There are few bands that capture the cultural melting pot of the borderland like Radio La Chusma.
The cumbia-reggae-rock band, which formed in 2002 and coined its sound as “pachuco reggae,” recently released the politically charged “Big Money” from its upcoming record, “PURA RAZAfari,” expected to be released by summer’s end.
The video for “Big Money” features footage of protests at the Standing Rock pipeline as well as at the Duranguito neighborhood in Downtown El Paso. Over an infectious reggae beat, frontman Ernie Tinajero preaches the gospel of the oppressed:
“Big money I’ve got something to say, take your evil, take your evil away…big money doesn’t understand the true meaning of the land, so they come up with a plan to break the spirit of the man…big money don’t need no eminent domain.”
El Paso Inc. spoke to Tinajero about the band’s cultural heritage, political motivations, world music and more.
Q: Why do you care so much?
Because it’s important. Things are crazy. There’s always been an imbalance of the way we are with each other. There are people who are marginalized and voiceless and sometimes there are people who are oblivious to it. I think if we care a little bit, it will open some minds, let people know what’s really going on and realize some things that they otherwise may not have thought of.
Q: Do you think that helps soothe the political division in this country?
I don’t think it’s my purpose. There needs to be some change, the people need to speak up louder and there needs to be a little more friction. I think we get complacent on a lot of things. And it goes to show seeing the way things are right now.
Q: What are your goals as a band?
One of our goals is a unifying message and an eye-opener. Being OK with who we are is another message to a lot of brown-skinned Americans who would rather follow the “American” way, or what’s popular.
We’re all people of this Earth, we were all indigenous at one point, and I think the farther we get from that, the farther we get from understanding each other.
We’re not that different. We’ve all been conquered, we’ve all been abused, and we’ve all risen up – and we try to do all that with music. After all, all cultures had a drum at the beginning.
Q: What attracted you to reggae first and foremost?
I think reggae is universal. It’s that rhythm that’s very basic. The basis of reggae music is the heartbeat – and we all have a heartbeat.
It’s engineered to be a very simple music, and that’s how more people can connect to it and understand it.
The more complicated you do something, fewer people will understand. Reggae is a nice in-between from Cumbia, African music, rock – everything. It even gave birth to hip-hop. It’s simple and you can carry a heavy message with it.
Q: Do you think any music belongs to any one culture?
Nowadays, I would say no. Everything has been influenced and touched.
If you want to get technical then yeah, every culture has its own tribal music, but when you get to more prominent, popular music, it’s been influenced so many ways.
Everything is everything. It’s all one. It’s a beautiful thing.