Music made by people of Latinx and Spanish descent has always been a part of the cultural fabric of Southern California, but it’s often been confined to specific, tight-knit communities and neighborhoods. Lately, though, its begun to attract a broader audience, thanks to a strong and growing local DIY scene. This expansion stands in proud opposition to the current political climate of prejudice, and the constant threats to immigrants’ rights by the current administration. In this world, the rise of a band like Chicano Batman, a funky Tropicalía-inspired psychedelic soul group who has been playing in the L.A. scene since 2008, and who recently gained deserved attention for their bilingual cover of “This Land is Your Land” for a Johnnie Walker ad, feels all the more imperative.
The artists operating in this scene make music that falls under a wide variety of styles, and covers just as wide a variety of themes. Sister Mantos make ’90s-inspired dance music that addresses gay/trans rights and feminism, while punk band Generacion Suicida sing about living in El Barrio in South L.A.
Many of the bands on this list have been performing for years, while some of them are newer; they hail from a wide array of backgrounds. The thing that unites them is that all of them have been making their way into a direct line of vision in the local and independent music communities, and all of them mix styles like punk, soul, and rap with folk genres like samba, cumbia, and bossa nova. They’ve done this while staying true to a do-it-yourself aesthetic, which allows them the freedom to pursue whatever sounds and styles they so choose.
Oscar Miguel Santos started Sister Mantos as a solo project in 2008, but it’s since become a full-band, with local musicians sitting in for recordings and live shows. The performances can only be described as performance-art-turned-dance-party. The group blends techno, punk, and psychedelia with hints of ranchera and mariachi. It has the undeniable “fuck you” attitude of a punk performance, but the feel of a ‘90s rave warehouse. It welcomes anyone who might feel left out, especially queer communities of color, which his songs address.
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