It's a common misconception that Spanish-speaking artists would widen their appeal by recording albums in English. Many have tried. Many others see it as selling out one's culture. For them, pandering to the large English-speaking market just isn't acceptable.
The first Latin rock songs were primarily translated covers of American hits. It wasn't until the early '80s that a truly international alternative market emerged, which allowed bands from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries to retain their cultural identity and have significant success.
“It was a great era for music,” recalls Alfonso André, drummer for Mexican rockers, Jaguares. André, along with frontman/guitarist Saul Hernández, originally founded the pioneering Mexican rock group, Caifanes in 1986. Caifanes evolved into Jaguares, who are currently prepping their sixth release for the large BMG label.
Caifanes was the first rock en Español act to tour the U.S., sharing stages with Peter Gabriel, Red Cross and Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers of the Police. Most recently, Jaguares have become one of the few truly Latin rock acts to regularly sell out venues on this side of the border.
They're currently on a North American tour, three dates of which they'll co-headline with Morrissey-a man who himself played a large role in '80s alternative music.
“We are very familiar with him and his music,” André says. “We admire him very much and understand the importance of what Morrissey and the Smiths accomplished.”
Will the pairing work? Does rock music have enough inherent impact to render language irrelevant? Andre suggests that in Mexico, language isn't such a problem. Here in the land of the lingua franca, however, it's harder to overcome.
“We're all very happy to be working with people from other countries, representing different cultures, and who speak different languages. This is crucial in breaking down barriers that exist, especially in the United States,” he says.
“[In the U.S.], the music scene is very fragmented and limited. Whereas in other countries [like] Mexico, one hears music of all types and in different languages... [It] provides listeners with many vistas and opportunities to widen their experiences and hopefully their minds...
“So that's what we intend to do with this tour. We seek to remove some of these barriers we feel exist here.”