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Spanish Rock Music Spinning Into North America

September 11, 1995

DALLAS (AP) _ Their parents listen to salsa, banda or Tejano. Their friends listen to grunge, hip-hop or pop. And young Hispanics across America are rocking to a sound that gives them the best of both worlds.

Rock en Espanol, or Spanish rock, has become a fixture on Latin music charts and has grown into a movement in such heavily populated Hispanic areas as Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Even in Texas, where Tejano music is as popular as a Stetson hat for young Mexican-Americans, a new generation bops to a new sound.

``I used to listen to Tejano, but now I like Rock en Espanol,″ said Diana Campos, a 19-year-old college student whose family moved to Dallas seven years ago from Monterrey, Mexico.

``It’s loud, it’s crazy,″ she said, stepping off the dance floor at The Terminal between tunes by Caifanes and La Ley.

It’s also diverse.

Rock en Espanol can encompass everything from soft and pop rock to techno and punk. There’s always the familiarity of rock ‘n’ roll, and there’s always a hint of a Latin beat, be it Tejano, banda, salsa, merengue or cumbia.

Unlike more traditional Latin American music, there’s no set dance step, no partners. Like American rock ‘n’ roll, anything goes on the dance floor.

Walter Barthel, a transplanted Guadalajaran, manages The Terminal, Dallas’ hip Deep Ellum-area club offering Spanish Rock to its mostly Latino clientele. He said many clubs in Dallas play Tejano, banda and salsa music, ``but people need options. Not all Mexican-Americans like the same music.″

Rock en Espanol is somewhat of a phenomenon in Mexico and is definitely catching on with Hispanics across the United States, said John Lannert, who monitors Latin American and Caribbean music for Billboard magazine.

``We’ve certainly seen an upswing on the charts,″ Lannert said of the commercially successful ``pop″-Rock en Espanol groups.

Rock ‘n’ roll reached Latin America through Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and the Beatles. Spanish-language bands like Los Teen Tops and Los Locos Del Ritmo rode the wave but, at least until the 1960s, they did it by recording Spanish versions of British and American hits.

Then the music died out, and it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the Spanish Rock scene began to rise again, fueled this time by an Argentinian movement.

The music found its way to Mexico, where the underground movement that has hit the United States was born. Caifanes, Maldita Vecindad (Bad Neighborhood) and Cafe Tacuba championed the Mexican sound of the late ’80s.

Today, those groups remain popular, and are joined at the top of the charts by the more commercial ``pop″ sounds of Mana, Gloria Trevi, Luis Miguel and the late Selena, as well as former Menudo member and ``General Hospital″ star Ricky Martin.

At a recent Dallas performance, Cafe Tacuba attracted some 900 screaming fans to a club that typically plays salsa music. The crowd slam-danced and crowd-surfed to the band’s frenzied sound of punk mixed with funk mixed with traditional Mexican boleros.

``We don’t like to define our music,″ said bassist Quique Rangel, who with the three other band members toured as part of the second stage of ``Lallapalooza″ in 1992. ``If we define ourselves, we start thinking one way.″

In one of the group’s latest videos, the lead singer, Cosme, sports red hair and a skirt.

Because of the large Latino population, Los Angeles is an ideal place for concerts and word-of-mouth news of the hottest groups and latest songs.

But deep in the heart of Tex-Mex country, you won’t find too much rock ‘n’ roll.

``Tejano pretty much overpowers everything down here,″ said James Echavarria, who plays Tejano on KIWW-FM, bilingual radio in McAllen, Texas.

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