Pachanga Fest celebrates Latin music's richness and diversity by bringing insuperstars, local musicians and gifted students
Brown sound. Those are the words used on the Pachanga Fest website to define the mixture of rock, alternative, tejano, mariachi, cumbia, salsa, electronic, funk and hip-hop music that's coming to Austin in less than two weeks. But music is not the end of it, Pachanga is a Latin-themed celebration that also includes art and food and showcases the lively combination of Latino sounds and art and the way they help shape American society today.
The importance of recognizing the role of Latin music as an integral part of our culture is one of the driving motors behind Anthropos Arts, a local non-profit that promotes equal opportunity in music education by bringing Austin's top musicians into low-income schools to offer free music lessons, workshops and performance opportunities to at-risk middle and high school students. According to Dylan Jones, Anthropos founder and director, the sheer number of Latinos in the city means Latin music should be much more present and Pachanga is a big step in the right direction.
"Half of Austin is Latino," says Jones. "I know the census may still try to say otherwise, but at least half of Austin's population is Latino. Given the population, Latin music is very underrepresented in Austin's mainstream music scene and media. This is one of the many reasons I love Pachanga. They are bringing a real Texas-sized and Austin-vibed festival, with Latino/a musicians and bands representing many genres, not just traditional. Every year we get hipped to new sounds that you won't hear at any other local fest."
Musician David Garza, who will be playing Pachanga on Saturday, May 12 at the Panamerika Patio, agrees with Jones and sees the Latino music movement as something that's constantly growing in order to occupy the space it deserves.
"Latinos have always been there, whether it's been a Latino doing Americana music or with what you are seeing more and more now — Latinos doing Latin or music inspired by Latin sounds," Garza says. "The scene is building and it feels like it's becoming more than an emerging sound here; Latino music is entrenched in the Austin music landscape."
Pachanga is not only a celebration of Latin music; it's also one of the top Latin festivals in the country and getting to share your music on its stages is something musicians don't take for granted.
"I've played Pachanga just about every year," says Garza. "I feel a great honor to be a part of it."
The kids that will get onstage with the help of Anthropos are also thrilled about the opportunity.
"It's always an honor for our students to play at Pachanga," Jones continues. "Many of them are from the 78702, and it is a real boost of confidence for them to be part of such a cool festival. Not only to see so many amazing musicians perform, but also to be sharing the same stage as performers themselves. These are students from all different East Side Title I middle and high schools, doing it like the pros — a lot of music, not much time to rehearse. With Anthropos, you have to stay cool and think on your feet; nothing teaches you that better than jumping up on stage and soloing in front of a crowd. It is truly a transformative and empowering experience for these young musicians, and we are so grateful to the folks at Pachanga for including us!"
The kids will be playing a global mix of danceable music; horns, bass, and drums playing cumbia, reggeton, polkas, son and some African and Eastern European songs.
For some artists, the invitation to play Pachanga never came. However, they had a chance to earn a spot on the lineup via Play Pachanga!, a collaboration between Pachanga Fest, Do512 and Knuckle Rumbler. In this free and open contest, artist submitted an original track and then asked their fans to vote for them between April 17 and April 30. After that, the three artists enter the final round. At that time, voting tallies will be wiped clean and voting will start again, continuing through May 6 at midnight. On the afternoon of April 30, Austin musician Chris Castañeda was in the lead.
"I'm ecstatic about being number one right now," said Castañeda. "It's very important to me because it reflects the love and support that my family, friends and fans have for me. I am very grateful. Although I would love to play Pachanga, their votes and support mean more to me than any show ever could. All in all, I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this contest, and hopefully The Castaneda Project will be able to rock the Pachanga Fest 2012 with all the passion and heart you would expect from a proud, hardworking Latino band."
As a Latino musician, Castañeda echoed Jones and Garza. For Castañeda, a festival like this helps send out a message about his culture.
"I think the Pachanga Festival says a lot about Latino music in Austin," said the musician. "It definitely showcases the diversity of our Latino culture and music. There is a rich variety of music and styles amongst the acts. It helps tear down stereotypes and also introduce other genres that one might not expect from a Latino artist. We are Latino, and we can do it all!"
One of the Latinas helping do it all when it comes to the festival is Stephanie Bergara, who works directly with Pachanga and is one of the people responsible for the buzz preceding the event. According to Bergara, the lineup this year is akin to a musical dream team.
"We took a look at all of the performers who we loved in the past and combined that list with our list of 'dream performers' for the festival," Bergara says. "We were very lucky to have so many people say yes and we think that we've created one hell of a lineup."
Bergara recently had a chance to spend an entire day with Chingo Bling, one of the stars in this year's lineup.
"Chingo Bling is a doll," she says. "I was sincerely impressed by his work ethic and his attention to detail. He's a true pro and we are so proud to have him back for a second year."
If you want to celebrate Latin culture, arts, food and catch Chingo Bling, David Garza, Calle 13, Alejandro Escovedo, Brownout and the rest of the lineup, get your tickets here. The festival will be held on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12 at Fiesta Gardens. For more information, visit the official website.