digital media production, to multimedia journalism, to wanting to write for a music magazine. It’s hard to be motivated to do something if you’re not even sure if that is what you love most.

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.

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.

Tupac – the Man, the Music, the Legend

EL PASO, Texas — I was getting ready for a 7th grade football game years ago when a newspaper was thrust in front of me. “Did you hear? Tupac got shot.”

“Again?” was my immediate reply. At this point in my life I was not as conscious of the hip-hop scene as I would be a short time later. Sure I had heard about Tupac, heard his music, and somewhat naively knew about his celebrity.

La Internacional, a universal street modeled after El Paso

“The idea (of the video) is basically a narration of the song, a mythical street that could exist anywhere in the world where workers and immigrant communities gather. The video is basically different stories of exploitation, as well as triumph and resistance,” said Kiko Rodríguez, leader of Fuga.