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- Posted on Apr 13th 2010 1:40PM by Nuria Net
Since its founding in 1999, Coachella has distinguished itself as one of the most diverse and edgy lineups in the US. This year, Lollapalooza only has one Latin group (Los Amigos Invisibles) on the bill, and while Bonaroo has announced it will have its first-ever Latin tent in partnership with Nacional Records, it will feature exclusively artists from that label. At Coachella, however, the 130-plus acts roster boasts five artists who are some of the biggest names in Latin music. There's Puerto Rican Grammy faves Calle 13, who recently performed in front of 500,000 people in Cuba, Argentinean rock royalty group Babasonicos, Colombian legends Aterciopelados, trendy Brazilian chanteuse Ceu and Mexico's hippest rock band, Zoé.
Each year, Coachella features three or four Latin acts, both big (Café Tacvba, Julieta Venegas) and small (Porter, Austin TV), but the Latin explosion at Coachella 2010, both in number and in caliber of talent, was deliberate. "The festival receives a great deal of support and recognition internationally, particularly from Mexico," Rebeca León, VP of Latin Talent for AEG Live/Golden Voice, tells Spinner. "All of Latin America is so musically rich that it only makes sense to increase the profile of artists and bands from the region."
"California is very Latino, not just the percentage of the population but the attitude," adds Aterciopelados frontwoman Andrea Echeverri, who has been touring the US for more than 15 years. "People are receptive and it's cool this is reflected in the Coachella lineup."
Not surprisingly, Coachella founder and Goldenvoice president Paul Tollet acknowledges this sentiment. "Being in Southern California has helped us understand the impact of Latin musicians," he says. In 2008, Tollet, unveiled that year's lineup with a special ceremony in Mexico City. "It was a way of showing Mexican and Latino fans Coachella's appreciation for all these years," says Edoardo Chavarin, Coachella's Creative Director of Merchandising and founder of streetwear clothing line NaCO. Adds Tollet, "Latin artists have contributed greatly to Coachella, as well as the Latin fans." Tollet, who got his start promoting ska shows in Los Angeles in the '80s, worked with international talent such as Manu Chao's band Mano Negra even back then.
It was in the year 2000, before the festival's second installment, that Chavarin knocked on Goldenvoice's door to offer his services as a designer and also to tell organizers about his friends' band back home in Tijuana. The band was electronic-folk ensemble Nortec Collective, who have since then become a crossover success story and tour around the world. They didn't even have an album out then, but Chavarin says Tollet gave the band their own tent setup with a stage and lights on the condition that Nortec bring their own sound equipment.
Latin presence at Coachella has mushroomed since that turn-of-the-century happy accident. Aterciopelados' Echeverri admits none of the Latin artists playing this year have much to do with each other, which precisely reflects their diversity. "We don't represent any type of rock -- we're a rock band," says Diego "Uma" Rodriguez, one of Babasonicos' guitarists. "We'll be there playing for everyone, even those turning their backs on us not even paying attention, those who are sleeping, those who are excited. Everyone."
Indeed, even though these acts routinely draw 10,000 and 20,000 people in their home countries, they're barely known to mainstream US audiences. Coachella is the great entryway -- Céu, for example, tours in the US at venues half the size as ones she headlines in Brazil. She has also played at countless jazz festivals worldwide, but this will be her first time at a festival with a broader appeal. "I'm happy that [Coachella] is not about labels," she says, her excitement evident. "Even in Brazil, it's hard to describe the music I do. To be a singer from Brazil and get to play at an electronic/rock festival, everyone in Brazil was like 'wow!'"
At Coachella, such risks with genres and styles are the norm. "Calle 13 offer a raw approach to music that is often void in mainstream Latin music. Coachella is a great platform to further develop the band," says Leon, who promises there will also be more Latin talent at All Points West in New Jersey this August.
León Larregui, the lead singer of Zoé, says Coachella is definitely an important moment for the band, even if they enjoy ample success in Latin America and Spain. "It's a watershed that will determine if we get invited to other international festivals," he says. This will be his first time at Coachella, even as a fan. "I always said that if I went, it would be first to play. I didn't want to go if not! Now I want to see all the bands."
His wish has come true, and the Coachella cult lives on.