We asked Forum's producers to each pick their favorite arts show from 2013. Producer Irene Noguchi explains her pick:
I'm a sucker for Latin music, so I had to go with Oakland composer Hector Pérez, who goes by the name "Sistema Bomb." I love how he blends his two worlds on the mixing board: the old-school Mexican Jarocho music he grew up with in Los Angeles where men strummed small guitars, and the modern electronic beats you hear in dance clubs. It was great to hear a deep conversation about finding ways to preserve one's culture through new art forms. It also doesn't hurt to have great tunes for the producer to dance to in the control room!
On the Name "Sistema Bomb:""A lot of us Chicanos speak in Spanglish. [When we speak with other Chicanos], half of our sentences are in English and the other half in Spanish. That's why in the name there's a Spanish word and an English word -- 'Sistema' and then 'Bomb' is the English. I hadn't named it until I finished all of the tracks. Then when I stepped away and listened to it a few times, I thought 'The sound of it is really bombastic.' It was a collective who put it together but I didn't want to use the word 'collective' because so many bands have the word 'collective' in it. So I just whipped out the thesaurus and saw the word 'System' and I thought, 'Oh! That's much better,' but then I wanted the Spanish thing so it's 'Sistema Bomb.'"
On the Early Musical Influences in His Life: "Being a Chicano from the barrios in LA, on the weekend we're listening to our cumbias with 'camaron pelao tu quieres.' Then during the week were listening to hip hop, like Salt-n-Pepa, The Fat Boys, and then some pop on the radio. And this is all reflected in this record -- the Electro-Jarocho record. That's my hip hop roots, my cumbia roots, my Latino conjunto roots -- it's all this posole -- this soup."
On the Los Lobos Song That Changed Everything
"As kids, we're all exposed to folkloric music, especially Latino kids. We're exposed to it during the Cinco De Mayo celebrations, and all that stuff. I've always been exposed to Son Jarocho, I've just never really paid attention to it, and as it turns out, a lot of Latinos don't. It all happened on a record by Los Lobos. It's a Grammy winning record, La Pistola Y El Corazón. There's a song on there called "La Guacamaya" and when I heard that song, that was it for me. It resonated. I went on a hunt for years to try to figure out what that little instrument was that sounded African, percussive, melodic. It turned out to be the requinto, the main melodic instrument of Son Jarocho music.
On Making Music for the Masses:
"I have a company, Music Orange, work in San Francisco and I do music for commercials all day long -- for Nike, Adidas, Reebok, the NFL -- and so my main goal for music is creating something that is listenable, since I'm used to writing music for the masses. That's why I injected all these other instruments that are more familiar to the audiences [in the U.S.] to see if I could get people here to find it interesting."
On "El Convite" Being an iTunes Single of the Week:
"This record, [Electro-Jarocho], had zero followers, no money. We had, I think 110 Facebook followers, which was mostly my family and friends who I forced to populate the page. On the week of its release, we got iTunes Song of the Week, which does not happen to anyone who is not backed by some institution. We got to see some raw data of what that actually translates to in terms of downloads, which to me was a fascinating experiment: let's take this thing that nobody knows of, that has zero CD sales, zero music sales, what does an iTunes Song of the Week do? And it actually translated to 30,000 downloads. However, you would think, 'Wow, 30,000! That is going to translate to some money!' But they're free."
On Wearing a Luchador Mask:
"Well, the plan was I would wear this mask because [this project] wasn't about celebrating me. As is typical of a lot commercialized music here [in America], we want to know 'who is the front man?' But for me, I wanted to celebrate Son Jarocho, so I wanted to be a bit anonymous. The plan was I would wear the mask during live shows, no one would know who I was, and I would highlight the musicians from Veracruz who I fly in for performances. The problem happened is that I couldn't see the computer screen out of the mask, so in the middle of the gig, I'd have to take it off. But it is luchador inspired, with some combination of the Zapatista revolutionaries, with how they wear the masks over their faces, because some of the music seems to be socially conscious with a political slant."