Norteño music comes to Juneau

Posted: Thursday, March 18, 2010

On any given weekend night, many different kinds of music can be heard emanating from the local bars and gathering spots - salsa, country, rock, jazz. But there's one genre you won't hear, according to Latino's Restaurant owner George Cardenas, in spite of the fact that there is ample demand: Mexican music.

"People that have been here for the last 10 years said they haven't seen it," he said. "I've been here for 9 years so far myself, and I haven't seen it."

Since he opened the restaurant in the Old Elks building with Ruben Pereyra last summer, Cardenas said he's been hearing a lot from his customers about the lack of Mexican bands. And, with a huge upstairs hall at his disposal at his Franklin Street location, he soon decided to make something happen.

"People were telling me it would be great to have a live band, so I thought, 'Why don't we try this?'"

He asked around and soon found out the name of a Seattle-based group, Jimador Norteno Band. Originally from Jalisco, a region in western Mexico that Cardenas said many locals have connections to, the band plays a variety of traditional and popular Mexican songs, singing in English only when the song calls for a translated phrase.

The band will play two shows at Latinos, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

Cardenas said he appreciates the other types of music Juneau audiences have access to, such as salsa - which he went to hear last weekend at the Viking - but that Mexican music is a genre all its own. Jimador Norteno plays traditional norteño music, a style that typically features a 12-string guitar called a bajo sexto and an accordion. The genre bears the influence of German folk dances, particularly the polka, which was introduced to Mexican musicians in the late 1800s by Americans living in Texas. The German influence combined with the existing ranchera style to create something new, and the genre became very popular throughout Mexico and beyond in the 1950s and has remained so to this day.

Cardenas also hired a Seattle-based DJ to play when the band is on break. He said he wanted to give Juneau audiences a chance to hear some new music that many might not have experienced yet.

"He'll play a lot of the music that's being heard down south," he said.

Both levels of the Franklin Street building will be open during the shows.

"Its going to be a two-floor environment," he said.

The restaurant will be open and serving food all night, and there will be a bar, catered by the Baranof, on both levels. Flat screen TVs and surround sound will be set up in the restaurant so patrons can listen and watch while they eat.

Cardenas said if all goes well he hopes to do more events in the future. He said so far he's had lots of interest in the upcoming performances.

"It's already spreading and that's a good thing," he said. "A lot of people are excited."

Tickets to the show are available in advance for $25 at Latinos Restaurant, located at 109 South Franklin St. next to the Baranof Hotel. Tickets at the door the day of the show are $35. For more information call 463-4330.

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