The latest chapter in Mexican pop singer Kalimba's life saddens us for a number of reasons, but the possibility of never hearing his music again is not one of them.
If you haven't heard, while recording his latest album in El Paso, Kalimba was held by the U.S. Border Patrol on suspicion of violating immigration laws last Thursday, and then sent back to Mexico on a government plane to face charges that he raped a 17-year-old girl in a hotel room after his concert in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, this past Dec. 19.
The El Paso Times reports that El Paso attorney Sib Abraham and Houston lawyer Mike DeGuerin represent Kalimba, and that the singer, 28, stopped in Houston to consult with his attorneys before leaving the U.S. Thursday.
According to CNN, hundreds of the singer's fans marched outside the Mexican prison where he is being held to show their support. Some carried signs while others yelled, "Let Kalimba out!" and "He is innocent!"
Rocks Off is not a fan of Kalimba, whose real name is Kalimba Marichal Ibar. If the allegations are indeed true, by all means let justice be served. We're not going to Michael Jackson-pardon or R. Kelly-support and totally disregard those charges just because thousands love his music, or for the simple fact that we share the same heritage.
In fact, last year a San Antonio radio station invited us to his concert, and unlike the hundreds of others who packed the sizable nightclub that night, we didn't even bother to stay to see the performance. We just showed up to socialize and mingle with co-workers.
So why the long face? Because his story rings all too familiar, and could potentially have bigger social than musical implications.
When we read Kalimba's story, we think of one of the greatest Tejano singers of all time, Joe Lopez, now serving a prison sentence for a similar charge. We think of Carlos Coy, aka. South Park Mexican, the underground hip-hop trailblazer on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough in the early 2000s, now serving a 45-year bid for the same type of offense.
We think about other Latino musicians who probably got in their own way. Outside conspiracy or not, the decisions they made (or didn't make) could have allowed them to steer clear of any perceived musical career sabotage by "the man."
We even think of Selena. Though her ending was completely unrelated to the aforementioned, it's just as tragic for one umbrella reason. All of these artists had careers that ended way before their time - a sudden stop at the "what could have been?" train station.
We hope the same doesn't hold true for Kalimba, who probably hasn't reached comparative icon status in the Mexican pop world. But his story is important for another reason: His African heritage.