The Sounds of Pilsen Collected on New Album | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

The Sounds of Pilsen Collected on New Album

We visit an entry point for many Mexican immigrants. A group of musicians are paying musical homage to their barrio – Pilsen, on Chicago's the near-southwest side. For WBEZ, Catalina Maria Johnson has the story.

Fandango in Pilsen

Pilsen Soundtrack 1.0 CD Release Party:
Dec. 17

GARZA: We try to capture the sounds that are around the neighborhood and the weekends, the house parties, the bar parties, and it will be the soundtrack of this neighborhood.

Jaime Garza is one of the musicians who helped produced a new compact disc that pays homage to Pilsen. Located on Chicago's near Southwest Side, Pilsen was originally inhabited by Czech immigrants, who named the district after the second largest city in their homeland. Then, in the '60s, Mexican immigrants built a community there. And this is the story told by the music in the CD, says Garza Rodriguez.

GARZA: A lot of immigrants came through this place, their struggles and their nostalgic place in their bodi¡es and minds still is there. When the Mexican community started coming to Pilsen, brought a very strong Mexican feeling you can see you can smell and hear it.

Thirty musicians and seven bands play on the CD. Many of them are of Mexican background and the music reflects that. Two of the groups specialize in roots music from Mexico: Tarima Son, and Son del Viento. These groups study and preserve various regional musical traditions, such as this song by “Tarima Son” is from the huasteca region in northeastern Mexico.


The group “Son del Viento´s” sounds hail from regions of Mexico near its Gulf, and in particular, the tropical state of Veracruz. The traditional songs also give listeners a taste of the fandangos or music-centered parties that occur regularly at several Pilsen restaurant and galleries. The events host improvised communal dancing and singing and go on into the wee hours of the night.

MUSIC BY SON DEL VIENTO: Pájaro Carpintero

However, Chicago´s signature sound is at the heart of the music of the one group that plays the blues en español, “Azul de Noche”.


And the city´s other Latinos have influenced the group Fandanguero, which extends its sound to include afrolatin sounds such as those of Perú and Cuba.


And the Latin beats of Brazil are incorporated into the psychedelic tropi-pop sound of Benjamin Anaya and the Extraños Unidos.


The younger, rawer side of Pilsen can be heard in the Latin Ska of the 13-member ska orchestra, Los Vicios de Papá.

Many of their lyrics share activist points of view, in keeping with the group´s motto “Fiesta y Lucha” which means “Party and Struggle”.

MUSIC LOS VICIOS: Fiesta y Lucha

Although most of the groups sing in Spanish, LFT a Latin alternative group, pens its hip-hop in both languages. Fermin Reyes, who along with Jaime Garza Rodriguez, coordinated the CD recording and production, comments on LFT´s lyrics.

REYES: They play Alternative style and mix Spanish and English lyrics together at the same time. It´s very interesting, they talk about our status as Mexicans as immigrants the way we came to this country and the way we struggle with this living.

MUSIC: “We are knocking down walls…buscando la manera…trying to find a way…cruzando la frontera…we are crossing all your borders…”

The recording of the compact disc itself was a struggle says Reyes

REYES: We started recording in my bedroom, yea it was made it to a home studio, small really small home studio, it worked, put a lot of cobijas and pillows and couches to soften the sound and make it a little quiet, so yea we actually did it in my bedroom, yea everything

JOHNSON: You got all thirteen of “los VIcios de Papa” in your bedroom (laughing)

REYES: At one point yes, we noticed it was going to be difficult one in the kitchen, one in the living room, one in the bathroom, but we did it…

The results are a musical snapshot of Pilsen in 2009, says Garza.

GARZA: We followed through we played it by ear and just followed our hearts and that took us to a place where we have a nice production with talented musicians and bands with a very strong message.

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