For seven years now, Houston’s Tejas Got Soul has been working to preserve and shine a light on Houston’s rich Chicano musical history. What began as a DJ collective project focusing on spinning Chicano music from the past on Sundays at D&W Lounge has blossomed into a collective of like minded individuals who are now pushing their mission to bigger events.
This Sunday, September 25, Tejas Got Soul and Discovery Green will host their first event of a three-part series celebrating Houston’s Chicano music starting with a night of Tejano with a performance by legendary Tejano band, La Fiebre from Pasadena.
The series will also host conjunto band, Los Monarcas de Pete and Mario Diaz with Grupo Fuerte on Sunday, October 23 and “Houston Powerhouse” Avizo with a tribute to some of Houston’s brown eyed soul legends who have died including Big Lu, Beto Perez and Rocky Gill.
There is also a plan to honor Mr. Houston himself — Archie Bell — whose career is directly linked to the Chicano Soul movement as Sunny & The Sunliners were the first band to take Bell on a national tour.
Each event represents an important chapter in our city’s major contributions to the spectrum of genres that make up Chicano music made by Mexican Americans throughout the years.
“People hear Tejano music and think of the boom of the ‘90s but really there's almost sub genres within Tejano. The roots of Tejano are in R&B,” says one of the Tejas Got Soul founders Isaac Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, along with Houston musician Nick Gaitan, started the project after finding a shoebox filled with his grandma's 45 records filled with singles by artists like Sunny & The Sunliners, Little Joe y La Familia and The Latinaires.
After listening to Latino youth making soul records in English and Spanish, Rodriguez knew he needed to share the auditory pot of gold he had come across.
He has partnered with Discovery Green for a recent blog where he shares his inspiration and journey for this project. Rodriguez will also be on hand during the event serving as a master of ceremonies and providing backstory for the performances.
“Tejanos were Mexican American kids that grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s and they were doing everything that American kids were doing. These guys were recording R&B and soul so that's a genre in the evolution of Tejano that's known as Chicano soul,” explains Rodriguez.
Rodriguez and Gaitan began hosting weekly DJ events and grew their team to include accordionist Roberto Rodriguez, Austin’s Angel Quesada and Pat Jasper. The team was awarded a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and Houston’s Art Alliance to make this series possible.
“All of this is Tejas Got Soul,” says Rodriguez. “It’s in continuation of the work we've been doing. We are taking our Tejas Got Soul from a Sunday DJ event to the big stage downtown and this is a victory for Tejanos.”
Rodriguez and his team knew they wanted to focus on spreading out performances that represent the evolution of Chicano music and really focus on our city’s in-house talent. “We wanted to keep it all Houston and the surrounding area. San Antonio has their story, Austin has their story, but this is about Houston.”
Partnering with Discovery Green for this series is a two way street as Tejas Got Soul gets access to a larger space to share their mission and the bustling park gets the opportunity to engage with Houstonians in a new way.
“Part of the joy that I find in what we do is that we can work with people like Isaac. He’s a member of the community and he studied his community. He knows these musicians, he knows how they fit together and he understands the progression. The way that we love to program is to get to know the people who know the field that they are programming and work with them to bring it to the public and he's just been an incredible partner,” says Director of Programming for the park Susanne Theis.
“It’s for the whole city,” says Rodriguez. “If you want to come out and you want to learn about my culture and celebrate you are more than welcome to. We’re inclusive to everybody. We want all colors there to say, this is not only a Tejano and Chicano culture, this is a Texas culture and its homegrown. If you love dancing, this is the place for you.”
Tejas Got Soul Music Series kicks off on Sunday, September 25 with a performance by La Fiebre followed by Los Monarcas de Pete y Mario Diaz and Grupo Fuerte on Sunday, October 23 and Avizo on Sunday, November 27 at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney. Shows run from 5 to 7 p.m. and are free to attend.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.