iFest: Top 5 Argentine-American Musicians


The Houston International Festival enters its second weekend tomorrow, with featured musical acts WAR, Joe Louis Walker, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Texas Tornados, Del Castillo, Steel Pulse and lots more. Although iFest's performers come from all over the world, all around the main stages will be the sights and sounds of its featured country, Argentina.

Rocks Off is still a little sore that iFest didn't book Buenos Aires's answer to the Clash, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, but we're sure they did what they could. It looks like LFC is at least still together, so maybe one of these days.

Of course the national music of Argentina -- national obsession, even -- is tango. You'll hear plenty of tango Saturday and Sunday, including splendid accordionist Hector del Cuerto returning for his second weekend. But Argentina is a big, diverse place, and plenty of Argentines -- either native or Argentine-American -- have distinguished themselves in more contemporary fields of music. Some of them have done quite well for themselves on these shores.

5. Paz Lenchantin: People probably first heard of Paz Lenchantin as the bassist in Tool singer Maynard James Keenan's only marginally less abrasive offshoot A Perfect Circle, and she entered Billy Corgan's orbit in time to join his post-Smashing Pumpkins rebound group Zwan.

Besides two solo albums herself, Lenchantin has an eclectic résumé that includes Michael Mann's Miami Vice soundtrack, Jenny Lewis's Acid Tongue and freak-folk duo Brightblack Morning Light's self-titled 2006 album. She'll miss iFest, but her main gig these days, stoner-rockers Entrance (or The Entrance Band), plays Emo's East in Austin Saturday. Lenchantin's sister Ana is a noted cellist.

4. Albert Hammond Jr., The Strokes: NYC hipster-rock gods the Strokes all have interesting bloodlines. Singer Julian Casablancas's father started a famous modeling agency; bassist Nikolai Fraiture's pop was a security guard at Macy's; lead guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.'s dad, Albert Hammond Sr. (imagine that), wrote many songs now playing in an elevator or supermarket near you, including Leo Sayer's "When I Need You" and Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." His mom is Argentine-born former model Claudia Fernandez.


iFest: Top 5 Argentine-American Musicians

3. Diego Garcia: Speaking of the Strokes, Diego Garcia was once in Elefant, one of the legions of tight-trousered New York bands that sprang up in the 12 months after Is This It was released. Despite never particularly distinguishing themselves -- they weren't very good, but at least they liked the Cure a whole lot -- Elefant managed to hang on until 2010, and the Detroit-raised son of Argentine parents Garcia is already well into his second act.

He released his solo debut, Laura, last year, and it has already been embraced by the NPR crowd thanks to songs like "You Were Never There," a moody, acoustic-flavored piece that will inevitably have Garcia's backers positioning him as a Latin answer to Gotye, if they aren't already.

2. Go Betty Go: Lady rockers Go Betty Go, powered by Argentine-born drummer Aixa Vilar while her sister Nicolette sang lead, made a lot of noise in the Southern California punk scene in the mid-2000s. Our sister paper LA Weekly once called them "purely instinctual rock and roll, the renegade compulsion to break out." Go Betty Go released a couple of albums on SideOneDummy (one produced by Flogging Molly's Ted Hutt) and joined up for a couple of Warped Tours, but haven't played since Aixa moved back to Argentina in early 2010. We may hear from them again someday.

iFest: Top 5 Argentine-American Musicians

1. Play-N-Skillz: Both Houston and Dallas have sizable Argentine communities, including Irving-based brothers Juan and Oscar Salinas, who go by Play-N-Skillz and have a big Houston connection. A meeting with Lil Flip led to some production credits on his 2004 album U Gotta Feel Me, and their work on Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" a few years later netted their first of two Grammys.

The second, for Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, meant the brothers were no longer a regional phenomenon, and they have since gone on to write and produce for everyone from David Guetta and Flo Rida to Snoop Dogg and Pitbull, as well as maintaining their own performing career. As you can see from the above tweets, they're busy guys.

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