Más historia–More history

El Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlán (University of Texas) around 1977

I grew up in the 50s and 60s in a neighborhood in Ft. Worth, Texas that had a lot of families moving in from Central México. In our Boy Scout troop Spanish was the “secret code” we could use so that others would not know what we were talking about. I started playing piano for a while when I was 10 but switched to guitar by the time I was 12–it was more “cool”. I started playing in a band that played basically sort of folk and rock music but by the time I was in high school I was getting more interested in playing Mexican music as I listened to the local mejicano stations that played mostly mariachi and ranchera music. I didn’t play much music in high school but at the end of my first year in the university I had a study trip to Spain and I bought a nice Spanish guitar and started getting back into performing. I continued playing some through my time at the University of Texas and in 1973-1974 I was on a study-exchange program at La Universidad Católica en Lima, Peru. On trips to the towns and cities in the Andes I had my first exposure to a completely different style of Latin American music and I became fascinated with Peruvian-Andean music. After graduating from UT in 1974 I worked a year to save money to attend graduate school also at UT Austin. By 1975, I had continued my interest in Texas-Mexican music, especially corridos (ballads) and I started studying with the famous Dr. Américo Paredes. In 1977, after taking one of his courses on Mexican folklore a group of us in the class decided to start a University of Texas mariachi group. The picture above shows many of the original members of the mariachi named to honor our teacher Dr Paredes.

El Señor Dickey publicity photo around 1979

Besides performing in and later directing the university group, I helped form and manage a professional mariachi group called El Mariachi Rebelde that performed in a few restaurants in Austin and varied from 2 to 6 members depending on the place. My wife and I got to know each other performing in that group. The above photo was from that era. In 1978 I received my MA from UT Austin and my book The Kennedy Corridos was published by UT Press. The next 2 years I spent working on grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to produce radio programs on the history of Texas-Mexican music and do interviews and collect corridos of migrant workers in Texas that were composed from the 1920s through the 50s. I also traveled frequently to Mexico in those years to study with other folk musicians in various parts of the country. In 1980 I had become friends with 2 other graduate students in Ethnomusicology at UT, Tom Turino and Larry Crook. We were all interested in performing all types of Latin American music and Turino had already started working in Peruvian music. We formed the group Takiy Orqo–or “Mountain Song” in the language of Quechua. After forming the group Tom was doing fieldwork and studying in Cuzco, Peru. I also lived there in 1981 and studied with the famous charango maestro Julio Benavente Diaz and with the Peruvian mandolin teacher and composer Graciano Puente de la Vega. Takiy Orqo continued performing in Peru and in Austin and in 1983 we released our only LP recording entitled “La Sirena”. Takiy Orqo continued performing with back and forth trips to Peru until around 1986 when Tom was hired by the University of Illinois and Larry went to teach at the University of Florida. In between trips I had another music group named Surtida, with my friends Susanna Sharpe and Charles Perrone. Susanna also performed with Takiy Orqo for several years.

In the meantime I had started working as a Spanish teacher at St Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin in 1981, and in 1982 I started directing the Andean Music Ensemble, the UT Mariachi group and a marimba group in the Music Department of the University of Texas. In late 1982 I met a young Peruvian violinist from Lima, Javier Chaparro. With another friend from Colombia, Pedro Pelaez, we formed the trio Los Romanceros. Pelaez had to leave the group after about 4 years as his insurance business grew and another friend, Stephen Jarrard, was added on guitarrón (mariachi bass guitar). In that configuration Los Romanceros has continued performing until I recently moved to Honolulu. We performed at hundreds and hundreds of weddings, private parties and other events over almost 30 years but our long-standing home was performing Friday nights at Las Palomas Restaurant in Austin. Los Romanceros recorded two commercial cassette tapes and one CD over the years. All are at the moment out of print.

As I was teaching the Andean Music Ensemble at UT Austin around 1984, I became acquainted with two non-student members that had a flute/harp duet called Chaski(“Messenger” in Quechua). The two friends, Adita Inglis and Shana Norton asked me to begin performing with them as well in their concerts and on recordings. Chaski is still performing a variety of Andean, South American, Caribbean and Latin American music and has done extensive concert tours in the US and UK. Chaski has produced 5 CD recordings over the years and also appeared on the soundtrack of the IMAX film Ride Around the World, A Cowboy Adventure. Most of Chaski’s recordings are still available through CD Baby and iTunes. Chaski continues to do concerts with me on an occasional basis and performed the “Misa Criolla” (Folk Mass of Argentina) by Ariel Ramirez at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas in April of 2013.  We also did several performances in Austin, Texas in April and May of 2014 and performances of “Misa Trinitaria” are pending for the fall of 2014 in Hot Springs, Ark

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