Artist Max Kauffman on Oakland and Beauty

Artist Max Kauffman on Oakland and Beauty from Natalie Rodriguez on Vimeo.

Artist, Max Kauffman, premiered his solo show, “Your Vulnerability Makes You Beautiful,” at Loakal Gallery & Boutique on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. The opening was a part of Oakland’s First Fridays Festival of Art and Culture. Nastia Voynovskaya curated the show. Born in Chicago, Kauffman believes that the Bay Area is a “hub of artic culture,” and that there is beauty in Oakland’s “toughness.”

Scratchface DJ Hosts Bilingual ‘80s Back Room

ScratchFace DJ Hosts Bilingual ’80s Back Room from Natalie Rodriguez on Vimeo.

On Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, Juan Josafat Ajoleza, local disc jockey known as ScratchFace DJ, hosted the bilingual electronic music event ‘80s Back Room at the Kupe Lounge in Hayward, Calif. Entrance to the lounge is free, however, for a five-dollar cover fee attendants were able to enjoy a mix of Spanish and English pop and rock music from the ‘80s decade in the back room.

The doors to the back room opened at 9 p.m. A steady flow of attendants began arriving at approximately 10:30 p.m. Before entering the back room to dance and witness Ajoleza’s performance, most attendants lounged at the bar having drinks. The bar closed at midnight.

The night’s repertory included a mix of artist like Pat Benatar, Thomas Dolby, Starship and Guns N’ Roses in English; sprinkled with artist like Soda Estereo, Timbiriche and Vilma Palma in Spanish.

Ajoleza claims that his alter ego, the Soul Warrior, is a result of him overcoming personal and professional obstacles. He says, “to have what I have you gotta [sic] be strong enough, and not just love music, but you know, have a soul, which is a warrior soul, because [I] like to fight for things.” The Soul Warrior makes his appearance when Ajoleza puts on his feathered headphones. “I use feathers on my headphones and that represents my soul,” says Ajoleza, “And I do that because I want to make people feel what I feel, but at the same time, have fun at it.”

Although the feathers did not come out between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., Ajoleza performed even while there were only four people in the room at the beginning of the event.

The ‘80’s Back Room event took place on the Labor Day weekend in which the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco and Oakland, was closed for repairs.  Aug. 30 was also the beginning of the California Highway Patrol’s annual Labor Day weekend campaign against driving under the influence.

Cihuatl Tlatocan Fundraiser Honors Frida Kahlo

8th Annual Frida Kahlo Fundraiser from Natalie Rodriguez on Vimeo.

The San Jose, Calif., women’s group, Cihuatl Tlatocan, of the grassroots organization, Alianza de Maiz, held the 8th Annual Frida Kahlo Fundraiser, which took place on Friday, July 12, 2013 at the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. The money raised at the event is designated to aid the Ni Una Más Scholarship, for Latina victims of violence, and women’s wellness workshops and leadership events, such as the Mujer Indigenous Gathering. Tamara Mozahuani Alvarado, executive director of the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, hosted the evening.

8th Annual Frida Kahlo Fundraiser Auction Item

Silent art auction item at the 8th Annual Frida Kahlo Fundraiser, which took place on Friday, July 12, 2013 at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. (Photo by: Natalie Rodriguez/Full Sail University)

The event raises money by accepting donations at the entrance, a Frida Kahlo themed silent art auction, raffles and food and beverages. This year there was also a photo booth, and Kahlo t-shirts and tot-bag sale. The art for the silent auction and items for the raffle are donations. Alvarado who is a major supporter of the event also donated a gift certificate for the School of Arts and Culture for the raffle. Every year, the fundraiser includes a look-a-like contest of the famous couple of Mexican artist, Kahlo and Diego Rivera, with prizes for the winners. This year a Leon Trotsky was added to the look-a-like contest tradition.

