Crossover Dreams

Latin Alternative Rock Sets Its Sights on New York

Introductory conferences, fledgling labels, Lavin's new chart at CMJ providing a map—it all points to Latin alternative getting its shot, if Americans can handle the language of Latino culture and not just its mass-marketed sex appeal. Supporters are quick to point to the U.S. gold record of German pyrotechnic rockers Rammstein, but does any industry really want to pin its chances of success on the long-term potential of men who wear forks in their mouths and spank each other onstage? Ultimately, the question might come down to which Americans you're looking at. It's no irrelevant detail that California will soon be the first large state in the U.S. with an Anglo minority. In a country with a 12 percent (and growing) Latino population, Latin alternative may "cross over" in terms of American record sales and tour receipts without fully broaching an Anglo market.

Kun hosted his radio show in English until his station was purchased by a conglomerate of Spanish-speaking stations. He was ordered to switch to Spanish. "When we started our show in English," he says, "I thought the best feedback we'd get would be from white kids, saying, 'Hey, this is pretty cool.' But that wasn't it. The best feedback we got was from third- and fourth-generation Mexican American kids in L.A., who were calling us and saying, 'Thank God you guys are breaking it down like this. Thank God you're taking it out of the marketing ghettos of Spanish language radio that mix it up with all this pop crap, and putting it in a fully alternative contemporary setting.' The realities of these kids' lives in L.A. is not listening to [Latin pop], because it's not on K-ROQ. They listen to Limp Bizkit and Korn and try to navigate that with their support of the Zapatistas. This music gives them the bridge to do that."

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