I enjoy listening to Ry Cooder’s guitar and indeed he was listed in the Rolling Stones as one of the top Greatest Guitarists. I first learnt about Cooder when his CD was given to me as a gift by a Kansas artist to play in my coffee shop back in 2005. That little Kansas coffee shop embraced, culture, music, art and more back in it’s heyday, and often times artists would ask me to exhibit their art or play their music at my venue.
Kansas artist Johnny Sutton was the man who handed me Cooder’s CD, and I believe he did so when he heard me playing Stevie Ray Vaughan’s music over and over again – perhaps he thought it would be a good idea for me to expand to more blues guitar. Sutton seemed to know quite a bit about Cooder’s musical career and he shared that history with me. As Johnny became a “regular” coffee drinker at my cafe, we often discussed his photography, art, music, and politics when it came to the immigration issue. Sutton did not just create art with his beautiful photography — if my memory serves me correctly he also knew much about archaeology in the southwestern part of the United States. I savored and relished Sutton’s archaeology stories from an indigenous standpoint because at that particular time the Sensenbrenner Bill was creating such heartburn.
Today — I am working on a new musical and art project via the Tequila Party Album which will feature music created by new and emerging Latino artists with a Latin empowerment message as it relates to legal immigration reform, the DREAM Act, getting out the vote, and more. The CD artwork for the Tequila Party Album (to be launched on April 5, 2013) was created by El Moises, an Arizona artist who created the San Patricio CD artwork for The Chieftains featuring Ry Cooder. Concord Music recognized the talent by El Moises and hired him, and the 2010 San Patricio CD was sold in high volumes at Starbucks Coffee Shops. Since then – musicians and others have been seeking El Moises to design their CD covers, too.
An interesting coincidence with regard to El Moises’ art and CD covers has much to do with Mexican history and the story of
immigrants. The Chieftains and Ry Cooder’s 2010 music CD had much to do with the old Irish band exploring a slice of Mexican history via the San Patricios that has been little told. The 2013 Tequila CD has much to do with the continued plight of Mexican immigrants and what Latinos are facing today. Mexicans and immigrants are not looking for a handout – they clearly want and support earned citizenship.
Randy Lewis of the L.A. Times wrote an excellent piece with regard to the San Patricio CD and recalls a story that doesn’t seem to get enough attention:
The chapter in question is about the San Patricios, a company of Irish immigrants pressed into service by the U.S. Army. Ideologically opposed to the fight, they switched sides, choosing to stand alongside the Mexican military rather than the forces of their newly adopted homeland. When the conflict ended, the members of the battalion were executed for their desertion. Their deeds were largely forgotten, except among the people of the Churubusco region outside Mexico City who maintain a memorial to the San Patricios.
The Chieftains music CD also included other well known artists like Chavela Vargas, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, Linda Ronstadt, Los Tigres del Norte and Lila Downs, among others.
“The whole story of the San Patricios hasn’t been told in history books,” said Paddy Moloney, the Chieftain’s leader. “I decided not to have a doom-and-gloom CD, but one with all the different colors of music with traditions of Mexico and Ireland, as well as telling this story.”
The main difference between The Chieftains 2010 CD and the Tequila CD (to be released in April 2013) will be with regard to the musicians. The musicians within the Tequila compilation are new and emerging Latin artists who created brand new music with regard to the immigration struggles. They are not well known, and are considered the new blood of music as we prepare for a new era offering a continued message of hope. Paddy Maloney had it right when he did not allow his CD compilation to be about doom-and-gloom. I can relate to that — in fact, the Tequila CD will have a bit of fighting Irish spirit to it, too, in addition to the message of empowerment and a message of love and hope as we pursue social justice in art form.
It was timely for The Chieftains to release the San Patricio CD in March 2010 – a month when St Patrick’s Day is celebrated. The Tequila CD will be released during April 2013 – the month Emiliana Zapata was killed for beginning the revolutionary movement of indigenous peoples. He is famously quoted for saying: “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” A much needed revolution in pursuit of social justice is needed today, and that vehicle will be through music with a message of standing firm, hope, light and love.
In the meantime, we invite you to listen to this NPR interview where you will hear some story telling by Liam Neeson who is a famous Irish film actor and why The Chieftains produced a worthy CD reminding us of American history. If you pay close attention, you will hear Paddy Maloney’s tequila joke within the NPR interview.