The fundraiser that has been taking place for eight years helps sustain programs in favor of migrant and worker’s rights, women’s, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and culture and art in the city of San Jose through Alianza de Maiz. Co-founder, Adriana Garcia, says that although the fundraiser has had both good and bad years, “people just want to see it and they expect it every year.”

Garcia says that Kahlo inspired the event due to the admiration that event organizers have for her “Because of her strength” and “how she over came different situations, really hard situations in her life.” The event is meant to “honor Frida of course and to honor the women of San Jose and to show them that we can do this.”

Correction: The name of the location of the event is the School of the Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, not the Mexican Heritage Plaza School of the Arts and Culture, as was previously stated.

“Recycled Music” and Copyright

Recently, internationally recognized music icon, Will.i.Am has caught some attention for something other than his music; he has found himself in the middle of a copyright dispute.  Local musician Matt Gonzales says, “music in general has been recycled for years,” however he also believes that there are some instances in which borrowing music can be problematic. For instance, “If you take something and make it your own and say it’s your own then I would find a problem with that.”

Copyright is more than the © icon that you see in many places including websites, books and CD’s. Copyright is the protection of published and unpublished work that you have created through any concrete form of expression. Gonzales is not only a local musician who has registered his own songs in the past. He is also a promoter, technician and producer. To him, copyright “just means being able to protect your creations, your artistic creations. Whether that be music or art or anything like that.” In his opinion what you are protecting your work from is others who could potentially make large amounts of money off of it or claim it as their own.

Arty and Mat Zo of the record label Anjunabeats have accused Will.i.Am of using their song “Rebound” on the song “Let’s Go” which features Chris Brown. Gonzales admits to sampling music himself, but always giving credit where it is due. “Everyone’s gonna sample, I do a lot of sampling stuff with music and I see no problem with this just because your getting the music out there, I mean, as long as you credit it.” In a statement released by Anjunabeats this past week, one of the claims that they make is that while Arty was “credited in the sleeve notes,” Mat Zo was not. The statement goes on to make clear that giving credit “is not the same as obtaining permission.” Gonzales believes that “If you’re making serious money off of it, then hey, let’s talk about maybe giving a percentage to the artist.”

According to the Huffington Post, in the past rock stars such as John Lennon, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead are a few of those on their list of ten prominent artist who have been accused of copyright infringement.


Raul y Mexia Bring a Menudito of Musical Flavors

Raul y Mexia

March 30, 2013. Raul Y Mexia perform for their hometown CD release party at the Pagoda in San Jose, Calif. (Photograph by: Natalie Rodriguez/Full Sail University)

Raul and Mexia Hernández are preparing to take the stage at their hometown record release party for their new album “Arriba Y Lejos.” The brothers are polite and courteous. They have a boyish charm to them and despite their smiles; you can tell that they are nervous about their performance. They grant interview after interview and pose for pictures for magazines, with admirers, friends and family. Music has been a part of the lives of the Hernández family for a long time, and this record release party is a family affair. Uncles, aunts, cousins, mom and their musician father, Hernán Hernández of the internationally recognized Los Tigres del Norte are all ready to cheer Raul y Mexia on. Having a famous father has not made the two, any less humble, or hard working. The two have worked hard for the opportunity that they have finally been given in being signed with Nacional Records.

Local Bay Area Boys

Both Raul and Mexia cannot stress enough how proud they are to be from San Jose, Calif. As Mexia says, they are proud of being local boys because they were “born and raised here, our mom is from here as well, all our family is born here. Our dad, this is where our dad first [came to] back in ’68, ’69, back with Los Tigres.” As proud of being local boys as they are, being back home to promote their new album makes them both excited and nervous. “Arriba y Lejos” was released in February 2013, and since then according to Raul, they have been promoting the CD, now they get to come home and showcase their work. “You know we’re from here, from San Jose, so we’re really happy, really excited to be here in our hometown in front of family and friends singing because I don’t think they’ve ever seen us in this light before so they’ll probably make fun of us right after we’re off stage,” says Raul with a smile on his face. Mexia chimes in to say that “they’re gonna tell us the truth, that’s for sure.”

