In the Room

Bob Gallarza aims to bring Tejano music into the '90s

That would sound cocky -- well, it does sound cocky -- but Gallarza's a cocky guy who, oddly enough, doesn't seem particularly self-serving about it. He digs Tejano music and he thinks there's great room for the Tejano sound to grow out of the marketing ghetto it's still in. Gallarza's single from On the Edge was a country song, sung in English, that hit the charts at every Tejano station, but according to Gallarza, his label, Sony Discos, refused to introduce the song to mainstream Nashville country radio. Gallarza thinks they missed an opportunity, and he's not fond of missed opportunities, so Body and Soul is released under Gallarza's own Tejano Proud label (he says he now dislikes the name and plans to change it to something more generic). This way, he can decide how best to market the music.

Gallarza talks a lot about markets when he talks about music, and he thinks both the Houston and national Tejano markets are underdeveloped. The problem isn't lack of talent, but lack of production skills, connections, business experience. Those things, Gallarza will tell you, are his strong points, and the gold albums he's produced not only for Little Joe but also for Elsa Garcia back him up. Never mind cracking the Anglo market, since, as he notes, "There's a lot of Hispanics."

You can hear the same expansionist thinking at work in the music released under his own name. Gallarza is traditionalist enough that he won't use a synthesizer when a horn section will do, but he'll also write in whichever language he damn well pleases, since they're both his, and let his fluent guitar lines carry a tune into jazz or blues as the mood strikes. He's maybe proudest of his arrangements, and his horn lines can sound positively pop next to the cheese-whiz blurts that plague much Tejano music. He's a contemporary traditionalist trying to bring Tejano into the 1990s, where its listeners reside.

Gallarza will tell you that his productions have a sound that's identifiably his, and while it would take an experienced Tejano listener to confirm the claim, even an underexposed ear can hear the uncommon professionalism at work. It's not that he's bragging, really. It's just that he sees the Tejano market as still immature, and when you ask him what the scene needs to bring it to fruition, he's got the answer: "More people like me.

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