Maneja Beto
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Maneja Beto


Band Rock Latin


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"The Music Is In Their Heads"

What you hear is not necessarily what you get with Austin five-piece Maneja Beto.
The Texas natives who make up the Latin pop-fusion group have a political and social conscience that always seems to find its way into their music. At first listen, "Cumbia de las Bombas," a hit from their latest CD, sounds like just another light, fun, bouncy Mexican dance tune. But if people on the dance floor stop to listen to the lyrics, they'll realize they've been shaking their bonbons to a song about the evils of war.
"Sonically, it's an interesting contrast, a juxtaposition of a political song that sounds fun, but it's very unassuming," lead singer Alex Chavez says. "You would never think that a song with that kind of a chord progression, with that kind of a feel, had such serious political content."
The title of the group's new CD, "Accidentes de Longitud y Latitud," also has socio-political connotations. With the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami in mind, the band chose the title as a way of saying that geography either "causes epic and catastrophic accidents" or "monumental and cathartic possibilities."
People have no control over certain aspects of their lives such as where they're born, their ethnicity and their gender. "Although we're born into these kinds of conditions," Chavez says, "we possess a certain agency where we can actively navigate all that and make what we will of the world we live in.
"It's empowering to think of it that way.... We tend to assume that these things are accidents, that chance is at play here, and sometimes it is. Who has control over a natural disaster like that (Hurricane Katrina)? But at the same time, is that really an accident - the fact that these levies weren't reinforced when they should have been by the federal government?"
Pretty heavy indeed - and that's the way Manejo Beto likes it. The thinking man's party band? Not exactly.
"We'd like to be the kind of band that you go and listen to. And that is precisely what a party band is not," stresses Chavez, without any hint of pretension or self-righteousness.
Plenty of people seem to be listening to the group of 20- and 30-something musicians made up of Chavez, Nelson Valente, Will Schulz, Patrick Estrada and Bobby Garza. The band's music has received mentions in The New York Times, won raves at South by Southwest and been featured in the 2005 documentary, "Letters from the Other Side."
Maneja Beto's fresh sound is what's drawing the most attention. Fusing traditional Latin music (cumbia, son, bolero, norteño, huapango, huasteco, tejano) with modern influences (pop, alternative rock, electronica, emo), the band has fashioned a sound that reflects the duality of its Mexican-American upbringing. Band members grew up listening to both the traditional Latin music of their parents and to the modern alt-pop/rock of such groups as the Cure, Depeche Mode and Morrissey.
It's no surprise then that Maneja Beto draws comparisons not only to Ozomatli, Los Lobos and Cafe Tacuba, but also to Coldplay and Interpol.
As with some of those bands, Maneja Beto's sound is difficult to categorize. "Accidentes" features a variety of music forms, from the lush old-school bolero of "Hoy" to the bossa nova-tinged "Alma de mi Alma" to the straight up pop of "Los Cerros" - all written by the group. The only cover on the CD is the band's electronica-flavored take on the huasteco classic, "El Gusto," perfectly suited for Chavez's exuberant falsetto ventures.
All tracks on the CD, the group's second, are sung in Spanish, which the band prefers. Maneja Beto likes to mix it up at concerts, though, and performs some songs in English.
"We do a cover of Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart,' " drummer Estrada says. "And if people come to our show and hear that and know what it is, they're just blown away that this band that just played a cumbia does a cover of Joy Division."
Maneja Beto (Beto at the Wheel) continues to draw crowds of all ages, ethnicities and gender - even people who don't speak Spanish.
"Some of these kids who usually go to emo and punk shows, they come up and go, 'Man, I don't know what you guys are saying and I don't know how to cumbia or salsa, but, man, when you guys play dancing tunes, we just move,' " Estrada says.
"I can hardly wait to see people moshing to cumbia," Chavez adds with a laugh.
Hey, it could happen.
- Tucson Citizen


Para Que Las Paredes No Se Aburran

Accidentes de Longitud y Latitud



Indie en Español from Austin, Texas. MANEJA BETO occupies the universe where Joy Division meets up with Café Tacuba in an East Austin cantina and riff on Eno-era Talking Heads songs. MANEJA BETO triumphantly performed at the Austin City Limits Festival and received serious East Coast accolades from last year’s SXSW showcase.
Independently releasing 2 critically acclaimed records, the band comes with a momentum that has them already shaking up the Joshua Tree Festival this past May and heading back towards Los Angeles. They will open up for current indie darlings Dappled Cities (Link: ) and hardcore cumbia masters Very Be Careful (Link: )as well as headline their own show in Pasadena at Levitt Pavillion (Link: ). They are also returning to San Francisco to play the North Beach Jazz Festival (Link: ).

Over the course of several months in 2002, Beto began as Sunday afternoon musings between four like-minded guys huddled in an Austin neighborhood kitchen and grew to a 5-piece collaborative that performs regularly around Texas. Beto now happily exists in that moment between music and people – a sonic conversation in and of itself. Like Son, a genre of traditional Mexican folk music, Beto's music aims for the heart and the head, realizing this primordial soup of people, feelings and music creates a special sense

Los Angeles Times music critic Agustin Gurza criticizes the current latin alternative/rock en espanol scene coming out of Mexico lamenting that no one has used Café Tacuba as a template: “Today’s Mexican bands reject the concept of fusing rock with native forms of Latin American folk music…Nowadays, Mexican bands often pick names that disguise their identity and country of origin…” Maneja Beto may not be from Mexico but they do follow in the footsteps of not only Café Tacuba in terms of their instrumentation and indigenous musical styles but also with another musical giant- Los Lobos in terms of their diversity. Hope that still counts for something these days.

With 2 full-length releases to their credit and a live show which is gaining the attention of such rock notables as Alejandro Escovedo, Davíd Garza, and KCRW’s Nic Harcourt & Ariana Morgenstern- Alex Chavez (voz, keys, guitar, jarana, quinta huapanguera, requinto jarocho), Alec Padron (bass guitar), Bobby Garza (percussion, keys, voz), Nelson Valente(guitars), and Patrick Estrada (drums and percussion) are the chefs mixing ingredients of son jarocho, alternative rock, Radiohead, Joy Division, Café Tacuba, AND Los Lobos into one tasty combo.