Missing Birthdays, Bautizos and Graduations 

Although the two were born into a musical family, the love for music was not automatic for both. When asked about what led them to collaborate they reminisce about their differences in their musical journeys. Mexia has been interested in music since childhood. He holds a license in sound engineering and has been working on different music projects for more than a decade. Raul on the other hand, was on a path to become a professional soccer player prior to taking up music. In fact, because Raul realized how much his dad was away when he was younger, he believed that music was not the life for him. “I seen my dad out of the house you know at a young age, never being home and I was like ‘no, I’m never gonna be like that. I’m never gonna be like that.’ But, yeah, you know all the sacrifices one makes you know? Being out, missing birthdays, missing bautizos, missing you know, a lot of things, graduations, you miss a lot of things,” explains Raul. When he injured himself prior to signing his professional soccer contract he switched his focus from soccer to music. Raul remembers that the same energy that he would put into his soccer practices he would then put into his music, and he is grateful for that because it has lead him to this moment.


Proud Father

March 30, 2013. Hernán Hernández, bass player for the legendary Regional Mexican band, Los Tigres del Norte, watches as his sons perform at the Pagoda in San Jose, Calif. (Photograph by: Natalie Rodriguez/Full Sail University)

The proud, teary eyed, father moves closer to the stage to get a better look at his sons performing in their home town. He applauds and bops his head to the contagious rhythms that his sons produce. When Raul and Mexia invite him up to the stage he gives his three children a kiss before speaking. Raul and Mexia are the duo’s vocalist, but their younger brother Giovanni Hernández keeps the beat on the drums. Mr. Hernández goes on to say that he was almost on the verge of tears while watching his boys perform on stage. He acknowledges their producer and DJ from Monterrey, México, Toy Selectah who was present to support them and perform. Hernández acknowledged that he did not want to stop the music because it was his boy’s show and not his. He did not come down from the stage until he acknowledged his wife’s presence and made it clear that the artistic talent that their sons were demonstrating was because of her and not him.  Like the proud father that he was, he shook hands, took pictures and walked around thanking the event organizers and press for their support. The sense of family pried is mutual. When the question of what the hardest part of working with family is, Raul’s only complaint is that he wishes that Mexia were more punctual. Other than that he says they know that they can count on each other to be honest and make helpful suggestions in the studio and outside of it too. They even count on each other to make wardrobe suggestions on what matches and what doesn’t. They both smile while Mexia says, “we always try to coordinate.” “We try to take care of each other [as] much as we can,” says Raul. When asked about a possible collaboration with their father Mexia was quick to say, “We’d definitely like to work with my father and my uncles and the whole band, they’re all super talented and they’ve showed us, you know, they are the blue print to how we [want to], guide our career and hopefully we’re able to gain a piece of the public’s heart like they have.” It is because of this pride and what their father and their band represent to the people that Raul and Mexia want to represent the new generation.

The Mix of Flavors 

Coming from a family that is a legend in the Regional Mexican industry, some followers of this genre had high expectations that they would continue in this tradition. Despite negative comments on some of their YouTube videos because their music is not traditional Regional Mexican, or because it is not fully in Spanish, their responses are always courteous and appreciative.  Raul y Mexia mix traditional Latin American rhythms with edgy hip-hop and electronic sounds. Their lyrics are a mixture of Spanish and English commonly known as Spanglish. It is this new generation that that the duo are hoping to represent. According to Mexia, “The modern day Latino is a mixture of everything. There’s really no limits, there’s really no boundaries. I think we’re all kinda like a little menudito, a little salsa, a little fusion you know? A little bit of hip-hop, a little bit of cumbia, a little bit of norteño.” He compares this fusion and mixture to the diversity and beauty of living in the Bay Area. With this menudito of flavors Raul y Mexia currently promote their single “Las Escondidas.”

Gallery of the Hometown Record Release Party of Raul Y Mexia’s Arriba y Lejos in San Jose, Calif.