Back when I was a skinny, innocent 13-year-old, and believe me that was a long time ago, I was given the option to choose band or theater as my fine-arts elective. At this point in my life, my music knowledge was limited to the boleros, rancheras and cumbias I had been exposed to by my mom and dad. And one of my favorite cumbia songs was "La Gallina" by Fito Olivares y La Pura Sabrosura.
So of course I chose band and the alto saxophone because I very much wanted to play just like Fito. A few years later, I met the group at my cousin's quinceañera in Pasadena. They were all very nice people, and their music was fun and lively, enticing young and old to dance the night away.
Plus, both of our families were from the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, which has a rich history of cumbia music to begin with.
So when I received the news that Sabrosura lead singer Javier Olivares passed away this past Sunday, it hit me pretty hard. A piece of my childhood was literally gone. Olivares was 57.
As much as Fito's saxophone drove La Sabrosura's music, it was Javier's distinct voice that kept us enticed, and his ad-libs and shout-outs between the verses of each song made him and his band legends of Tejano music, and icons of cumbia.
Armando Sanchez of South Central Music, the Houston-based distributor for the Olivares family record label, sums up the group's influence like this:
To give you some additional perspective of their place in Houston music, at least my opinion on it: On the general market side, we have ZZ Top, Lyle Lovett, Beyonce as contemporary music icons from Houston.
The Latin music equivalent of those would be La Mafia and Fito Olivares y La Pura Sabrosura: Artists who have reached national and international acclaim.
So from all of us at Rocks Off, Rest In Peace, sir. You will be missed.
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A funeral mass for Olivares will be held 10 a.m. Friday at St. Pius V Catholic Church, 824 Main, Pasadena.